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Cyclone-hit Chimanimani villagers still traumatised

Local News
The cyclone which struck Zimbabwe in March 2019, affected 270 000 people, with the storm and subsequent flooding and landslides leaving 340 people dead and many others missing.

FAMILIES and small-holder farmers in the Cyclone Idai-affected Chimanimani district are still reeling from the trauma caused by the disaster five years later, NewsDay has learnt.

The cyclone which struck Zimbabwe in March 2019, affected 270 000 people, with the storm and subsequent flooding and landslides leaving 340 people dead and many others missing.

The storm affected agricultural production and infrastructure in the affected areas was completely destroyed with many people losing their homes.

Chimanimani and Chipinge districts were the hardest hit areas in Zimbabwe.

Communities have failed to move on amid the sprouting of several mental and physical illnesses not sidelining poverty as crops and other life sustaining projects were washed away.

Speaking on the sidelines of a VSO-initiated cross learning exchange between Nepalese farmers and small-holder farmers at Matsetso Permaculture garden in the district, the garden’s chairperson Idah Gadyanga said they had not mentally recovered from the damage.

“With the coming of Cyclone Idai, our lifestyles greatly shifted, we now live in fear even when they are normal rains as we do not want the recurrence of the disaster. One day, we just woke up and the environment had changed and that instilled great fear within our hearts.”

Gadyanga bemoaned the intense human-wildlife conflict arising from the harsh climatic conditions that emanated from the cyclone.

“The Cyclone washed away most of the top soil and this has led to challenges of unprecedented climatic conditions which have greatly affected the availability of water and fruits in the forest. This has seen us clashing with baboons and other animals as they come seeking food in our fields,” she said.

She, however, applauded VSO for various interventions that are helping communities to heal.

“We want to thank VSO that when it came, it offered us great support and this has helped soothe our disturbed minds,” she said.

Gadyanga added that they had learnt how to restore the environment through agro-ecology practices such as tree grafting, bee keeping and nursery.

A survivor Chipo Sibanda (65) said the cyclone brought great change in her lifestyle as she found herself having to fend for herself in old age.

“I have had to come and be part and parcel of the permaculture garden to ensure that I fend for the family. Despite my old age, I am active in all the projects undertaken at the permaculture garden to ensure I get some money to buy food and clothes,” she said.

VSO project manager, Simba Guzha, said in their efforts to ensure communities in Chimanimani regained their livelihoods; they had trained more than 500 farmers, especially women so that they build resilience.

“We have trained them on apiculture or beekeeping to help restore the environment and help them gain income from the projects,” he said.

Guzha said not only had they trained farmers on agro-ecology practices, but they also roped in young people.

“We have done a number of trainings with communities in Chimanimani to discuss issues on conservation and organic farming which help to improve the soil and the environment.”

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