MUSHONGANEBURI, Mwenezi — For the past decade, Phineas Matausi from the arid Mwenezi district, south-east of Masvingo province, has been a perennial candidate for food aid owing to poor harvests due to incessant droughts.
BY TATENDA CHITAGU
Mwenezi falls under natural region six and is not suitable for growing the staple maize grain.
Despite the area having large water reservoirs, they had remained unused, owing largely to lack of irrigation infrastructure.
But now villagers are harnessing the water for income generating projects, following the introduction of fishery projects by a local non-governmental organisation, Aquaculture Zimbabwe, in partnership with World Vision.
“We can now benefit from the water in our area and this has not only improved our nutrition, but we are also selling some of the fish we harvest from the fishery project,” Matausi, chairperson of Mushonganeburi fishery project, said recently.
The project, with five fish ponds measuring 5 400 square metres, started last year, after they were given 10 000 fish as a start.
They draw water from Musaveremwa dam, about 5km away.
The 200 people who are members of the project got technical assistance of building the fish ponds from the NGOs, as well as training in fish farming and running co-operatives.
They had their first harvest in June this year and from then on, they have never looked back.
“We are a changed community now as we are the sole supplier of fish in the district, from local shops to boarding schools, lodges and locals in the area. In fact, we are failing to meet demand.
“While the project is still in its infancy, it has helped us raise income for our children’s fees who were always being turned away from school, as well as money for the grinding mill. People here are having a sense of ownership for the project, since it is community-initiated and run,” Matausi said.
Mwenezi district administrator Rosemary Chingwe, said the fisheries compliment cropping which had been the mainstay of the province yet failed year-in, year-out.
“As you are aware, Mwenezi is an arid district endowed with many dams, but due to lack of irrigation equipment, the water goes untapped. With the advent of fish farming, at least the villagers can put the water to good use.
“There has been a marked increase in food availability and good nutrition at household level because of fisheries in the district. Villagers are also able to have money for their upkeep and this can help reduce migration of the able-bodied population to nearby South Africa,” said Chingwe.
Aquaculture Zimbabwe country director, Martin Dingwa, said while they helped the villagers from scratch, they hope to wean them off so that they become an independent business entity that continues in the absence of donor assistance.
“While we have a project monitoring and evaluation officer at the site, we want the project to continue in the hands of the villagers as a successful business enterprise so that we empower others elsewhere.
“We will register them as a cooperative and formalise them with the Small and Medium Enterprises ministry.
“This is a four year-programme which started in 2013 and we have 40 such projects countrywide, including in Chivi, Mwenezi and Masvingo rural district. We also assist individuals who are into aquaculture at their homes,” said Dingwa.