There was joy in Mbare last Thursday as a group of “modern urban farmers” celebrated the success of their low-income gardens.
The members held a prize-giving ceremony where some of them walked away with awards that included wheelbarrows, watering cans, seed, hoes and rakes.
The low-income garden project is under the auspices of the Zimbabwe Project Trust (Zim Pro).
“We started the project six years ago in Mbare responding to difficulties caused by Operation Murambatsvina that rendered many homeless and vulnerable,” said Zim Pro regional programme manager Dorothy Kadzikano.
“Our aim under this programme is nutritional security and we achieve this through communal projects that support conservation farming. Our beneficiaries are mostly the vulnerable and the sick.
“Under this programme, 30% to 40% of our beneficiaries are sick people and this has helped them boost their immune systems through a healthy diet,” said Kadzikano.
She explained that they train a few volunteers who in turn train others.
“In this phase we have trained 70 facilitators who have nine people each under them. We work hand-in-hand with local Agritex officials who monitor their progress. Since this is a community project, we allow members to teach their neighbours so that the low-income garden (LIG) concept spreads.
“We use community structures that are already there to identify beneficiaries. This year, including the facilitators, we have 760 members under the project. Members know each other so we allow them to choose their own leaders.”
The facilitators are supposed to meet their members at least once a week and submit reports.
During the prize-giving ceremony, beneficiaries gave testimonies, some of them quite moving.
“I was helped by women who made me aware of this Zim Pro project,” said Stephen Gobvu.
“I was literally on my way to the cemetery until this project helped me. I’d been in bed for three solid months but here I am, feeling fine. The ‘healthy plate’ concept we were taught is bearing fruit. We now grow healthy vegetables cheaply and we are taught how to prepare them in a hygienic way. The greatest advantage is that we do not need artificial fertilisers as emphasis is on organic manure,” Gobvu said.
Everjoy Mushonga, who scooped the best facilitator prize, said they benefited a lot from the project and they can now teach others how to produce vegetables cost-effectively.
“We now have the skill to use a very small place to produce healthy vegetable crops. We are taught these skills by Food and Agriculture Organisation and Agritex.
“To augment our skills and knowledge, we arrange exchange visits with other provinces to compare notes. Recently we were in Mutare,” Mushonga explained.
Regina Muroyi, who was named second-best as facilitator, was ecstatic about LIG project, particularly the low input vis- à-vis the high yields.
“It is exciting to see your crops grow in containers such as grow bags. You do not need lots of water or artificial fertilisers. After washing my hands, I can use the same water to water my plants. Using natural fertilisers is easy and healthy.
“I was sick and had no iron in my body, but I got it through the vegetables we grow.
“It’s fun to have a mobile garden. Even if as a lodger you are evicted, you simply carry away your garden with you, no sweat,” Muroyi told the audience at the ceremony.
“We used to see green and healthy spinach vegetables in supermarkets now we see them in our gardens,” said Gobvu.
A panel of four judges was set up to select the best facilitators and the best farmers.
They were looking at how members were adhering to the methods taught including the use of grow bags, organic manure, keyhole gardening, inter-cropping, mulching and the growth of herbs that repel pests, among other aspects.