By Sandra Chibaya @chibaya_sandra
The lives of Masotsheni residents in Emgamwini, Bulawayo Province are being transformed through, the community multi- vegetable garden, which has become a life sustaining and occupational practice to local community people.
The Government launched the Green Field Nutritional Garden, in the urban Masotsheni residential area in 2013 as a way to promote national food security (local diet) and empower women in order to be more dependent on their hand skills, by so doing strengthening their roles in the community. However it is not until recently that the women became more organised and started apportioning space to each other for commercial vegetable farming.
Women empowerment involves women in local communities using local resources to uplift their lives and those of their families and communities.
The scheme has more than 250 participants, both working and non-working class beneficiaries who work at least three days a week at the local garden.
The Green Field Nutritional Garden is contributing to local food security as the vegetable produce is sold to locals, neighbouring suburbs and small scale markets in the Central Business Center (CBD). The prices are very affordable and negotiable.
Currently they have planted Tsunga, Tomatoes, Cabbages, Onions, Carrots among a long list of vegetables, with some already being harvested. ln the next two weeks, the farmers will start harvesting the almost ripped three hectares of beans which will be sold to the locals as well as at Sokusile Market and Trading Center.
Previously the residents of Masotsheni depended on the small gardens in their yards and some individual community land which has since been pegged as residential stands for the Mehluli Development Trust. ln as much as this was a negative impact on the people, it also created an opportunity through the launching of the garden which was compensation by the government. Now they have access to products such beetroot and cucumbers which they always sell to FOOD 4 LESS service center.
The launching of this multi-nutritional garden in this area enlightened the local women, and it also gave them the zeal to participate in the profitable program.
Since the launch of the garden there have had challenges which include poor access to enough electricity in the area, solar panels were installed, a water pump was erected , and there are also two Jojo tanks which have improved water supplies within the garden . Pests and frost have lately been attacking the products but at a limited scale.
The Mayor of Bulawayo Mr Solomon Mguni also helped with the installation of ten taps and 2 boreholes. With the help of a solar system, they are able to irrigate their crops throughout all seasons and they also harvest clean and safe water for family consumption.
They have embraced the concept of nutritional gardens, which have not only become reliable source of income for the farmers and also a source of a nutritious diet, this has strengthened the role of women in families as they are longer totally dependent to their husbands.
Based on the firsthand information gathered by Amakhosikazi media when we visited the garden, the residents spoke proudly and delightfully of how their lives have been positively transformed ever since they started the harvesting of vegetables. Even if they face various challenges within the cropping industry their efforts have emerged to be worth it. This is a clear indication that the garden has not only benefited the gardeners but the community at large.
Mrs Nondumiso Maphosa, the Chairlady of the multi-vegetable garden said she never thought their project would sustain them till this far, it has been a success throughout .
“Ever since we started this program, women have been able to supplement their families’ diets with these vegetables which are part of our daily diets. Gardening also benefits my health as an individual and that of my family. l am more active now, l eat a variety of healthy vegetables.
” Our target is to produce bio- fortified crops like vegetables, beans, carrots and many others, with time we are planning on diversifying”
“We started our program in November 2013, and contributed small joining fees that we used to buy inputs including fertilizer and seedlings.”
Mrs. Simphiwe Sibanda the community garden’s cooperate manager also acknowledged the great impact the garden has made to the informal sector, that is vendors and door to door sellers.
“Our vendors in the area are benefiting immensely from the produce coming from this garden. Vendors now buy vegetables locally rather than in the past when they would commute to town every morning to access stock. Now they buy from us locally at low prices and it saves transport costs “
Mr. Ngwenya a member of the nutritional garden and one of the few male beneficiaries narrated how inspirational the farming project has been.
” The garden has posed as a learning facility for agriculture students from Emganwini Primary and Secondary Schools. The pupils can practically interact with crops and can physically get involved in garden activities.”
” At times some work in the garden tends to be difficult for women alone, for example digging ,re-fencing and water pumping, and in such cases l help them.”
On a brighter note Gogo Mhazvo, also a member of the nutritional garden was so happy to take part in this interview, she spoke of how grateful she was for the great opportunity the government gave them because of the garden.
“I feel so much joy. They have done very well for our community. There are so many areas that could have benefited from these installations for example the neighboring Mbundane ,who have no water at all. lt is such an honor and privilege ,we greatly appreciate.”
Another member of the nutritional garden Mrs. Minenhle Khumalo spoke of how crucial the Vegetable project has been to women and the youths.
“Rather than being idle at home, women are always working in their gardens, it has been very productive and contributing to food security at local community scale”
On a negative note residents complained of the winter season which affected their water pumping capacity, saying when it’s cloudy the solar pump does not function effectively.
In conclusion the Chairlady Maphosa said “We will continue supporting the community whenever we can ,we are also grateful to our development partners who come on board to assist us when we knock on their doors”