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Villagers reap benefits from permaculture

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John Ruzani Mapfumo, chairman of Mountain of Hope Association, has experienced the joy of farming without artificial fertiliser.

Together with other 21 association members in Mubaiwa Ward, he has a flourishing vegetable garden that has been so fruitful, producing vegetables, tomatoes, baby marrow and cucumbers, with the help of Fambidzanai Permaculture Centre in Harare.

The association has three gardens in the area with five, seven and 11 people working them respectively. Each member has a 20 x 20m land portion in the garden.

The centre recently launched an organic farming programme here which has become the talk of the area as many people marvel at the work done there.

Organic farming, which falls under the broad discipline of permaculture, is agricultural activity done with the use of natural, organic, rather than artificial, fertilisers.

“We have our gardens at home, yes, but here, under this project, there was no use of artificial fertiliser,” said Mapfumo. “The gardens at home are still on conversion since we have used fertiliser there before.”

Mapfumo said he was happy with the business because it was profitable and there were quick returns.

“Although we are still starting, I believe that the profits, although there are still little at the moment, will increase,” he said.

The former District Development Fund driver said if they could raise enough money to purchase a vehicle, then they would be better off because it would become easier to deliver their produce to the market.

The project’s lead farmer, Didymus Taruvinga, said initially, 21 people were required under the project and with the help of officers from Agritex, they conducted an audit of farmers with a proven track record of diligence and integrity.

“We moved around preaching the gospel of this project before selecting decent people rather than rumour mongers and people who are divisive,” he said.

He added that the selected candidates under the programme were then trained in agricultural planning and asked to put the acquired knowledge to work.

In order to make the work move, he said, they had to employ “military techniques” while digging the trenches, in which various layers of manure were systematically deposited. The layers included crushed bones as a source of calcium, tins to ensure the soil had adequate iron required by plants and dried matter.

They also received assistants from the Zimbabwe Organic Producers and Promoters’ Association (Zoppa), a national movement which brings together organic producers, promoters and processors for the development of organic agriculture in Zimbabwe.

“Zoppa trained us well to produce (organic) manure and ensure it is decomposed for plant life. We were also taught the proper standards of organic farming and we took the oath that we would practice organic agriculture to the letter,” Taruvinga said.

Before getting into the plot where organic agriculture is practiced, people have to wash their hands at the entrance to avoid any form of contamination.

Speaking at the launch, Headman Elliot Ticharwa Chigwedere said he was impressed by the work done under the project.

“You don’t have to be surprised about this because Mubaiwa is a ward of projects. The people here love to work and those that are lazy must learn to work. You must get something from here,” he said.

“This work must continue and spread far and wide in all the 62 villages in Mubaiwa ward.”

Fambidzanai Permaculture Centre programmes manager, Kudakwashe Mudhokwani, said the centre was established in 1988 with mandate to teach communities organic farming using local resources and shunning fertilisers and chemicals.

“As a pilot project, there have been challenges in securing markets for the organic crops,” he said, adding that the next set of crops would, however, come with ready markets.

Mudhokwani said the primary benefit was that those working in the project would spread knowledge on organic farming to their communities and over 80 villagers were benefiting from the conservative farming project.

Agritex extension supervisor for the area, Norman Mukombe, said they were happy to have people who were willing to work with them in the fight against the prevalent scourge of hunger.

“Poverty is widespread here and we have to fight that scourge,” he said. “This is a pilot project which should spread and get more people to be knowledgeable. The gospel of organic foods needs to be spread because fertilisers are actually affecting people’s health.”

Since its inception, the centre has paved the path for food security through sustainable land use management, with a mission to teach and demonstrate relevant skills and knowledge to restore people’s confidence in their ability to produce off land while still working creatively in harmony with nature.

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