By Everson Mushava
After completing secondary education, Shorai Mundoko (46) abandoned his rural Bocha home in Manicaland province to join the great trek to Harare in search of greener pastures, like many of his peers.
For almost seven years, he toiled in a lowly-paying job and as time flew past, his hopes of hitting gold started to fade.
His meagre salary continued to be eroded by the ever-piling responsibilities as his brothers and sisters back home enrolled for secondary education.
Mundoko’s impoverished parents could not cope and had to turn to their employed son to save the family’s dwindling head of cattle, but he too could not bear the burden.
After 10 years in the city, Mundoko had to take the painful decision to quit employment and go back to his rural home to start a new life.
“I had given up on urban life and all I envisaged was a rural life, waking up every day to rub shoulders with my grandfathers at beer parties,” he said.
“My five O’ Level subjects had failed to change my life and work in the city was unsustainable.”
But life has taken a new turn for the father of five — a turn for the better, which he never anticipated.
He now boasts of over 300 goats, several hundred chickens, and cattle. He also runs a huge garden and has several fish ponds.
It is not only his family that now looks up to him, but the whole community in the arid village adjacent to Chiadzwa, home to the country’s biggest diamond mines.
He says the 10 years spent in the city were wasted.
“It was an embarrassing thing coming to the rural areas at first, but I have now learnt that travelling does broaden the mind,” Mundoko said during a tour of his various projects that now have a potential of giving him over US$1 000 every month in revenue.
“I travel a lot and in the process, get exposed to various projects run by other people in different areas and my horizon has widened.
“I first became a cross-border trader, but still there was no significant change to my life.
“I realised that when a person is settled and they do something, they can survive. It was from that mentality that I managed to do all this.”
Mundoko is breeding ‘road runners’, cattle and goats as well as fish and horticultural farming.
“I was motivated by what others were doing. I mobilised community members in 2015 and formed a cooperative known as Sendasacco Project,” he said.
“We started off by simply raising a financial base from which we loaned people money to grow our capital. Due to inflation, we realised it was better to buy livestock.
“This was the time when Improved Nutrition and Sustainable Production for Increased Resilience Economic Growth (Inspire) visited us.
“They equipped us with financial management skills, how to breed goats, cattle, grow vegetables and turn our efforts into real business.
“They also helped us with the funds and through Inspire, our lives have changed.”
Like many projects that have given a lifeline to many smallholder farmers in Mutasa, Makoni and Mutare districts in Manicaland, the Sendasacco Project is run under the NGO Zimbabwe
Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP), which is part of Inspire.
The projects are funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and are managed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) under the United Nations, with Practical Action as the implementing partner.
FAO manages the agriculture productivity and nutrition (APN) project and Palladium oversees the market development component.
DFID has to date availed 72,4 million pounds to the LFSP, according to Zvikomborero Zimunya, the FAO communications specialist.
The programmes have ensured that smallholder farmers in Makoni, Mutasa and Mutare are enjoying improved food and nutrition security.
Practical Action spokesperson Innocent Katsande said the smallholder farming projects were designed to contribute to poverty reduction through increased incomes.
“Increasing the capacity of smallholder farmers to produce food, building their resilience against climate shocks and disasters such as drought and flooding is key to ensure national
food security and nutrition,” Katsande said during a tour of the projects last week.
“Our work under the LFSP project is aimed at raising smallholder farm productivity through promoting improved and climate-appropriate agricultural practices, enabling access to finance and promoting the production and consumption of safe and more nutritious food.
“Our work under Inspire, a component of the LFSP project in Manicaland, is raising smallholder farmers’ incomes by linking them to profitable commercial markets.
“Promoting business models that promote gender and social equity in markets as well as promoting local level entrepreneurs for local economic growth.”
Under these projects, Practical Action, through Inspire, encourages villagers to form cooperatives, help with financing as well as provide training on how to run the various life-changing projects that have given the smallholder farmers a lifeline.
Mundoko said the Inspire model has not only transformed lives, but has changed the way donors look at communities.
“In the past, we used only to know donors as people who came to give us food,” he said.
“But this new approach is a new dimension where we are no longer given fish, but taught how to fish on our own.
“We now have life skills and if the donors leave today, our lives will continue.”
The LFSP programme includes extension and advisory services, rural finance, policy support, bio-fortification and nutrition and market development.
Gender and youth are mainstreamed across all programme components.
“We are fighting against the donor dependence syndrome. We want our people to be self-reliant.
“The Inspire programme has also equipped us with skills on financial literacy, bookkeeping, gender empowerment and marketing,” Headlands Goat Breeders’ Association president Dickson Wecha said.
The project is also funded by Inspire.
Memory Nyagumbo of the Takwirira Group in the Zindi area of Honde Valley in Mutasa district said youth involvement in agriculture could help improve livelihoods, create jobs and reduce rural-urban migration.
“We are a young group of farmers and we are so happy with the support we have received from Practical Action’s Inspire project,” she said. Nyagumbo said Inspire’s Gender Action Learning Systems (GALS) programme had reduced cases of gender-based violence and alcoholism.
“My husband used to be a drunkard but after training, he has changed and we are now planning together,” Nyagumbo said.