Agroecology Trainings Transform Rural Smallholder Agriculture in AAZ’s LRPs

“…organic soil amendments make the soil fertile and soggy for a long time, and unlike chemical fertilisers, organic manure does not contain poisons that kill other small but very important organisms which live in the soil.”

Wilton Mlotshwa

Most rural people in Zimbabwe get their food and income from tilling the land and rearing livestock. Agriculture arguably remains the mainstay of the economy and the largest source of livelihood for the largest rural population. Its performance directly impacts the rural people’s lives. With rural smallholder agriculture currently underperforming due to climatic shocks and terrible livestock diseases, there has been increased hunger and poverty in most rural communities in Zimbabwe. 

 Fambidzanai Permaculture Centre, in partnership with ActionAid Zimbabwe, has been implementing a project called Improving Food & Nutrition Security through Agroecology Technical Support in Nkayi, Wedza, Binga, Rusape and Nyanga Local Rights Programmes (LRPs). The project reached more than one thousand (1 000++) rural smallholder farmers living with poverty. The sole objective of this short, 9-month project was to improve food, nutrition, and income security among smallholder farmers in these mentioned LRPs through agroecology technical support. The trainings were largely hinged on raising farmer awareness on the use of natural methods in dealing with challenges such as soil infertility, water shortages, plant pests and diseases, that are currently causing low agricultural yields in most rural communities.

Through a number of workshops that included lectures, literature handouts and hands-on skills training; the farmers had a chance to learn about ways to improve soil fertility, harness & conserve rainwater, and sustainably deal with plant pests and diseases using natural methods that do not put the environment, the people and the animals’ health at risk. Mr. Wilton Mlotshwa, from Ndleko village, Jikijela community garden in ward 28 of Nkayi district, attended the workshops and this is what he said; 

“By attending the agroecology workshops that were conducted by FPC and implementing what was said; I have seen that my garden has improved tremendously. We learnt that organic soil amendments make the soil fertile and soggy for a long time, and unlike chemical fertilisers, organic manure does not contain poisons that kill other small but very important organisms which live in the soil”. 

The programme has been largely targeting women. Of the thousand people that were trained, more than seventy percent (75%) of them were women, especially young women. We put women first in all our climate-proofing interventions because rural women are debatably the ones who suffer most from the effects of climate change and deserve to be saved first. For instance, climate change effects such as dwindling forests and depleting water sources are forcing rural women to travel long distances in search for firewood and water. 

Shupikai Munda is one of the women farmers who benefitted from the trainings. She mentions how the organic methods of soil fertility management have restored the once lost fertility in her garden.  

“By using the agroecological approaches that we have been taught by Mr. Dungeni (FPC Field Officer); you desist from buying things like (synthetic) fertilisers and poisonous pesticides, simply because you will be using natural things around you to make your own remedies. I now know how to make thermal composts and a few bio-pesticides. I adopted this new farming approach with so much skepticism but the significant improvements that I have seen in my garden have made my fear disappear. It is now my greatest wish that everyone in this village adopts this farming practice”. 

Due to heavy rains and clashes with government programmes such as the national population and housing census and the electoral delimitation exercise; some of the trainings were eventually cancelled because of several postponements. Some of the farmers in hard-to-reach wards of Nyanga did not get the opportunity to learn about natural ways of dealing with plant pests and diseases because of the rains and slippery roads. We keep our fingers crossed that the project continues again this year (2023) and with a longer span. Farmers like Shupikai and Wilton will get another chance to learn more about other agroecological methods they can employ to tackle climate change and improve food production. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like these