Empower women to eradicate poverty

AN eleven-day visit to Zimbabwe by a United Nations (UN) special rapporteur on the right to food birthed a damning report. Hilal Elver’s report indicated that Zimbabwe is on the brink of a man-made starvation, with close to 60% of the population now food insecure.

Zimbabweans should not think past glories of being a breadbasket of southern Africa will today determine the future when there are no fundamental changes made to adapt to the climate change phenomenon.

As it appears, government sedentarily addresses the starvation issue of food security in the blurred Command Agriculture and reportedly partisan Presidential inputs schemes.

Statistics show that in Zimbabwe, about seven million people are food insecure, with 2,2 million of them in urban areas, prompting intergovernmental organisations to help with food handouts.

To address the issue, other nations the world over are thriving to ending poverty in all its forms as mentioned in the first Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) which speaks to ending poverty and all its manifestations by 2030. For Zimbabwe, talking about SDG one is a daunting and ambitious task exacerbated by broken institutions the country currently has, but in a well-planned economy, it is achievable.

At most, men have been entrusted with stewardship of institutions that propel economic transformation, while a key group, rural women, have been marginalised and segregated.

Women’s contributions at international, national, organisational or household levels continue to yield many tangible results that should be considered for Zimbabwe’s plans to have the country become food secure.

Societies that empower women with resources, knowledge, skills and independence of thought are more economically successful and have greater prospects of growth than those that do otherwise.
Zimbabwe has an adage to this effect with says musha mukadzi (A home exists because of a woman). Women in Zimbabwe are leading the path of rural economic development, employment creation, value-addition and beneficiation of their local resources to enhance food security.

The rural economy is central to Zimbabwe’s decent work agenda. According to statistics by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) 2018 report on the rural economy, globally, extreme poverty continues to be disproportionately and overwhelmingly rural.

According to the report, the poverty rate in rural areas (17,2%) is more than three times as high as that in urban areas (5,3%) and approximately 54% of the world’s population, rural areas account for 79% of the total poor.

By recognising the role of women in the rural economy, Zimbabwe can be one-leg-in to meeting elements crucial to achieving SDG one, to boost economic growth.

To foster economic growth and sustainable development, Zimbabwe needs to prioritise women who contribute to food security while working in the rural economy to fend off persistent poverty.
The rural economy holds significant potential to create decent and productive jobs and contributing to sustainable development and economic growth of Zimbabwe, and women can play a critical role in realising this potential.

Government and its social partners have been engaging in rural economic development, empowering local communities and fostering creation of decent jobs.

This is in recognition of the fact that the informal nature of the rural economy presents an environment for shaping new development pathways, business and economic development models and an opportunity to explore new markets and create collaborative partnerships between the formal and informal sector to promote pro-poor economic growth.

In Beitbridge district, the ILO with funding from the African Development Bank is supporting the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community and SME Development to implement pro-poor economic development targeting women in Matshiloni ward, situated in Matabeleland South province, where poverty prevalence is about 68,5%, according to ZimStat (2017),
Applying an inclusive market systems development approach has facilitated establishment of a mopane caterpillars (madora/macimbi) processing enterprise. The enterprise is co-owned by women harvesters whose livelihoods are dependent on economic engagement in the mopane caterpillar value chain.

Most rural districts in Zimbabwe are endowed with resources with potentially value chains in which the local communities are economically dependent. This includes resources such as honey, granite stone, gold and timber to name a few.

Some of these resource-rich rural districts are, however, also among the most economically poor, facing a general lack of employment opportunities, persistent food insecurity and income inequalities.

Development interventions at rural household and district levels in Zimbabwe are great opportunities for value addition, job creation, income improvement and ultimately the much-needed economic empowerment of the rural communities
Such an approach if well integrated into national development policies and strategically implemented can go a long way in assisting Zimbabwe to achieve rapid and sustained pro-poor economic growth in rural economies.

This would in turn provide an opportunity for the rural poor to participate and contribute to national economic growth towards rural wealth creation and food security starting at household level.

 Gibson Nyikadzino is a media and development analyst. He writes In his personal capacity.

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