Food-for-work alleviates hunger in Manicaland

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Drought has hit the Manzvire area of Chipinge South district in Manicaland where some women have embarked on a food-for-work project that has been initiated by Christian Care, a non-governmental organisation.

Villagers in this remote area were anticipating a bumper harvest but the dry spell that has hit some parts of the country has resulted in their crop wilting.

Chipinge folk normally plant small grain crops that are drought resistant such as rapoko and sorghum but this time around these crops could not survive the dry spell.

Cotton is the only crop that seems to be doing well but villagers interviewed said the harvest would yield around 50%.

It’s easy for one to start fire and raze whole fields as the crops have completely wilted from moisture stress.

NewsDay came across a group of ten women who were slashing tall grass along the Tanganda–Chiredzi highway.

Grass-slashing along major highways is a function normally performed by the Ministry of Roads but these women get food handouts at the end of the month from Christian Care, which has initiated the food-for-work project.

Phillipa Mtetwa who leads the group said they had been slashing along the highway and doing other road maintenance work for the past three months.

Mtetwa said each person receives a 10kg bag of maize-meal at the month-end but the distribution varies depending on how large one’s family is.

“The amount of food one gets depends on how big one’s family is. If one has registered that they are five in their family, they get a 50kg bag of maize-meal and five bottles of cooking oil,” said Mtetwa.

She said they were getting basic foodstuff such as kapenta , cooking oil, soya chunks, beans, bulgar wheat and maize-meal and this had been going a long way in sustaining their families.

“If we had not been engaging in food-for-work, we would be starving by now,” said Mtetwa.

Another elderly woman who is part of the grass slashing project, Lucia Mhlanga, said some children had stopped going to school because of lack of food but the situation had improved since food handouts from Christian Care were introduced.

“Children were absconding from class because of hunger and some young high school girls were now engaging in prostitution so as to put food on the table,” said Mhlanga.

Mhlanga said before Christian Care came they had been employed at a farm owned by Sabot, a company in Chisumbanje area which is approximately 40 kilometres from Manzvire.

Sabot is building a multi-million-dollar ethanol plant in Chisumbanje which when finished is expected to create jobs for thousands of people in Chipinge area.

Mtetwa said their dilemma now was that the Christian Care food-for-work project was being suspended at the end of March.

“Christian Care has indicated that they are going to suspend the project at the end of this month and we don’t know how we are going to survive after they have left,” said Mtetwa.

Secretary of the group Joice Mwaangireni said their wish is to venture into income-generating projects such as sewing clothes and brick-moulding.

“If we could get a donor who would give us sewing machines we could start income-generating projects that can help us look after our families,” said Mwaangireni.

Christian Care regional area manager for Manicaland Mark Karinda refused to shed more light on the projects they were carrying saying only national director Reverend Matonga was authorised to comment on the humanitarian work they were doing.

“We are assisting the government in food distribution through empowering the community by doing projects that can help them,” Karinda said.

Manzvire and areas such as Checheche, Chibuwe, Tanganda as well as other areas in Buhera are parts of Manicaland that have been hard-hit by drought and they badly need food assistance from the government.