The Sunday News
Judith Phiri, Sunday News Reporter
HWANGE Local Board (HLB) will soon identify areas to establish nutritional community gardens in every ward within its area of jurisdiction as part of efforts to improve income and household food security among vulnerable families.
In their recent newsletter, HLB chairman councillor Nqobile Ocean Mabhena said the local authority sees the setting-up of community gardens as one of the numerous initiatives aimed at alleviating poverty among vulnerable members of the society.
“We are working on introducing at least one community garden in each ward as early as the beginning of next year. This is a standing Council resolution. These community gardens are expected to play a pivotal role in improving the livelihoods of less fortunate members of our communities,” said Cllr Mabhena.
He added that the local authority would expedite establishment of community gardens in each ward buoyed by the success of a pilot project in Ward 5.
Cllr Mabhena also noted that they have seen successful implementation of such projects in Bulawayo and in some urban areas and they were also grateful about the one being pioneered by Councillor (Tendai) Sibanda in Empumalanga suburb has proved to be a success.
About two decades ago, Bulawayo City Council availed portions of land in most of its high-density suburbs, which were turned into community gardens targeting not more than 100 members per scheme.
Last year, Cllr Sibanda through her ward committee identified a bushy area for the setting up of Sizimisele community garden close to Empumalanga shopping centre.
Cllr Sibanda said she believes in undertaking various income generating projects and she has always encouraged others to partake in any project with potential to improve their livelihood.
She added: “This community garden is one of the many projects that was embarked on by women in my ward last year, with other projects being quarry mining, poultry, rabbit keeping and piggery.”
The quarter of an acre Sizimisele community garden is home to 14 ward 5 women with varying vulnerability backgrounds and beneficiaries of this scheme comprise of vulnerable women such as widows, people living with HIV/AIDS, single parents, elderly and pensioners.
Cllr Sibanda said the women were deliberately selected as beneficiaries upon realising the difficulties they face in their efforts to fend for themselves and their families.
Last year, Sizimisele community garden beneficiaries managed to realise a substantial yield from their maize crop although they were forced to harvest the produce before it could fully mature due to theft and menacing baboons.
Cllr Sibanda also noted that there are plans to turn the community garden into a thriving horticultural project, whereby they will be producing crops such as tomatoes, onions, cabbages among others.
However, she said that efforts to turn the small agricultural enterprise into a fully-fledged horticultural project were being hampered by lack of funding as they needed to erect a security fence right round the garden.
She added: “We also need a borehole to provide us with a reliable source of water to irrigate throughout the year instead of relying on rains as doing so will limit us to cropping maize only.”
HLB town secretary Pastor Mdlalose said the local authority was seeking partners to assist it in the operationalisation of the community gardens.
He added that they were inviting other stakeholders to partner them in operationalizing the concept be it through their Corporate Social Responsibility mandate or otherwise, and willing partners to partner with them in setting up boreholes.