Climate change has meant our day-to-day seasonal assumptions no longer stand, and the rainfall patterns have become unpredictable, and unseasonal. This has many implications for rural farmers in Gokwe as they try to irk a living while providing food security for the country.
Ask 68-year-old Simbarashe Njelele, the young brother to Chief Njelele how climate change conditions have changed over the years for the farmers in the fields of rural Gokwe and he does not need to stretch his memory far to find the answer.
“This year we witnessed serious floods in our area during the rainy season, it destroyed most crops in most fields, and those affected are surviving through donations from different organisations, and well-wishers,” he said.
Zimbabwe struggles with economic hardships, the inflation is not stable and is always rising. Unemployment especially amongst the youths is rife, with the majority of the graduates finding the goings tough because they cannot easily get employment. Corruption has been on the increase in recent years with the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) initiated to curb this challenge. However, majority of the Zimbabweans feel that ZACC has failed in its mandate to deal with corruption, which continues to wreak havoc in all corners of the country.
In Chief Njelele’s area in Gokwe, the southern part of Zimbabwe declining harvest due to the combination of inadequate farming inputs, inadequate production practices, and the impact of climate change are exacerbating an already difficult situation while pushing the rural communities further into food, and nutrition insecurity.
Part of the solution lies in creating opportunities for households to produce their own nutritious food, and for them to do this by using precious resources such as soil, and water in doing income-generating projects such as gardening.
Nobert Maka, a youth from Chief Njelele’s is doing all he can to utilize soil, and water doing his garden project, after the floods that dismantled his fields during the rainy season.
“The effects of climate change have been felt here so many times. Sometimes the rains come late, and our farming will be affected. Sometimes, we plant late and miss the rains. But this year, the floods destroyed our crops. There was a heavy flood that hit the majority of the fields in this area, and the majority of us were stranded. We relied on donations to survive that is when I decided to utilize my garden to feed the family.
“…as a youth in Gokwe, I work using my own hands in farming. My garden project here I have tomatoes which is the income-generating project I am currently partaking in at the moment. These days things are a bit tough because we are selling a crate of tomatoes at $USD10. It is not much, but it is something for me, to cater for my family so that we can survive.
“If we can get people who are willing to support us, that will be a welcome thing, and we will applaud such people because they will be uplifting us. Sometimes we face input challenges, we usually fail to acquire input. So we appeal to well-wishers who want to assist with inputs so that we can push hard, that will be appraisable, and our work will move forward well,” he said.
Maka’s garden project provided a good example to his counterparts who are known to take it lightly when it comes to attempting to venture into the sector.
Environmentalist and Climate Reality Leader Priyanka Naik lauded the gardening projects for youths in rural areas saying it is part of a much-needed initiative that places importance on sustainable food.
“Food gardens are more important to youths in rural communities because they offer not just simply food, but open the doors to a dignified life while building social capital. Projects such as the one being implemented by Maka show that it is possible to achieve sustainable food, and agricultural systems if we all are committed, farmers, researchers, students, and nutritionists are included,” she said.
The Food, and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) says that successful agricultural development projects promote food security, self-sufficiency, and self-reliance (such as income generation from non-farm sources to purchase food), through greater community control of agriculture and food systems.
For Njelele after working in town for more than 18 years in different cities, including Bulawayo, Kwekwe, and Harare he realised that he could survive better in his rural homestead, and decided to return and venture into the garden project in order to survive with his family while also providing food to those in towns that include Gweru, Kadoma, and Kwekwe where he sells his produce.
“…but at work, things were not really working out well for me. I once worked for companies that include Dairboard, ZBC, and Farmco as a driver. I also drove buses for a company called Stoky in Bulawayo. I even went into driving a commuter omnibus, but it was not going on well for me. So I had to come back home. After listening to the President’s message about utilizing land it gave me an idea of what was best for me that is when I remembered that my father had left the land, a stand, and a garden for me when he passed on. Now I am back and working in my garden. If I can compare the years that I have worked in town, for 21 years, and the 10 years that I have worked here it is different. In 10 years I was able to build my homestead, I bought my first livestock through my garden.
“…since then I do not have many challenges. We just wish we could get cheaper water drillers so that we can drill boreholes during the period when water is scarce. This will assist us in avoiding cutting production. Our productivity is affected when there is no water because there will come a time when the water here seizes, and we wait for the rainy season,” he said.
There is a need to assist rural villagers in their income-generating projects so that they contribute to the food security of the country, and bring back the glory days of Zimbabwe being the bread basket of Africa.