Zimbabwe: Gaining prominence fighting climate change

For Dadirai Mawanza, 42, the real problem was getting her kids to eat vegetables.

You may conjure the image of a toddler throwing broccoli on the floor or eating around anything green on the plate.

But Dadirai's challenge was getting access to healthy fruits and veggies in the first place.

She is quick to note that she and her husband made sure their five kids never went hungry. Still, she worried about their nutrition.

Dadirai Mawanza. Photo: Darcy Knoll/CARE

Dadirai says others weren't quite as fortunate. During a drought, families were forced to cut back on meals. Lack of rainfall meant limited water for livestock and produce to eat or sell.

Residents here in the Bikita district of Masvingo province, of southern Zimbabwe, say climate change is very real. And it’s making things worse.

A few years back, members of Dadirai’s community came together to discuss their struggles and limited and irregular rainfall topped their list. No rain meant no harvest, no healthy food to eat or sell, and herds of livestock that would not survive.

CARE worked together with community members find a way to make better use of limited water supply as a starting point to address these additional effects. Thanks to the support of CARE’s donors, work began to construct a dam.

Fast forward two years and this work is complete. The dam is over seven-metres high, and just after the rainy season, it appears to be nearly filled to the brim with water.

Community members have purchased fish for the dam, which they eat and sell in nearby markets. Alongside the dam, fruit trees prevent soil erosion and serve as another source of food.

Before the dam, water would flow during the rainy season and disappear. Today, the water supply can be used all year long. More than 1,500 farm animals are estimated to have been saved as a result.

A short walk away, a large community garden receives water piped from the dam.

This water allows community garden members to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables including butternut, cabbages, beetroot, onions, tomatoes and sugar beans.

Today, large parts of the garden are empty, having been recently harvested, but there is one field full of life. Row upon row of a green, leafy vegetable called English giant rape.

Each member of this garden has three beds for growing –one for food they will eat and two for food they will sell.

Photos from the Chamanhokwe dam and community garden in Ward 1, Bikita district, Masvingo province, in southern Zimbabwe. Photo: Darcy Knoll/CARE

When asked how this garden has helped, the responses come quick:

“We are eating healthy and nutritious.”

“We are now able to pay for school fees. Today, I already sold $20 worth of vegetables.”

“Very happy because I can now have access to finance after selling the produce.”

Another woman adds, to much laughter, that they themselves look healthier than they did before thanks to fruits, vegetables, fish and beans.

CARE also provides training and support to community members. Given the success they’ve seen here over the last couple years, the community is keen to ensure the success continues.

Training topics include preparing for future risks, agriculture, fruit and vegetable production and processing, and nutrition. Cooking demonstrations and recipe books help families prepare simple, nutritious meals.

Women are heavily involved in this project, as they do a lot of the field work and are also the primary caregivers to children. CARE also leads discussions with men to explore how to better share responsibilities.

As much of what’s grown here is used to earn an income, participants also formed a marketing committee to sell their produce.

Dadirai says she is thankful she now has ready access to fresh vegetables and healthy food for her children.

Beyond that, she is quite proud of her new role as a market facilitator. Dadirai helps assess the local market to determine potential buyers and help the community decide what to grow based on what vegetables are in demand.

In short, she's not just worried about whether her kids have healthy veggies on their plate, she’s helping others access their produce, a complete reversal from the position her community was in a couple years ago.

She says, “It has made me a prominent figure in the community. I’m now recognized within the community, so I feel important.”

See how CARE is working with people like Dadirai and their communities to help impove how they grow and sell food.