The Sunday Mail
Harmony Agere recently in Mashonaland Central
It is almost lunchtime at the Mutata’s homestead in Ward 8 in Chiweshe, Mashonaland Central province, as a small group of people convene under a mango tree.
Before getting on with the business they have assembled for, a strong wind sweeps through the yard leaving their papers flying in all directions.
In the east, just above the mountains, a long thin blue light appears in the grey sky before a loud bang shoots through the air like the crack of a gigantic bull-whip.
In no time, giant rain drops begin to ram the compound sending the working group scampering into an adjacent hut for cover.
After settling in, Mrs Pamela Mutata Gwaze starts addressing the small group.
In the same hut, a big pot on a hearth releases a sweet aroma of green mealies plucked earlier on from her garden.
“It is always good to receive rains especially after a long dry spell,” she says in reference to the heavy downpour outside.
“But they are becoming rare, the rains are now unpredictable and seasons are becoming shorter. That is why we are struggling to produce enough food.”
Mrs Mutata Gwaze was speaking before members of a food and nutrition committee, who had congregated at her home to inspect the progress in setting up what the committee calls a model home.
The committees have been set up by the Government through the Food and Nutrition Council (FNC) to ensure household food security in the wake of drought-induced crop failure.
The model home is designed with facilities that can support sustainable crop and livestock production, water and sanitation.
It consists of a plot for crop production, food silos, livestock shelters, Blair toilets, protected borehole, a fireplace and a small orchard.
It is anticipated that these essentials combine to provide communities a better chance of fighting food and nutrition insecurity.
The home was designed with input from various stakeholders including Ministry of Health and Child Care, Agricultural Extension Services as well as a number of non-governmental organisations including WASH.
Said Mrs Mutata Gwaze: “The model home is now a developed concept which can be transferred to other households at a very low budget.
“We thank the Government, which has initiated the programme because during previous drought periods, poor communities like ours used to be severely affected.
“But we are now equipped to deal with droughts because we have been trained from all angles possible to ensure we are food secure.”
According to Chiweshe Ward 8 committee member and environmental health technician, Mr Tawanda Gumbo, the model homes are the benchmark of climate-resilience initiatives and adaptation in the battle to ensure food and nutrition security.
“We cannot achieve food and nutrition security without certain prerequisites. To ensure that these are in place, we have created the model homes which cater for sanitation and agriculture,” he said.
“If all these things are found in a home, then we have a chance of food security, even if we have a drought.”
The committees, which are set up from the national to village level, coomprise various Government departments, developmental agencies and community members involved in food and nutrition security issues.
FNC advocacy and communications officer, Mr Lloyd Chadzingwa, last week told The Sunday Mail that the consolidated approach equipped the committees to recommend holistic solutions to food and nutrition problems in most communities.
He said the move was particularly aimed at addressing malnutrition and stunting in children living in poor communities.
At 27 percent, Zimbabwe has one of the highest rates of malnutrition and stunting in children.
Mr Chadzingwa said the committees were set up in line with the Government’s new bottom-up approach as opposed to the traditional top-down approach.
He said the new approach factored in community participation, hence making people the custodians of the programme.
“Their job is to coordinate food and nutrition issues at their local level,” said Mr Chadzingwa.
“They come together, they identify the food gaps, they identify their challenges and they propose the solutions from a multi-sectorial point of view.
“We do not want to have a situation where one sector is assigned to address the problem which is affecting the whole nation.”
For crop and livestock production, the committees teach villagers to grow bio-fortified seed varieties such as the highly nutritious and drought-resistant orange maize and the Noah 53 bean variety.
During a field visit to Ward 12 in Mapfumo Village of Chiweshe communal lands, Mr Masimba Musonza said bio-fortified varieties were ideal for the current weather conditions characterised by low rains.
“From a little investment, I have managed to produce enough to feed myself and left with enough to sell and buy chemicals for livestock.
Ward 12 food and nutrition coordinator, Mr Dzikamai Muzavazi, said proper nutrition levels among villagers needed to be complemented with improved health care
“We are now weighing children at village level and the records are jointly kept by the village head and the nearest referral clinic,” he said.
“The village head keeps all the records and cares for all the equipment, virtually making his home a health outpost which tracks the children’s growth and vaccination records.
“This is also in line with the health ministry’s initiative to decentralise referral system to village levels so that everyone can access health services.”
Mr Muzavazi said village health outposts were relevant to food and nutrition security as they could detect malnourishment at an early stage