Solar-powered gardens offer lifeline in climate stressed Zimbabwe Sarimana attending to her tomato plants

Patrick Chitumba, [email protected] 

TAURAI Sarimana, a 44-year-old mother of three from Kuchicha Village in Shurugwi District, meticulously tends to her garden, pruning excess shoots from the green vegetable plants.

She is one of the 32 women benefiting from the Kushinga garden project in Mfiri Village where they earn at least $10 per day by selling vegetables and tomatoes to local schools and shops. 

The women work in the garden established eight months ago with aid from local non-governmental organisation Women and Land in Zimbabwe (WLZ) and Norwegian People’s Aid. 

Boreholes, water tanks and drip irrigation systems from Norwegian People’s Aid give the women year-round access to clean water and the ability to farm crops regardless of climate change-induced water scarcity. 

The initiative has also provided a dependable source of food that has helped to improve food security and nutrition of the region. 

“In a region where water scarcity is a major concern as a result of climate change, the intervention has proved to be a reliable alternative for constant supply of water for household chores as well as for the garden where we have fresh produce improving food security and nutrition for us,” said Sarimana.

Kushinga Garden beneficiaries filling up buckets to water their vegetables. Pictures by Tatenda Madhombiro

The Second Republic’s nation-wide borehole drilling initiative, aiming to construct 35 000 boreholes, aligns with its intervention philosophy of leaving no one and no place behind. 

The boreholes have the potential to further support communities by enabling the establishment of gardens like Kushinga, which has already proved beneficial to villagers.

“The change in weather patterns has been affecting crop production like this year. We had erratic rains that affected our yields. Traditionally we would do well when it comes to sweet potatoes, but this time around we didn’t get anything from the fields,” she explained.

Sarimana credits the garden with her newfound sense of empowerment. She has transitioned from relying on others to providing for her family, working alongside her husband.

“I have taken the role of the head of the house by utilising the garden to cater for the family. I know with proceeds from the garden, I can buy groceries and other things without even asking for money from my husband. WLZ came and empowered us and now I get at least US$10 per day from selling vegetables and tomatoes,” she said.

Sarimana suggests that the project’s empowerment of women has contributed to a decrease in domestic violence in the village.

“We now have peace in our homes because as women, we are able to fend for our families and even spoil our husbands,” she said chuckling.

Another beneficiary, Eva Chipato (66), explained how climate change has impacted their village. Rivers that once provided water for irrigation and contributed to bountiful maize harvests have dried up.

“I remember we used to cook a mixture of maize and groundnuts in late August, but now that has changed. Last year we were going to Musavezi River to fetch water which was a daunting task. Most of our time was wasted travelling to the river which is 3km away. Now we are using that travelling time working on our crops at the new garden. Now children eat on time,” she said.

A client buying vegetables

Chipato, who cares for her four grandchildren, focuses on cultivating onions, tomatoes, green vegetables and carrots.

“We received training from WLZ and we identified tomatoes and green vegetables as potential cash cows. We were also educated on proper handling of the water system that includes the taps and drip tubes. 

“What we are doing here at the garden is giving us dignity in society because I am able to pay fees for my grandchildren. I am able to buy school uniforms and books. This garden is working wonders for us,” she said.

Margaret Magera from Ward 5 stated that they were having difficulty feeding their families before the garden was established.

“Until recently we didn’t have anywhere to access food. So we would end up doing food for work, but now things have changed because we have food. Even cases of GBV have declined because we now have food. Others are looking after orphans and are also doing well. From the money generated here, we buy food,” she said.

Magera said they have markets at schools such as New Gato and Jongwe Primary schools.

“I have three grandchildren, one in Grade 6, Grade 3 and ECD. We used to do stream bank cultivation which was difficult and because of that we experienced soil erosion and siltation of water bodies. We had one borehole before the intervention of WLZ,” she said.

Thandiwe Chidavarume, national co-ordinator of WLZ, pointed out the impact of climate change on rural women. 

Solar-powered irrigation schemes like Kushinga garden, she explains, aim to alleviate this burden. 

Unpredictable weather patterns and frequent droughts, Chidavarume emphasises, make planning difficult for farmers, jeopardising rural women’s food security. 

Chidavarume underscored the critical role of initiatives like Kushinga in tackling hunger and poverty. 

“Due to erratic weather patterns, it has now become difficult for farmers to plan their farming activities. This coupled with frequent El Nino droughts, the food security status of rural women is precarious,” she said.

 

 

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