The Sunday Mail
When Bishop Lazi visited China’s eastern coastal province of Zhejiang some years back, he thought he had died and gone to heaven.
Throughout that month-long stay, everyday experiences were indescribably immersive, while life was so orderly and organised that it almost seemed choreographed.
The pristine lawns on sidewalks were always well-manicured and kempt by an ever-busy army of workers, while pavements were so well-maintained that it was hard to miss a step.
The roads — oh, the roads! They were perfectly marked and so clean that you could eat off them without any qualms, as they would occasionally and unfailingly be watered and cleaned by those water-spraying trucks, which are alien in this part of the world.
While the beauty of the cities was quite apparent during the day, their breath-taking splendour was usually accentuated at nightfall by ubiquitous neon lights that lined streets and walkways, including the spectacular dancing display of illuminating lights on buildings.
In fact, most cities came alive at night, so, too, did the vendors, who invariably opened up shop when formal businesses closed.
But it was a different kind of vending than the one we are used to in our cities, where one can simply spread their wares on a dirty cardboard box anywhere and anyhow, and begin hawking their stuff by shouting at the top of their lungs.
Here, we are talking about vending with a modicum of sophistication.
You could also take a stroll alone in the dead of the night knowing full well that nothing untoward would visit you.
Although the police were not as visible as one would have wanted them to be, you could certainly feel their omnipotence and omnipresence through a soft policing system underpinned by sophisticated surveillance meant to guarantee law and order.
Any distress call or incident, police would be there in a flash.
And the trains and buses ran on time; not a minute early or a minute late — just on time!
Everything worked like clockwork.
If paradise could be imagined, then this was it.
It was simply surreal.
It was also hard to miss the general affluence all around us, which was made all the more obvious by the number of monster-sized luxurious vehicles that drove by, the level of discretionary spending and general well-being of the citizenry.
Clearly, these were people who were enjoying the best of what life had to offer.
One could not help but admire such awesome accomplishments by the Chinese with a tinge of envy and a melancholic longing for such developments to take place in one’s own country.
Having witnessed first-hand the Chinese miracle, the Bishop was, therefore, unsurprised when Chinese President Xi Jinping announced on February 25 last year that his country had secured “complete victory” against poverty through lifting the remaining 100 million impoverished residents from 832 counties and 128 000 villages out of poverty.
In fact, since 2013, China lifted 66 million people — the equivalent of the population of France — out of poverty.
All this happened 10 years ahead of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal of ending poverty in all its forms for 97 percent of the population by 2030.
The UN naturally took notice and its secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, duly wrote a letter in March the same year congratulating President Xi and the Chinese people for this historic feat.
You see, the milestones achieved by China were the culmination of years of determinedly and collectively fighting the scourge of poverty through targeted programmes that were meant to improve the well-being of ordinary people, particularly those in rural areas.
China’s “Targeted Poverty Alleviation” programme essentially declared war on poverty by mobilising communities, bureaucrats, Communist Party of China (CPC) officials and even the military.
Over three million public sector officials were sent from cities and towns to villages to fight poverty “on the frontlines”, while over US$246 billion was invested in poverty alleviation programmes covering an eight-year period.
For example, in Shawa village, which is located in southwest China’s Yunnan Province, large-scale planting and breeding industries were established, helping generate incomes of over US$700 000 for locals.
In some areas, agricultural experts were called in to provide skills training for villagers to develop fruit industries that were suited to peculiar village conditions.
And bureaucrats came in handy insofar as they could link rural industries and economic activities to bigger and lucrative markets in cities.
This is how rural incomes were improved and, with them, the general living standards of rural folk.
It radically transformed the fortunes of rural households.
Worryingly, in this part of the world, we have grown up and lived in poverty for so long that we even romanticise it.
Africa is generally the citadel and sanctuary of poverty.
About 460 million Africans — close to a third of the continent — are believed to be living below the poverty line of US$1,90 per day.
Also, 600 million Africans — about half the continent — still lack access to electricity.
There are even grimmer statistics highlighting the extent to which ordinary wananchi on the continent are still far from remotely realising the same miracle as in China.
Flipping the Script
We really owe it to ourselves to extricate ourselves from the current unenviable circumstances of grating and begriming poverty.
Deuteronomy 15: 7-8 says: “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.”
Proverbs 21:5 adds: “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.”
Bishop Lazarus once told you that if you closely follow the example of how China managed to navigate its way from an economic backwater to the economic powerhouse it is now, you would not be far off the mark in understanding the current trajectory that is being taken by ED to lift the majority of our people out of poverty and lead them to prosperity.
Here in Zimbabwe, we have begun flipping the script.
Over the past couple of months, you might have heard of a goat scheme here, a poultry scheme there, including borehole drilling programmes and fruit tree distribution initiatives.
These are just different schemes of the same programme that is tailored and targeted to improve livelihoods in communities and boost rural incomes.
We must not forget that it is in the rural areas where most of our people stay.
The Presidential Goat Scheme has already been launched in Chipinge, Manicaland.
Through the exercise, more than 600 000 goats — 35 000 bucks and 597 000 does — will be distributed, especially to those who are deemed underprivileged by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee, and these include the elderly, child-headed families, women-headed families and people living with disabilities.
It gives them a fighting chance against poverty.
Similarly, the distribution of poultry to households has already begun.
The ambitious project is targeting three million households, who are expected to get 10 indigenous poultry chicks each.
Again, vulnerable households will be the first beneficiaries.
The Bishop still remembers that when this grand scheme was first announced, many incredulously dismissed it as mere rhetoric and political posturing, but now that it has begun, its sheer scale and reach has left them dumbfounded.
But maZimbabweans makaoma.
All along, some among us have been quietly making loads of cash through supplying Government with some of the eggs for hatcheries for this humungous scheme.
Since the poultry and livestock programmes are pass-on schemes, the impact and multiplier effect will definitely be immense.
For some families and communities, these projects will be life-changing.
According to the Institute of Security Studies , an agricultural revolution could push 110 million people out of poverty by 2043.
If you had not noticed, an agricultural revolution, which is driven by ordinary communities, is already underway in Zimbabwe.
For instance, a significant amount of this year’s bumper wheat harvest will be coming from communal farmers and small-scale irrigation schemes that are already changing lives in ways never imagined before.
These are the structural foundations for building a prosperous future that leaves no place and no one behind.
There is a plan, method and objective to all these ongoing initiatives.
With ED, the grandmaster, everything is often methodical and well-thought-out.
As he often says, Rome was not built in a day. Even the most imposing structures are built brick by brick.
We will conjure our own miracle the same way the Chinese did — through hard and painstaking work.