Women making a difference through community gardens

Women making a difference through community gardens

30/10/2014

It is a wet windy day in Dangarendove in Chirumanzu District, Zimbabwe. The skies open, albeit reluctantly, to release the last drizzles of what has certainly been a good agricultural season for the usually hot, dusty and very dry region. Florence Murairwa Muzorori, a mother of five, makes her way quickly to a nearby community vegetable garden. Her husband is not far behind as he and three other men recently joined their wives in what has become a very successful enterprise.

Gardens are generally celebrated for their contribution to improving food and nutrition security, increasing income generation and more recently as a source of gainful employment along the entire value chain including input suppliers, farmers, transporters and vendors.

Before they were recognized as sources of income, gardening activities were considered as activities reserved for women. However, as the socio-economic environment changed, so too did perceptions. The interest in supporting gardens increased even more as the effects of HIV/AIDS ravaged the nation necessitating greater efforts to mitigate its impact.

“When we started, we all asked our husbands to join but as we got down to clearing our garden spaces and digging, they just watched. It wasn’t easy as women to do all the physical work”, said Florence. “But when after one year of hard work we were able to buy a diesel powered pump and a small lorry to transport goods to the market, they immediately joined us. They now help in various activities including ploughing and transporting the vegetables to the markets” she added.

In recognition of this role played by gardens and as a direct response to a request from, the Ministry of Gender, Women Affairs and Community Development, FAO provided garden inputs in the form of seeds and fertilizers to 42 698 farmers (90 percent women) covering 826 gardens spread across the country. The assistance was provided through funding from the European Union.

“FAO is taking into account the wishes and priorities of governments when implementing projects. This was a ‘Quick Win’ Project, where FAO partnered with the farmers and the Government, based on need and priorities as outlined in the ZIM ASSET’s agriculture cluster,” said David Phiri, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa and Representative in Zimbabwe.

The group is now producing about 200 crates per week allowing them to earn approximately USD 3 000. “Our only problem is meeting the demand. Traders come from as far as Masvingo town – 130 km away – and wait in line for our tomatoes. We do not have to go out to look for the markets, they come to us”, said Florence.

“You see with horticulture you can get cash on a daily basis. When I joined my wife in the, group, some of the men laughed at me because I was doing work that was reserved for women. But when I started reaping the profits from the gardens, they started approaching me. They too want to join the group”, said Mr Zachariah Muzorori a group member who is also the permanent truck driver of the group.

Stembile Dube is the Provincial Development Officer in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development for the Midlands Province. She credits this project with promoting family harmony.

“What we have traditionally seen is as a primary cause of gender-based violence in homes is poverty. When there is no money and food situations deteriorate, people fight. But when they are economically empowered, such as when they do agricultural business – like this group –, they can buy food, buy clothes and pay school fees for their children. They also then have time to love one another, to share with each other as a family and as a community. They have time to be happy”.