HOLISTIC and sustainable natural resources management leads to improvement of food security of vulnerable communities in Zimbabwe’s predominantly agriculture-driven economy.
In view of the rapid climatic changes the world is currently experiencing, the European Union (EU) this week launched a funded programmes initiative under its Natural Resources Management Programme in the country.
The EU, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Zimbabwe launched a $4,8 million programme to assist vulnerable smallholder farmers to sustainably manage forests, diversify livelihoods sources and enhance communities’ capacity to withstand shocks in times of crises.
“Forests and trees outside forests contribute to food and income security through consumption or sale of forestry products. This programme advocates for food security policies that are cognizant of the ecosystems. The aim is not only to alleviate hunger in the short term, but also ensure the capacity of ecosystems to support long-term food security in the face of shocks and stresses,” FAO sub-regional coordinator for Southern Africa, and FAO representative in Zimbabwe David Phiri said.
Getting communities involved
FAO added that the focus on participatory forest management ensured that all stakeholders play an active role.
“Participatory sustainable forest management results in improved management of forest resources, reduction in conflicts and incidences of forest fires and enhances production of forest products and contributes to poverty reduction. The resulting increased benefits to communities will motivate them to sustainably manage their forest resources,” the UN agency said.
“The action will facilitate the formulation of an enabling policy and legal framework, using applied research and will help communities to increase and diversify sources of food and income from forests and trees.”
To this end, FAO urged government to formulate a national forest programme; aligning of forest policies and laws with communities’ needs;generating diversified sources of income through integration of forestry and agro-forestry activities into existing agricultural activities and strengthening and establishing market linkages between communities and the private sector dealing in forestry products.
The agency will manage the programme while implementation will be done in partnership with the Centre for Applied Social Sciences (CASS), Environment Africa, Practical Action, Southern Alliance for Indigenous Resources (Safire), and Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela).
60 000 vulnerable families to benefit
ACCORDING to FAO, forests have important multiple functions which are critical to the livelihoods of poor rural communities. These include forest foods, fodder, shelter, medicines, timber, other construction materials as well as firewood for energy.
Since most of the agriculturally marginal areas are well endowed with forests and trees outside forests, it is imperative to integrate agriculture with sustainable forest management and agro-forestry to improve food security and food availability, particularly among the vulnerable communities living in these areas, FAO said in a statement.
The programme is targeting 60 000 vulnerable households in selected districts within Mashonaland East, Manicaland, Matabeleland provinces.
“These regions are characterised by low crop productivity, and are vulnerable to climatic shocks and adverse environmental conditions. They are also the areas where forest management and agroforestry initiatives have a huge potential to increase and diversify sources of food and income for small-scale farmers, thereby increasing their resilience to shocks,” Phiri said.
Integrated, sustainable fisheries, aquaculture production
REDUCED agricultural yields, malnutrition, environmental degradation and limited market access of fish led to the European Union and FAO considering embarking on fisheries and aquaculture projects to improve food security of vulnerable households in Zimbabwe.
World Vision Zimbabwe (WVZ) will implement the Fisheries Project until October 2014.
The overall objective of the project is to improve food security of vulnerable households by creating an environment that is conducive to reducing the dependency on humanitarian assistance and sustainably increase their resilience to shocks.
“Our specific objective is to improve the food security and dietary diversity of vulnerable households in Binga, Kariba, Insiza, Umzingwane, Masvingo, Beitbridge, Mwenezi and Hwange districts through market based fisheries and aquaculture activities focused on sustainable fish and water resources management,” WVZ communications officer Andrew Shamu said.
The project will target unlicensed and vulnerable fishermen and women in order to urge them to consider formalisation and registration under fishing associations and cooperatives with the aim of reducing poaching.
“The formation of well-structured groups of fishermen will enable them to acquire permits, access information and appropriate training in culture based fisheries and enhance networking opportunities for collective marketing, lobbying and advocacy and mainstreaming gender and HIV/Aids,” Shamu said.
For existing fishermen and women, focus will be on improving production, sustainable resource exploitation, value addition of fish and fish products and access to markets.
The action will also target fish traders in order to help them improve their capacity for income generation through educating them on post harvest storage and formation of savings clubs.
The project will be implemented with several actors, according to clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
WVZ Aquaculture Zimbabwe, Basilizwi Trust will be implementing partners. Aquaculture Zimbabwe will lead in the design of production systems and training of project staff in integrated aquaculture agriculture production. Basilizwi Trust will lead the policy engagement side. WVZ will also lead in grant management.
World Vision Germany and World Vision Switzerland will provide technical support and administrative guidance. On the other hand, National Parks and Wildlife Authority of Zimbabwe will take the lead on regulation and enforcement of legal fishing activities in the country. Research and extension services or technical support on fish husbandry will also be provided by the above government institution with support from the project.
And the Environment Management Agency will provide review the Environmental Impact of the project activities while Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development will beresponsible for direct training and management of fish production in the communities.
The ministry is also responsible for fish research and extension as well as dissemination of current policy guidelines.
Integrated soil-water conservation and livestock management important
CARE International Zimbabwe will also get funding to implement the Natural Resources Management Programme in the Runde Catchment area that will run until November 2016.
Poor agricultural practices; climate variability; land degradation; deforestation; poor management of communal grazing lands; soil erosion and siltation of waterways according to Care International were the major threats to rural livelihoods in the Runde River Catchment.
“Multi-pronged and concerted efforts by all actors are required to reduce the negative impacts of environmental degradation so as to contribute to the attainment of improved livelihoods,” Care, projects manager Lovemore Gwenzi said.
Gwenzi said the second phaseof the project would seek to increase awareness and promote active participation by communities and government departments in Runde Catchment and the Lowveld cane growing areas in environmental protection and monitoring of natural resources.
“The benefits have a chain effect to the Lowveld cane growing areas that largely depend on Runde River water resources and catchment for irrigation. Eventually the sugar industry is expected to be boosted through improved water supply resulting from integrated management of the environment,” he added.
Investment and productivity in the sugar growing sector will also improve and so will the participation of communities in conservation and reclamation work through the promotion of sustainable agricultural and natural resources management practices, Gwenzi added.
The project also envisages capacity building of extension staff and communities through training, rangeland management embracing a holistic approach to land and livestock management as well as the enforcement of environmental by-laws and increasing awareness on environmental protection.
The EU will also run a Dream project for the reinforcement of agricultural and environmental research in Trans-frontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs) in Zimbabwe. These include the Lower Zambezi – Mana Pools TFCA, Great Limpopo TFCA and the Kaza TFCA.
The overall objective of the project will be to reinforce, capacitate and promote innovation processesthrough research in order to increase livelihood and reduce poverty of small-scale farmers and optimal use of natural resources in those areas.