Agro-ecology transforms Chimanimani livelihoods

02 Jan, 2022 - 00:01 0 Views
Agro-ecology transforms Chimanimani livelihoods Smallholder farmers in Chimanimani have received training and technical assistance in good agricultural practices

The Sunday Mail

Yeukai Karengezeka

WHEN Cyclone Idai hit the eastern parts of the country in 2019, it left a trail of destruction. Most of the houses, buildings and roads were destroyed by one of the worst tropical storms to ever hit Southern Africa. More than 1 300 people died in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, as a result of the storm.

In Zimbabwe, the Government and Non-Governmental Organisations are bending their backs to ensure relief to the people of Chimanimami, which was worst affected by Cyclone Idai in the country.

While there are other endeavours being undertaken to erase the effects of Cyclone Idai in the Chimanimani community, agro-ecology has emerged as one of the major relief measures.

Agro-ecology involves the adoption of sustainable farming methods that increase yields while reducing environmental damage.

It enables communities to produce sufficient food for themselves while protecting the environment and sustainable use of natural resources. Agro-ecology limits use of non-renewable energy and ensures economic viability for farmers and their communities.

In Chimanimani, some areas are dry and rely on rain-fed agriculture while other areas have adequate rainfall that allows all-year-round irrigation.

The Chimanimani community, led by the Towards Sustainable Use of Resources Organisation (Tsuro) Trust, has embraced agro-ecology systems to enhance their livelihood with the help of the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), an international development organisation.

National agro-ecologist and a volunteer for VSO who is based in Manicaland, Mr Joseph Mandinyenya, told The Sunday Mail that small-scale farmers in Chimanimani are adopting agro-ecology and the growing of traditional foods to ensure good health and food security at household level.

“Post Cyclone Idai, we are trying to implement agro-ecology by applying traditional knowledge and making the most out of small pieces of land. The communities are adapting to the post effects of Cyclone Idai.

They are growing a wide range of traditional seeds and working with volunteers who are sharing the indigenous knowledge systems,” he said.

Lead farmer, Mr John Mhlanga (52), who lives in Manzou Village in Ward 16A in Nyabamba, explained that he is applying agro-ecology in water harvesting and mulching, to increase yields.

“I took farming seriously in 2016 when I retired from work. Through training from Tsuro Trust and VSO I do inter-cropping as it helps reduce costs on fertilisers.

“Crops like beans naturally provide nitrogen. I also create water harvesting pits, plus swells or drains so that my plants can grow even when little rain is received.”

Most of the farmers in Chimanimani use naturally made manure called bocashi. It is made using animal dung except the dog and it is mixed with sugar and yeast. It is also affordable to them.

In terms of productivity, Mr Mhlanga said ever since he adopted agro-ecology practices, his yields have increased by at least 50 percent. This has greatly improved his income, enabling him to pay school fees for his children.

Another farmer Mrs Majokwiro said she uses thermal compost as manure, resulting in high yields.

“Thermal compost involves using brown and green matter and it has to be between 1,5 to 2 metres and it takes 49 days to mature. Advantages of using it include giving sufficient nutrients to the crops. These composts can be created at any time of the year.

“This has increased my production and pests do not have a chance. I get carbohydrates, vitamins, proteins and fats from the crops I grow and my family gets a five-star diet.”

Mrs Peace Muchakubvura, who was badly affected by Cyclone Idai, is a widowed farmer who lives in Rusitu with her four children. She told this publication that she is earning a living out of farming and is managing to provide sufficient food for her family from the project.

Washington Nyakazeya (21), who is into agro forestry and apiculture, is becoming popular in Rusitu for producing the best organic honey.

“After my family lost everything due to Covid-19, I was trained by Tsuro Trust and VSO on how to practice bee keeping and making of the hives.

“Bee keeping helps to protect our trees. Deforestation was becoming a problem as people were clearing land for farming purposes,” said Nyakazeya.

He boasts of having at least 30 beehives and is making a living out of selling organic honey and candles that he manufactures from the bee’s wax.

VSO project manager, Mr Simba Guzha, said they are working with at least 100 farmers, with a target to reach more households.

“Currently for this phase, we have targeted 100 farmers and we are also targeting agricultural extension officers and the Government workers to enhance sustainability of the project. Indirectly we will reach more than 5 000 households,” he said.

Mr Guzha said his organisation is working with small-scale farmers to improve their livelihoods and enhance food security post Cyclone Idai by training them on agro-ecology and sustainable agriculture on small pieces of land.

The trained farmers then cascade the information to others in the community.

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