LIVINGSTONE MARUFU RECENTLY IN WEDZA
People of Wedza have called upon food aid groups to help with income-generating projects that can help to empower their communities rather than seasonal donations, which are immediate.
Wedza, which is in Mashonaland East province, is climatically divided into upper Wedza and lower Wedza.
While upper Wedza is cooler and has average-to-high rainfall, lower Wedza experiences warmer-to-hot temperatures and low rainfall.
Even the crops grown in the two regions differ significantly.
The problem is that despite the upper Wedza receiving good rainfall and having plenty of water sources, the majority of the population is in dire need of food.
On January 25, 2023, the World Food Programme (WFP) assisted 46 000 vulnerable people in Wedza with maize, cooking oil, and cowpeas among other basics.
But the people in the area no longer want donations but tangible projects, which will wean them from such donations.
Wedza councillor Rodreck Kadungure told Business Times that the Wedza community would continue extending begging bowls unless donors initiate long-term projects.
“We know that a person given a fishing rod and a person given the fish have been helped in different ways as the food given today is like giving a person a fish which is consumed at that very moment.
“What we need is to be taught how to fish using the fishing rod that way we will go far. We are farmers and we are in the Watershed where we have plenty of rain but the reason why food is donated here is that crops dried out due to serious moisture stress.
“We mainly do tobacco and staple crops but the reason we continue to face hunger is that we are not utilising plenty dams here and many farmers are not utilising these water sources because they don’t have the equipment,” Kadungure said.
He said Wedza needs partners like the WFP to help the community with technical and infrastructure development support.
“If we could have that equipment we might end hunger. We also need information technology, technical subjects, and electricity to empower our children. We need a small demonstration plot with irrigation infrastructure that will help the children with the know-how.
“This will help the children with a know-how which he will use at his father’s plot and this enables him to utilize the land and employ many people,” Kadungure said.
This comes as the traditional leader in Hwedza, Chief Ruzane, has called upon the government and non-governmental organisations to revamp irrigation infrastructure and install new ones to help communities be self-sustainable.
Chief Ruzane, born Washington Mbavha, said irrigation systems needed to be installed since they have enough rivers to provide water for irrigation.
“We are saying to WFP and other non-governmental organisations who are accepted here in Zimbabwe that we have many rivers in this area where irrigation systems can be set up which will help, rather than always relying on NGOs, as we will have enough water to irrigate our crops,” Ruzane said.
“As for us chiefs, we have a programme which we call Zunde and we are pleading with them to come and drill boreholes for us and give us pipes instead of relying on the government for assistance. As chiefs in communities, we will be giving our people through Zunde.”
He said the government and NGOs should continue assisting the communities and as for the Wedza community, it needs to keep working hard on farms even with these changes in climatic conditions.
The local community said the food aid groups should come up with programmes that support farming and with irrigation facilities functioning well the local people will succeed.
Crops such as cotton, sorghum, and millet do better in lower Hwedza, while areas along Watershed Road leading to Wedza from Harare are known for tobacco, maize, and paprika production.
Numwa Secondary School deputy head Damaris Matsika said there is a need for NGOs to capacitate the local community and the school children to reduce poverty.
“We have received a lot of help from many donors but the challenge is that they help up to a certain level. As the donors are donating food, why can’t they come up with programmes that help us to generate some money?”
She added: “We have sewing projects with the community women where we do sanitary wear but the money is too little. We need a chicken-rearing project but we do not have the proper infrastructure to do it. We also need piggery and goat keeping.”
“We also need halls that can generate money for us as we can get a living from donation functions like these, we have so many people who want to space for weddings and other functions hence we can generate revenue from there. Donors are not bad but we need income-generating projects in Wedza.”
Youths in Wedza also want projects that can empower them and eliminate poverty.
Chengetai Madondo who stays in Ward 1 said income-generating projects were key in eliminating poverty among the youths.
“We would need some business startup kitty so that we cannot wait for these donations year in and year out.
“We need cattle ranching, goat rearing, chicken rearing, fences, engines for our gardens so that we can do things on our own,” he said.
WFP country director Francesca Erdelmann said the UN agency is providing resilience building, livelihood creation, rural assets creation, financial literacy, agriculture insurance, and savings to the communities.
“We also do climate proofing programmes. In total people are receiving food in 60 districts, which are around 3.8m people so WFP provides a contribution but the total programme is larger than this. Majority of the food comes from GMB and government resources,” she said.According to the ZimVAC 2022 assessment report, Wedza is one of the country’s 15 districts with high cereal insecurity prevalence.
The district has a global acute malnutrition rate of 7%, above the 5% WHO emergency threshold.