Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
FOR the first time in their lives, villagers in Jinjika village in Mangwe District, Matabeleland South, have opened bank accounts to receive payments for their efforts at Sekusile-Makorokoro Nutrition Garden, a project falling under the Presidential Rural Development Scheme.
On December 15 last year, President Mnangagwa launched the Presidential Rural Development Scheme in the remote Jinjika village which is tucked deep in semi-arid Matabeleland South.
Government intends to replicate the same programme across 35 000 villages countrywide.
The programme entails communities using resources within their villages to uplift themselves and Arda and Agritex are the agronomists for the projects.
The programme is part of Government’s efforts to improve rural economies and end poverty among the rural folk in line with the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).
During the launch the President sold the first bundle of spinach produced at the Sekusile-Makorokoro Nutrition Garden to off-takers for US$1.
The Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) has already started establishing offtake agreements with buyers of fresh produce from the garden, which was established two months ago.
With 163 beneficiaries, Sekusile-Makorokoro Nutrition Garden has already started generating money in its first eight weeks of establishment.
Arda said the scheme will generate at least US$163 000 every year.
In interviews with Chronicle yesterday, villagers said the horticulture project has become transformational to their lives.
The villagers in Jinjika said they have opened bank accounts to get paid for the work they do at the Presidential Horticulture Scheme garden in the Makorokoro area.
So far, they received payments for rape and spinach they planted in December and have started harvesting tomatoes and about 4 000 cabbages will be ready in mid-February.
The garden is being managed by Mr Mlungisi Ncube with Agriculture extension officers providing consultancy work so that crops do not fail.
Mr Ncube yesterday took Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka through a tour of the garden narrating their successes as well as challenges.
A villager engaged in the scheme, Ms Linda Moyo said after receiving her payment last month, she was able to buy groceries for her family.
“I managed to buy items including rice, sugar, soap among other things.
We have been able to relieve pressure from our husbands who are working outside the country.
As a woman, I’m now able to enter a bank and make a withdrawal and this is through the payments I get from working here.
We are looking forward to improved profits when we scale up productivity,” said Ms Moyo.
A local village head Mr Morgen Ndebele expressed gratitude to Government for extending the project to their community.
He said the project will help in ensuring that locals don’t skip the country’s borders as payments that villagers are receiving are transforming lives.
“We believe this will contribute to more of our children not leaving the country to seek greener pastures in other countries.
Villagers now balance between working in their fields and also working here where they get paid. We believe this project will uplift our community,” said Mr Ndebele.
In his speech, Dr Masuka, said it was important that he follows up on the programme that President Mnangagwa launched in December so that glitches are reduced in spreading the programme countrywide.
“We visited here to see progress with the project. I’m extremely pleased with what we have seen so far.
All the 163 villagers are working here and have been paid and they have started generated more than $100 000 in their first month.
Certainly, this project is on course to achieving targets and they have even started selling the cabbages, they have an incredible crop of tomatoes, rape and spinach.
They are now going into the second rotation and we can only expect that production will get better,” said Dr Masuka.
He said the project has great potential and Government will chip in to ensure communities access viable markets.
“We still have to finetune the marketing side because the markets are far. And with the increase in product from other villages that are going to be starting this project, I think we have started on the right path,” he said.
He said institutions such as the Zimbabwe National Water Authority, Zimtrade, Agriculture Marketing Association and Agriculture and Rural Development Authority are expected to work closely with rural communities in amplifying the transformation agenda.
Dr Masuka said rural industrialisation is the best foot forward if the country is to achieve an upper middle-income status by 2030.
He said the Presidential Horticulture Scheme will create employment for communities.
“Opportunities lie where we are; beneath our feet and here in Jinjika Village we have demonstrated that it is indeed possible for villagers not to go anywhere else to be employed.
They get money every month as employees and at the end of the selling season they become shareholders in the shares.
So, this is an incredible developmental pathway for the attainment of Vision 2030,” he said.
“For these projects to succeed, it is agricultural development that will power rural industrialisation.
And that rural industrialisation will cause rural development and facilitate for the attainment of Vision 2030.
That’s the continuum that we must appreciate, but where it is theoretical a lot of people get lost.
But when the perspective is grounded like this, everyone can see that this is the evidence that we have been building all along.
That it is possible for Zimbabweans to develop where they are because the enabler for development is the land.”
Dr Masuka said the project being implemented at Jinjika will be replicated across the country making Zimbabwe a stronghold in horticulture exports in Africa.
“The President’s vision is that there be 35 000 village models like this so we have the incredible opportunity to become one of the biggest horticulture exporting nations in Africa.
So, this provides diets and nutrition and this is where we are going.
If you complement this with Pfumvudza/Intwasa that provides the cereals, and this provides the relish then this is the greatest combination for rural development and food and nutrition security,” said Dr Masuka.
Mangwe district development coordinator Ms Rorisang Makhurane said chiefs in the district have endorsed the programme and are in the process of identifying land in other villages where the same programme can be implemented.
“You know this part of the country has almost been forgotten, even the network is very poor.
Somehow, they did not have a lot of participation in national programmes, but this project I see it coming up very positively and everyone is now understanding where Zimbabwe is going.
This is the way to go; the villagers are being paid for the work they are doing and they now realise what business is.
What we have even heard from the grapevine is that the traditional leadership in this area want this expanded.
I even had consultations from chiefs who want this model to be spread across the district.
“As you are aware the President has said this should be replicated in the 35 000 villages in the country, chiefs are busy trying to identify land to expand this programme,” she said. — @nqotshili