The Sunday News
TUCKED in the expansive Zimuto communal lands in drought prone Masvingo District, Paradza Village lies about 55km from Masvingo City and is home to a significant number of households.
And because of the erratic rains, farmers mostly peasant rarely realise meaningful harvests. As a result most families rely on Government’s food relief programme that is driven by the Department of Social Welfare. The situation is exacerbated by shortage of water bodies as a few existing dams dry up easily because there are no big rivers that constantly feed them.
National Assembly Member for Masvingo North Cde Davis Marapira says Zimuto remains a challenge in Government’s commitment to address food security in the whole province because of the shortage of water bodies which can be used for irrigation purposes. He said the dams were either too shallow or were not there in most parts of Zimuto making agriculture using supplementary water from irrigation an impossibility.
According to the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVac) report released recently, Masvingo Province has 17 073 households placed on the drought relief programme by the Government although the number is likely to increase as the year progresses.
“As the Government we are currently revitalising irrigation schemes in Masvingo Province to address issues of food security but we have a challenge in Zimuto area in Masvingo District. The area does not have many water bodies, a few which are found in the area have dried up. Sekenende Dam in Paradza Village is one of the dams that usually light up people’s hopes but its water levels are decreasing fast,” said Cde Marapira who is also the Deputy Minister of Agriculture responsible for cropping.
He said the food situation in the area remained dire. However, for the villagers the situation has changed as enterprising families have made strides to complement Government’s food aid efforts through engaging in projects other than farming.
In the wake of successive droughts, the community came up with an initiative towards making use of the available water with the assistance of private development partners, Aquaculture Zimbabwe leading to the establishment of a lucrative fish farming cooperative — Sekenende Co-operative which is home to 40 families.
The co-operative has managed to build two fish ponds with more than 50 000 fish of different breeds. Founded in 2013, the co-operative benefited from Aquaculture Zimbabwe that provided the necessary resources for the construction of fish ponds.
During the construction the community members numbering 180 (122 males and 58 females) were benefiting from monthly food rations. After working for 60 hours the community members in the project would receive food hampers.
The project is meant to improve community’s nutrition thus improving food security for vulnerable households and generating income which assists members to pay school fees for their children. Sekenende Fishing Co-operative secretary for production Ms Chipo Mateta said the project has improved people’s lives as all members have already started accruing benefits and acquiring relevant skills on fish farming.
“We have benefited a lot from this project through selling fish. We sell our fish at $3 per kg and we realise at least $7 800 per year. We sell to the community but plans are underway to have contracts with large companies,” said Ms Mateta.
Ms Mateta said through fish farming they have managed to diversify into other projects such as apiculture (bee keeping), market gardening, piggery and poultry. A committee member Ms Merit Bango said they were looking forward to continue growing the project and establish an industry which would also employ more members from the community.
“We are looking forward to establish a big business here at Sekenende which will help keep poverty at bay through the provision of job opportunities for our children. At present we are harvesting fish at a small scale but there is potential to do more especially if we manage to build three more fish ponds as we have planned. Our vision is to be able to supply bigger shops,” said Ms Bango.
Ms Jane Zekiya, however, bemoaned the dwindling water levels in Sekenende Dam that supply them with water for the fish project and appealed for assistance from well-wishers and capable organisations towards the drilling of a borehole.
“As it is, our dam is less than 30 percent full and that poses a big challenge in the event that it eventually dries up. We solely depend on this dam. We appeal to the powers that be for assistance on drilling a borehole that can sustain our project.
“Once we have a borehole, this area will be a greenbelt as we endeavour to take our integrated projects to high levels.
Resources permitting we plan to have electricity connected so that we are saved from buying diesel every time as we are currently using a diesel pump for our business,” said Ms Zekiya.
Aquaculture Zimbabwe country director Mr Martin Dingwa said Paradza villagers were an amazing community that believed in working hard, self-reliance and not in receiving handouts.
“The group has managed to acquire requisite skills so fast and now they are weaning themselves. They are willing to fight the somehow deep-seated culture of dependency syndrome that has permeated some communities. In 2015, the group harvested 962kgs of fish after which they shared some among themselves for family consumption before selling 911kgs. The fish were sold to group members and community members after which they used the money realised to diversify into other farming projects.
“They now boast of piggery, apiculture, market gardening and poultry projects as mentioned before and this has invariably increased their income,” said Mr Dingwa.
He said the group members received training in business management and have since registered as a co-operative with the Ministry of Small to Medium Enterprise and Cooperative Development. The group which has a management committee with well defined roles is in the process of commercialising its activities so that they can operate on strict business lines for sustainability and profit maximisation. Apiculture projects are also done in Binga, Kariba, Mwenezi, Insiza, Beitbridge and Hwange districts.