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Biodiversity project to help women

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HURUNGWE — Ratidzo Hungwe (22), of Muchini village in Hurungwe ward 25 under Chief Dandawa, looks depressed. She is eight months pregnant and has not yet registered at Zvipani Clinic, which is about 25km away.

BY NHAU MANGIRAZI

Hungwe’s experiences reflect those of many expecting women, some of whom have to travel over 50km to access a health facility.

Zimbabwe is battling to reduce the maternal mortality rate currently pegged at 614 per 100 000 live births from 960 per 100 000 births in 2015.

“Of course, it is mandatory to register at clinics on time, but we do not have the $10 to spare for that. I’m expecting my third child and it is just normal to go there when I am ready to deliver,” she said.

Hurungwe Rural District Council (HRDC) gender mainstream officer Alice Paraziwa Maponga is passionate to see things changing for the better for women like Hungwe.

Maponga believes a biodiversity project currently on consultation should benefit women and girl child in particular.

The initiative, Strengthening Biodiversity and Ecosystem Management and Climate Smart Partnership Landscapes in the Mid to Lower Zambezi Region of Zimbabwe, will start next year and will run until 2024.

The project is aimed at maintaining sustainable biodiversity.

“This is a positive development for women, as they are the major victims of human-wildlife conflict here. It will empower women and the girl child in general as they are victims of human-animal conflict. Women must be involved at planning stages as they are also likely to suffer due to lack of water,” Maponga said.

“We call upon implementers to consider sinking of boreholes and rigs for better water and sanitation, among other commitments. This will empower women and the girl child in the long run.”

Hurungwe is among three local authorities — including Mbire and Muzarabani — set to benefit from a $10 million injection from Global Environment Facility, GEF, with United Nations Development Program (UNDP) monitoring the implementation process.

There will be a core financing of $52m from local partners, including from Ministry of Water, Environment and Climate Change and the Department of National Parks.

Maponga said money accrued from the projects would help economically empower the girl child through entrepreneurship trainings and nutrition gardens since the district’s livelihoods are agro-based.

“Women and the girl child are greatly disadvantaged due to lack of quality education. On social services and amenities, we look forward to seeing renovation of dilapidated clinics in outlying rural communities and building of more clinics that will assist pregnant women who normally walk for more than 70km to access a health facility. That has a negative impact on the maternal health of our communities,” she said.

According to the 2012 National Census, the district had a population of 329 197 and with a 3% annual growth projection, the population could now be around 390 000.

Participants during a recent stakeholders’ meeting held in Magunje, about 35km west of Karoi town, agreed that there was critical need to curb animal and human conflict.

Some highlighted that there was need for the communities to be empowered and such projects, where issues of environment, animals and human are involved, are discussed.

Traditional leaders including chiefs, headmen and heads of government departments were among participants.

Hurungwe district administrator Friend Ngirazi said all stakeholders should come on board and share ideas about the project.

“We are gathered here to discuss issues that affect communities, but we must be frank to each other and map the way forward truthfully,” he said.

Council chairman Tichaona Matthew said if the envisaged project was to succeed, communities must own it from inception, as was the case with the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (Campfire).

“As policymakers, we are not against any developmental projects, but we feel short-changed when communities do not own these projects. Although Campfire was a success story, as it left tangible evidence including clinics, schools and better roads maintenance through proceeds accrued, it was later rejected when communities felt they were being side-lined,” he said.

“That is the challenges we must address before we engage the communities and they must own the project. We must not impose it on them.”

Council chief executive officer Joram Moyo said there was need for political will from policymakers.

The project will cover at least 40 000km2 in Hurungwe, which still boasts of elephants, cheetahs, hyenas and lions, among other animals.

It will cover six of the 26 wards and is likely to revive some conservancies that had been vandalised while animals were driven out due to rampant poaching soon after the land reform in 2000.

For women like Hungwe, who are suffering in silence to access health facility, the biodiversity project may soon revive hope and reduce the country maternal health challenges.

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