Gweru women turn grass into money



Women from the Midlands capital are earning a living from selling grass to thatchers while conserving the environment through minimising the spread of veld fires.

The women sell a bundle of thatching grass between US$0,50 and US$1 depending on the size of the bundle.

The women, who operate under Old Ascot Kushinga Thatching Grass Club said they were now fending for their families through the venture.

“To date, our club numbering about 63 including a few men who recently joined us, managed to sell about 15 000 bundles of thatching grass,” club chairperson Beatrice Madhende said during a recent Environmental Management Agency (EMA) media tour.

“We go to nearby farms and plots where we harvest the grass and sell it to people who do thatching.

“We have managed to eke a living from the venture, not only buying food but also paying rent and school fees as well as buying household property.”

She said EMA provided them with sickles.

“At first, we thought EMA officials wanted to arrest us for cutting grass but we later learnt that they were actually happy that our activities were helping reduce the spread of veld fires,” she said.

A member of the group, Olta Nyoka said life had changed for the better since she joined the club.

“You can make a living from harvesting grass.

“I pay my tithes, buy food, property, pay rent and school fees but above all, I am helping preserve the environment,” she said.

Another woman, Shelly Chauraya, from a different group of 10 women in Mambo suburb said women were now helping their husbands through selling grass.

“Besides preserving the environment, there are numerous economic benefits from grass harvesting,” she said.

The women appealed to EMA to help them with gloves, gumboots, worksuits and sun hats.

EMA provincial spokesperson Oswald Ndlovu said harvesting grass had reduced biomass, thereby decreasing veld fires in the Midlands province.

“Last year we had 75 364 hectares of land lost through veld fires,” he said.

“A1 and A2 farmers were the most affected, hence we encourage them to construct fireguards as well as encouraging more women to venture into thatch grass harvesting as a way of reducing veld fires.”