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Taking control of food production in Zimbabwe: Sarafina’s story

Sarafina harvesting crops, Zimbabwe

Caption: Sarafina and family members harvesting crops on their farm

‘Social protections and agriculture: Breaking the cycle of rural poverty’, read the theme of the 2015 World Food Day.

For many years, rural farmer Sarafina’s experience of the World Food Day celebrations in Zimbabwe was of being bombarded by multinational companies on the radio advertising hybrid seed varieties, chemical fertilizer brands and many other promises to better feed the country. 

Sarafina, a 57-year-old widow, did not benefit much from these promises. 
Living in Masvingo province of rural Southern Zimbabwe, her experience with each agricultural season was that there was either inadequate or poorly distributed rainfall for her crops to mature and give her enough to feed her family of five.  

As she reflected on those harder times during the 2015 World Food Day, she considered how her food security has been transformed. 

Sarafina has been receiving technical and input support from Trócaire’s Pprtner, Caritas Masvingo.  While the 2014-2015 season’s rain-fed crops failed on most farms neighbouring hers, she still managed to produce enough for her family and she mainly attributes this to the new techniques she acquired from the training she has received. 

“The techniques were simple such as – crop rotation, intercropping, making my own manure, ensuring soil cover with mulch and the list is still growing”, she said.

Using ‘Open Pollinated Varieties (OPV)’ of maize and sorghum seeds, Sarafina greatly increased her harvest and will be able to replant using OPV seeds again, meaning she will not have to resort to expensive seeds supplied by multinational seed companies at high prices.

She also harvested pumpkins, cowpeas, ground nuts and water melons – enough to feed her family for the following year.  

Sarafina at home

Caption: Sarafina shows some of her produce at her home in Bikita, Masvingo province

At the 2015 Organic, Traditional Food and Seed Festival held in Harare to coincide with the World Food Day celebrations, Sarafina and other women in communities supported by Trócaire’s partners showcased their food products and seeds.   #

This is an event which started three years ago and is gaining huge popularity as more and more farmers realise the value of their traditional and organic foods and also the need to own the food production systems and remove middle men and multinationals in the chain.  

Just watching Sarafina interacting with visitors to her stall, it was evident that a lot had changed in the life of the woman I first met in a small rural village a few years ago. 

Sarafina at food festival

Caption: Sarafina showcases hers and other women farmers’ produce at the 2015 Food and Seed Festival

The smile on her face and the confidence she now has seem to suggest that she not only feels in control of her food production, but several other aspects of her life too. 

Trócaire, working with six partner organisations in Zimbabwe is contributing to building sustainable livelihoods and resilience for more than 30,000 people in Sarafina’s situation in Southern Zimbabwe.  

Small scale farmers are supported with access to agricultural water, skills to enhance dry land productivity and ultimately to enhance their income. This work is then linked with support for national level policy work such as the climate policy currently being developed.

By Nelly Maonde, Trócaire Zimbabwe

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