HARARE – A drought that ravaged the country in 2002 and wiped out livestock has become a strong weapon to fight starvation.
Situated about 50 kms west of Karoi town, Chiwore Irrigation Scheme under Chief Dendera is transforming the lives of villagers here.
Scheme chairperson Gibson Guvi said the scheme was started as a way of militating against drought but has grown into a business venture for villagers.
“When the dam was built after 2000, we organised ourselves to fight for food security after the 2002 drought. It is now changing our livelihoods,” he told the Daily News on Sunday.
“Drought was a hard lesson for us as we started planting maize during dry season. Now we are diversifying into vegetables, onions, tomatoes, peas and potatoes among other crops for market gardening.”
The garden is on the edge of the rocky Anjini Mountain and the green fields are a refreshing testimony of hope.
Villagers under headman Nziradzepatsva were allocated a quarter of a hectare each and the scheme is now giving a livelihood to nearly 5 000 people covering Hurungwe areas under Chiefs Mudzimu, Mjinga, Nyamhunga, Nematombo, especially during the dry season when rivers dry up and vegetables remain golden relish.
“At times we fail to meet demand from our clients coming from far and wide,” said the 39-year-old chairperson.
“We get customers from as far as Harare, Kariba, Karoi as well as Magunje as vegetable vendors throng for orders. Some of our members have managed to replace livestock affected by the 2002 drought and built better homes through the sales. We are better off now than before the drought,” said Guvi.
However, ballooning electricity bills are causing headaches.
“We are still to settle our $9 000 electricity bill as our monthly contributions of $13 per individual are too little to clear the bill,” said Guvi.
One of the villagers benefitting from the scheme, 42-year-old Martha Matafi, is among 15 women in the group. She admits that the scheme has transformed her life.
“It is a form of employment for us. I paid for our child to attend the University of Zimbabwe through the money raised from this venture,” said mother of five Matafi.
Because of the elusiveness of the US dollar, which is the commonly used currency in Zimbabwe, Matafi and her colleagues are also open to barter trade.
“We accept chicken, goats and other things. Barter trade is helping the community. It helps us push our stock,” she said.
Members of Chiwore Irrigation Scheme include widows, the elderly and people living with disabilities.
Members also use the scheme as an opportunity to interact with health workers to discuss the impact of HIV and Aids within the community.
“We allow village health workers to attend monthly meetings with us where issues of stigma, testing of HIV and Aids are discussed openly. It helps the community which is carrying the burden of the pandemic as sick people from urban areas are dumped here,” said Guvi.
Although the drought has long been forgotten, the community here is reaping the benefits.