Garden nurtures community livelihoods in Zimbabwe

23 Jan 2017   |   Blog   |   Long-term Development   |   Zimbabwe

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Seventy-five year old Francesca Mateka has been living in the same village, Dendere, in the Midlands province of Zimbabwe her entire life. Widowed, with five children and seven grandchildren scattered around Zimbabwe and South Africa, she has been trying to support her 14-year old granddaughter on her own, after the girl’s mother died eight years ago.

Food security has been worsening across rural Zimbabwe following drought and harvest failures, with up to 4.5 million people, a third of the population, left without enough food. The situation deteriorated in December and January 2016, when people were forced to survive on wild fruits, rodents and food aid.

In 2015, along with other members of her community, Francesca joined the Internal Saving and Lending Scheme (ISAL) group. The group began in 2012 but was unsure how to organise themselves until Caritas Australia partner Caritas Gweru provided training.

Being part of the Internal Saving and Lending Scheme (ISAL) provided Francesca with funds to participate in the construction of the Kuzviritira garden, one of four nutritional gardens funded by Caritas Gweru. She helped to build the garden’s fence, toilets and a borehole for the community.

At times I wanted to give up hope but knew that I had the responsibility of looking after my granddaughter. I am so happy that I can now give her enough to eat and that she can go to school."

Before Francesca became a member of the garden, she was brewing beer and selling it to provide food for her granddaughter. At times she would make $20-$30 a month and other times hardly anything. Francesca had a small garden but there was never enough water to produce vegetables to feed her granddaughter. 

Each month, the members contribute $10 from the selling of vegetables. The group agreed to purchase groceries that included:

  • 15 litres of oil
  • 20kg sugar
  • 20 kg rice
  • 5 kg flour
  • 2kg powered milk
  • 12 bars of washing soap
  • 4kg washing powder
  • 500 grams of tea leaves
  • 2 boxes of matches
  • 2kg of salt

The groceries total $1,787.00, which they pay as a group.

Francesca is now regularly earning up to $20.00 every two days from the selling of the tomatoes. She earns an additional $10 per week from selling other vegetables. She uses her income to pay school fees for her granddaughter, bought a wheelbarrow, a goat and blankets.

Francesca now has 24 beds and is growing onions, rape, spinach, sweet cabbage, tomatoes, carrots, beans, okra, carrots, butter nut and sweet potatoes. Francesca is now also the Chair Person of the Kuzviritira garden. The produce from the garden has benefitted 26 households.

A life-changing experience

With the Caritas Gweru program, Francesca is helping to provide food security and economic development to the region, empowering their families and community.

Francesca can’t believe how much her life has changed as a result of the program.

“I am so happy now. Look at my skin, it is so smooth now. I am using the water from the borehole to wash myself. Before I was bathing once a month, now I bath every day,” says Francesca.

“I am so grateful to Caritas Gweru, I want to thank the people of Australia who have changed my life. At times I wanted to give up hope but knew that I had the responsibility of looking after my granddaughter. I am so happy that I can now give her enough to eat and that she can go to school,” she says.

Learn more about Caritas Australia's work in Zimbabwe

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