120 households benefit from  Binga nutrition gardens Mankobole Nutrition Garden. Inset: The garden chairperson, Ms Monica Mpande

Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, [email protected]

NEARLY 120 households in Ward 9 and Ward 13 in Binga District have benefited from one-hectare solarised nutrition gardens, a development set to address food and nutrition security in the area and support livelihoods.

The community has been relying on rain-fed agriculture and the nutrition gardens are the first of their kind in the area.

Mampata Nutrition Garden, Mankobole Garden, Tuligwasye Garden and Kasambabezi Nutrition Garden have successful maize and sugar bean crops under the drip irrigation scheme. Water is being drawn from the Mlibizi Dam, along the Zambezi River.

The nutrition gardens were established under the Climate Adaptation Water and Energy Programme (Cawep), which is being funded by the United Kingdom to the tune of US$13,6 million pounds and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Government.

The programme is being implemented in four districts namely Binga, Insiza, Chipinge and Chivi. It started in August 2022 and will run till November 2025.

Mampate Nutrition Garden chairperson, Mr Edson Mwinde, said the nutritional garden has created an opportunity to grow various crops and they expect to start harvesting their maize crop early next month.

“It’s a rare sight to see maize crops in our area because we mainly grow small grains. Our area is dry and we have to stick to drought-resistant crops but this limits our options in terms of crop variety,” he said.

“We now have maize and sugar beans in our area, which was a rare sight. We are looking forward to introducing more crops as we continue production.

“We are targeting cash crops and we also want to have a variety such as butternut, onions, tomatoes, peas and vegetables among others. This will not only help us with an income but our families will have access to nutritious food.”

Mankobole Nutrition Garden chairperson in Ward 9, Ms Monica Mpande, said they were now treating farming as a business as compared to the time when they were farming for household consumption under rain-fed agriculture.

She said they were hoping to realise significant returns from selling their produce, mainly to schools, shops and the business centre.

“We are working very hard to ensure that our crops do well and thanks to the assistance from Agritex, we are anticipating a good harvest.

“We will be able to send our children to school and to fend for our families. The income we will get will help us start other income-generating projects,” she said.

Binga District Agritex officer, Mr Pedias Ndlovu, said the nutrition gardens will significantly help to address the issue of food and nutrition security within communities. He said the farmers were working closely with Agritex extension officers.

“This project is in line with Government’s thrust where we say we want farmers to practise climate-smart agriculture. We see here a farming method, which conserves water and soil, which is drip irrigation,” said Mr Ndlovu.

“Climate-smart agriculture is a great strategy for adaptation to the prevailing harsh weather conditions caused by climate change.

“We look forward to seeing these nutrition gardens become a reliable source of income for the beneficiaries. We are working closely with the farmers so that they sustain their project and operate it as a business,” he said.

UNDP communications officer for CAWEP, Mr Paul Sixpence, said the purpose of the programme was to climate-proof communities and ensure food security. He said Binga is one of the districts that have been hard hit by climate change.

“As part of efforts to enhance climate-smart agriculture, UNDP through its funding partner, which is the United Kingdom Government has ensured that communities in the Mlibizi area in Binga have access to new agricultural methods that enhance adaption to effects of climate change,” said Mr Sixpence.

“Four solar-powered gardens have also been established under the programme.”

Binga lies in agro-ecological region 5 and is characterised by low erratic rainfall coupled with high temperatures. It is characterised by long dry spells, low altitude and poor agricultural productivity. — @DubeMatutu

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