Zimbabwe: Women grow better lives near the city (by Zenzele Ndebele, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Zimbabwe)

| August 15, 2011

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A group of about fifteen women crowd around a borehole, waiting to collect water for their gardens. It is a noisy scene here in Gwabalanda. This low-income, high-density suburb is about 14 kilometres north-west of Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe. On the edge of the suburb there is a vegetable garden about 100 metres long and wide.

Mrs. Siboinisiwe Gumede is one of the co-operative members who run the gardening project. She joined the co-operative because her husband earns little and they always have financial problems. Her life has changed for the better since joining. She explains, “My life has improved because I can now afford to make some income by selling produce in the local market and customers around the suburb. Now I do not have to wait for my husband’s salary.”

The garden has about 45 plant beds. Members grow a variety of vegetables including rape, sweet potatoes, cabbage, carrots and spinach. Each member tends their own vegetable beds, the number depends on how many each person can manage to water and weed.

There is a small hut at the edge of the garden. The hut is used as a guard room because thieves are a problem here. Project members were forced to employ a security guard over night because they were losing a lot of vegetables to thieves. Mrs. Gumende says, “We have a serious problem of thieves. As you can see, our garden is not fenced and we are really losing a lot.”

Despite this challenge, Mrs. Gumende thanks the city council of Bulawayo for allowing the women to use the vacant land for agriculture. She explains, “Very few city councils would allow people to farm in the cities.”

The garden project was initiated by Bulawayo City council about seven years ago. Bulawayo is one of the few urban councils in Africa with an agriculture policy. The aim of the project was to alleviate hunger, targeting the unemployed and people with low-incomes. Bongiwe Ngwenya is the spokesperson for the city of Bulawayo. She said, “We realised that agriculture plays an important role to us African people – even when we live in cities we still want a piece of land to farm.”

Mrs. Ngwenya also recognised the role that farming can play in nutrition. She said, “There is also the issue of nutrition especially to people living with HIV and Aids. They need a balanced diet and it becomes easier when they can have a piece of land to cultivate their own vegetables.”

Today the garden benefits a number of people like Mrs. Gumende. She has been working on this garden for the past three years and she has no regrets.