Tag Archive: nutrition garden


This garden project has 42 members and operates on 4 hectares of land in Dewe Village, Matopos. This is in the dry Matebeleland South Province of Zimbabwe. The project is facilitated by the Fambidzanai Permaculture Training Centre in Harare, who provided training in permaculture and business skills, and currently offer on-site support in the form of Mr Crispen Dungeni, who is a FPTC staff member based in the area.

The project focusses on household and community consumption and therefore grows a traditional array of vegetables including chomeolia (kale), spinach, onions and tomatoes. They also practice agro-forestry and so we find pawpaws and banana trees here too. The garden is organic, but the farmers I met on site here were not especially clued up or passionate about this aspect.  The emphasis here was on improving community nutrition and supporting those in need, such as the elderly, AIDS orphans and the sick. Importantly, this is also a livelihood project, generating  income for the mainly female members who cultivate the garden. This makes a huge difference in a place such as Dewe Village, where there is little cash-based employment and families need to find money to pay for school fees and basic goods.

Mpumelelo Organic Community Garden from Pamela Ngwenya on Vimeo.

 

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Mountain of Hope is an organic farmers association with a community garden project, founded in 2011.  The project is jointly facilitated by the Fambidzanai Permaculture Training Centre (FPTC) and the Zimbabwe Organic Producers Association (ZOPPA) based in Harare. While the FPTC provides training for the farmers in organic production methods, organisational management and business skills, ZOPPA are working with the farmers to ensure that ‘organic’ criteria are met to the international standard required by the new ZimOrganic certification scheme.

The  farmers in the group democratically elect a committee and regularly hold meetings. They are guided by ‘lead farmers’ who receive trainings from the FPTC and are then required to pass on their skills with the rest of the group.

When I visited the site in May 2012, farmers Catherine Manhando and Rachel Taruvinga told me that the project has been successfully contributing to household food security, firstly by providing a rich variety of vegetables for the family pot, but also through income received via sales of organic produce. The project and project members sell to neighbouring households, nearby boarding schools and to supermarkets in Harare.

The ‘Organic’ movement is not widely recognised in Zimbabwe, although there are important pockets of concern and interest, and therefore a small market does exist. However, the ZimOrganic certification program is still in its infancy and requires much broader publicity. ZOPPA bemoan that organic producers are still unable to demand a premium for their goods, as retailers and consumers are unwilling (and in many cases unable) to pay extra.

However, as can be gleaned from lead farmer Didymus Taruvinga in the short video here, concerns about the health consequences of conventional food production are growing in Zimbabwe, especially given the context of high levels of HIV/AIDS, diabetes, cancers and other serious health issues.

The association members are confident about the sustainability of this project, citing the increasing demand for and awareness about organic produce, the strong support from a local boarding school that purchases from the site, and also the multi-skilled ‘get up and go’…‘we can do this for ourselves’ attitude that the members have cultivated in developing this project. The project also has the full support of local traditional leaders, who allocated the project land on which to develop the community garden.

One of the key challenges identified by the four female farmers that were interviewed here was a lack of policy support at the national or provincial level; government extension services remain staunchly pro-conventional in that they support the distribution of chemical fertilizers and pesticide sprays, yet do not provide trainings in nutrition and organic methods of production.

Other challenges that were cited revolved around a lack of capital to invest in key infrastructure such as fencing, irrigation piping, a water pump, and transport to take their produce to market. The ZimOrganic label requires strict adherence to organic principles and this requires discipline and constant participatory monitoring of member activities, which may also prove to be a challenge should institutional support dry up.

The garden itself was impressive; well-kept beds, mulched and highly productive. They grow a wide variety of upmarket vegetables including baby marrow, broccoli and baby gem squash.  It was interesting to hear how the farmers were incorporating this new range of produce into their own diets as typically, rural Zimbabweans grow and consume mainly spinach, kale, beans, tomatoes, onions, sweet potato, squash and seasonal indigenous vegetables. It is rare to find broccoli and suchlike in a rural community garden project. The farmers here were very positive about their expanding diet and nutritional knowledge base, but the main focus was on selling this range to the more urban markets where a higher profit margin could be reaped.

It was a humbling and encouraging experience to tour this young garden, where community farmers are investing their immense energies in learning and creating something healthy and positive to uplift themselves, foster a healthier nation and protect their environment. The project is in its early days but it is clear to see that this garden is indeed a monumental Mountain of Hope in a landscape of increasing environmental degradation, conflict and human disease. Let’s all hope that this project will continue to rise with the tide of growing ‘organic’ awareness.

Introducing Mountain of Hope organic farmers association, (high resolution) from Pamela Ngwenya on Vimeo.