Most of the people in the region depend on rain-fed agriculture to feed their families. It’s coming to the end of the rainy season and unfortunately the rains have again failed. Instead of fields full of maize and other crops ready to be harvested, there are vast swathes of stunted or dead plants.
Farmers are estimating that they will lose 75% of their harvest this year, meaning critical food shortages for these communities in the coming months.
Trόcaire is on the ground in Zimbabwe working with local partners to try to ensure that people have supports in place to get them over the crucial period.
“The next months will be extremely challenging for people here,” said Yvonne Muto, Trόcaire’s programme manager in Zimbabwe. “We have various long-term projects in place which will help mitigate the effects of this looming crisis in the communities where we work and will hopefully mean families can get through this worrying period.”
One of projects can be seen in the village of Bidi in the Bulawayo region, a hot and arid part of the country, is the village seed bank. Farmers have been able to sell any extra seeds they had to the ‘bank’ since it opened in 2019. It is managed by a committee made up of community members. The advantages of the seed bank are that the seeds are properly stored and so can last a lot longer compared with storing them in inadequate containers at home. There is a quality control system in place and the seeds at the seed bank have received organic accreditation.
Mother-of-six, Fenita, is a member of the management committee and she says the seed bank has made a huge difference.
“A lot of the seeds are indigenous drought-resistant varieties. We have millet, sorghum, cow peas and many other varieties. Farmers who need seeds can come to the seed bank and know they are buying high quality seeds. The fact that the bank is here in the village means there are no transport costs and hence the price can be kept low. This is extremely important when farmers have lost crops because of the weather and have no seeds of their own to replant.”
Trόcaire has also supported agricultural training in the village through a learning centre, savings and loan schemes and a community garden where families can grow vegetables to supplement both their diet and income. Lead farmers have been trained and provided with bicycles so they can travel around the local farms and pass on their knowledge.
There is no doubt that the coming months will be extremely difficult for the people of Bidi but without the initiatives funded by donations from Ireland, north and south, the people of the village say the outlook would be so much worse.
Trócaire Communications Officer, David O’Hare, recently visited Zimbabwe where he saw at first hand the devastating impact of climate change and Covid-19 on communities