Zimbabwe was the bread basket of Africa for a long time. But the landlocked country with a once thriving agriculture and rich natural resources has been stuck in an economic crisis for years. The country can no longer provide its citizens with staple foods - one-third of all children under five years old suffer from chronic malnutrition.
Poor harvests and little healthy nutrition – despite fertile soils
Driving through the west of Zimbabwe, the green and lush vegetation is noticeable. But out in the fields there is a distinct lack of variety. Usually, farming families only cultivate one type of field crop, such as corn or millet. This dependence then becomes problematic for them if the harvest fails due to lack of rain or drought caused by climate change. Many smallholders lack the knowledge and experience to use more effective and climate-adapted cultivation methods. They have little access to infrastructure, new equipment or techniques and also do not have the credit, for example, to invest in high-quality seed.
Smallholder agriculture has been neglected by the state for many years. Agricultural production decreased hugely under the authoritarian government of Robert Mugabe. Over the course of the land reform at the end of the 1990s, many big farmers had their land expropriated. Thousands of agricultural workers lost their jobs or were displaced. Since then, the day-to-day life of people has been characterised by unemployment and food insecurity.
On the path to sustainable agriculture
In the district of Gokwe, south-west of the capital Harare, the majority of the population live from what they can cultivate in the fields or what they earn on the cotton plantations. Their nutrition is very insecure. More than 40 percent of infants in the region are chronically malnourished. Together with local partner Agricultural Partnerships Trust, Welthungerhilfe is supporting smallholders in Gokwe to make a new start.
How Welthungerhilfe is helping:
Welthungerhilfe is training people in modern cultivation methods, which preserve the soils while still achieving higher yields. With the help of natural fertilisers and ecological plant protection, the environment is protected on a long-term basis.
In the training sessions, smallholders learn about drought-resistant crops. Now, alongside the corn and millet, climate-adapted vegetable varieties like sweet potatoes, peanuts or tomatoes are growing in their fields. This means that harvesting takes place throughout the year and nutrition becomes healthier and more varied.
Smallholder families receive training and chickens to start chicken farming. The animals enrich the diet, generate income and, thus, security.
In order that the health of the village inhabitants improves over the long-term, they learn about healthy nutrition in Community Health Clubs.
“In the past, it was often a race against the rats and mice for the supplies,” remembers farmer Lucy Marimirofa. Now, special grain stores protect against the rodents. Harvests are jointly stored and administered there. In this way, all families have enough seed for the next sowing season and can better cope with emergency situations.
The fact that the farmers join forces in groups has many advantages, including with marketing: They obtain better prices on the market and have better access to credit, which they finance through joint savings deposits.
Open to new concepts, Gokwe is heading towards the future. As a result of the better harvests, farmers achieve surpluses to sell on the market and, thereby, generate a greater income. We are planning further training courses and will support people in procuring equipment and materials as well as in the establishment of small enterprises, so that they can process their harvests and offer them across the region.
(Project number: ZWE-1077)