Michell Zvanyanya, Features Reporter
The drive for women empowerment has become a prominent subject which has not only been embraced in urban areas but also in rural areas where women have been long engulfed in African societal beliefs that promote male superiority.
In those areas, patriarchy has led to women being viewed as incompetent individuals in making sound decisions in any particular activity let alone those concerning financial gain.
However, a significant number of women in rural areas now shun patriarchy and choose to empower themselves.
During a recent visit at Tshelanyemba Village in Matobo District, Matabeleland South Province, some women were seen deeply engrossed in their nutritional gardening activities in preparation for a big day commonly known by the whole village as the “Green Day”.
The captivating scent of green vegetables and fruit trees filled the air as they watered the gardens.
“Green Day” is not just an ordinary day for these Tshelanyemba women but it marks the celebration of women empowerment in the village as they are now involved in productive activities rather than being mere homemakers.
It was being celebrated through a Garden Show which involved touring of the nutritional gardens and showcasing of the fresh fruits and vegetables produced by the gardeners in a competitive bid to receive prizes.
The competition ran under the theme “Diversified and Nutritious Food All Year Round.”
In awarding the prizes to the gardeners, Agritex Officer Mr Simon Kwangwari outlined the critera used in picking out the best performers.
“For our winners today, we are mainly considering factors such as the types of crops planted in the garden and whether they form a balanced nutritional diet.
“We also considered maintenance of hygiene in the garden and management of paste using organic methods,” he said.
Shashani Five garden members from Ward Two scooped the first prize for having a well maintained garden that comprised balanced nutritious fruits and vegetables.
“I have learnt a lot like how to prepare the land for cultivation, when and how to irrigate and how to maintain the hygienic conditions in the garden, which help in producing vegetables of good quality,” said Ms Autilia Mirenda who was one of the winners from Shashani Five garden.
Ms Mirenda said she can now provide her family with nutritious food and can generate more income with the extra produce to cater for other needs of the family such as paying school fees and buying clothes for her children.
Ms Judith Maphosa from Bhekimpilo Garden viewed the gardening project as a huge stepping stone for women in their district who no longer depend solely on their husbands but can now buy basic commodities for the family.
With no skills to earn an income, women in Matobo District were supported by the Dabane Trust under the Trocaire Consortium to start nutrition gardening projects termed “Promoting Resilient Livelihoods and Women Empowerment.”
It is meant to promote improved income generating capacities for women in the district.
Through the project, the women now grow vegetables on the small pieces of land they had never thought could generate a handsome income.
They are now largely contributing to the healthy livelihood of their families and Matobo District as a whole all year round.
For their gardening activities, the women receive more than 15 different kinds of fruit and vegetable seeds such as spinach, chomolia, onions, tomatoes, peas, beetroot, carrots, chillies, green pepper, oranges, lemons and guavas among others.
They are expected to practise rotational planting throughout the year.
Dabane Trust Monitoring and Evaluation Officer Mrs Nomvula Woodend said the gardening projects are implemented in eight wards in Matobo District.
She said it is a five-year project meant to empower villagers, particularly women and promote healthy living conditions in the district.
“The overall goal of the nutritional gardening project is to empower both women and men in 38 villages within eight wards in Matobo District. Dabane Trust is mandated to undertake activities in the eight wards of Matobo District, namely wards two, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 and 11,” said Mrs Woodend.
“The project seeks to increase access to natural resources for men and women and promote improved decision making by both women and men in all structures in Matobo District. The project is implemented through the use of innovative and appropriate water harvesting technologies particularly for women.”
The gardeners undergo five-day training programmes on nutritional gardening which has enabled them to run their small scale gardening activities effectively. The women have also become independent producers who are now able to earn an income for their families.
“As the project officer I oversee the proper running of the whole project. My major activities include organising five-day trainings for the gardeners, co-ordinating other field officers, linking Dabane Trust with Agritex officers and to link the gardeners with big outlets at Maphisa where they can sell their products to promote income generation,” said Mr Sheppard Moyo.
“Men and women farmers are trained in agro-ecological approaches, integrated soil and water resource management as well as crop production to increase crop yields.”
Mr Moyo said there has been great improvement in the district since the implementation of the nutritious gardening project.
He said the Shashani sand river which was once abandoned is now in full use as it is now mainly used for irrigation purposes after the Trust rehabilitated it.
Mr Moyo said his organisation has engaged in installation of solar-powered pump systems and rehabilitation of gardens to ease irrigation and promote improved nutrition and diet at household level.
A processing centre was built in the district where the women process basic commodity products from their produce.
Different food products such as marmalade, peanut butter and dried vegetables are produced and distributed to different outlets in the district generating more income for the women. — @michellzvanyanyan2.