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Women in agroecology: Shaping the future of wholesome food – NewsDay

By MARGARET CHINOWAITA
BORN in Gutu 57 years ago, female smallholder farmer, Movai Matombo ventured into agroecology farming in 2010.

A mother of four, Matombo says she got married in her 20s and lived in Bikita, but later resettled to the Shashe area, Mashava in Masvingo province, Zimbabwe, where she learnt about agroecology farming, a method that brings much yield while conserving the soil and the environment.

The Shashe community has a history of practising productive farming, which has increased yields and preserved the environment through low use of chemical inputs.

The process is known as agroecology and it was built on traditional farming methods that are passed from generation to generation.

“When I moved to Shashe with my husband, I knew about farming, but I was ignoring some practices that I was taught by my mother and grandmother. I thought this farming was ancient, but farmers in Shashe changed my mind. I am now practising agroecology,” Matombo said.

“We use what are called women seeds, which include nuts, legumes, small grains, and these seeds are generally grown from a section of land set aside for women.

“Men seeds are cash crops such as maize, farmed at a large scale. Normally, I decide what is planted on my portion as well as when to harvest and sell my produce. I use seeds that I keep in my seed bank. I never use hybrid seeds.”

Another farmer, Deline Zembete (49) from Shashe, who is married with three children, said: “Our land is 8ha, my husband gave me 2ha to farm my seeds such as nuts. I do not use artificial fertilizers on my portion even on the whole area.

“I use farming methods that were passed on to me by my mother and grandmother. I used to see them applying cow and goat manure and leaves from the mountains as fertilizer. They also used seeds kept in traditional seed banks.”

Zembete said she was not using hybrid seeds, but was using seeds that were passed down to her by her parents and grandparents, and some that she grew herself.

“I had this knowledge when I came to Shashe, but this was enhanced by ZIMSOFF [Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers Forum], an organisation that taught us about agroecology farming,” Zembete said.

She said the founding chairperson of ZIMOFF, Elizabeth Mpofu, is herself a seed custodian. Zembete said Mpofu had a traditional seed bank at her house.

“I had the opportunity of inspecting the seed bank at her homestead in Shashe. She leads by example. Her homestead is one of the centres of excellence in Shashe. As the founding member of ZIMSOFF and part of the six African women that formed Africa Women’s Collaborative for Healthy Food, Mpofu lives and works in Shashe community.

“We farm using our own seeds. These seeds are adaptable to our environment. They suit the rain pattern, Shashe is in region four.  We are in a dry area, and we encourage production of small grains and women seeds such as nuts and legumes. We produce wholesome food that is nutritious, that can minimise diseases and lifestyle conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

“A plate of food consumed at a homestead in Shashe and other areas that are practising agro ecology is full of nutrients. You get different kinds of foods such as millet, sorghum, meat, vegetables, soup and fruits. Our children go to school well fed on nutritious foods, they carry such things as samp mixed with nuts and legumes, peas or beans and a bottle of maheu, drink.”

Chronic malnutrition and stunting remains a major challenge in Zimbabwe.

The country has a double burden of malnutrition, where less than 10% of children aged six to 24 months consume the minimum acceptable diet, while 6% of children under the age of five in rural areas are more likely to be stunted and underweight than those in urban areas due to a combination of reduced food availability caused by poor agricultural performance, low access to food due to high levels of poverty and poor food utilisation due to lack of knowledge on how to use the available food, a statement from the Food Agricultural Organisation website said.

Mpofu said if agroecology is understood and practised by every woman and supportive men, Zimbabwe, Africa and the world would have good food that could ensure a healthy people.

ZIMSOFF is a member of the Africa Women’s Collaborative for Health Food Systems.

“It promotes a way of life that respects, takes care of, and restores Mother Earth and her resources while benefiting African people and their communities. We mainly look at Women’s Seed, a programme that uses women’s seeds for healthy foods in at least six African countries to support the health and nutrition of communities that face marginalisation and discrimination in rural and urban areas. Pastoralist, indigenous and peasant women will secure contracts to provide locally-produced food to schools, clinics and local markets,” Mpofu said.

She said the initiative used local seeds that were cultivated and conserved by women over generations.

ZIMSOFF envisions improved living standards of organised and empowered smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe practising sustainable and viable ecological agriculture and its mission statement is to influence policies and public awareness towards agroecology and smallholder farmer’s rights.

ZIMSOFF national co-ordinator Nelson Mudzingwa said members are organised in four regional clusters, covering the whole country except Harare and Bulawayo. Households in each region are organised as a group, a number of these form a smallholder farmers organisation (SFO), and several SFOs form a cluster.

Recently, ZIMSOFF as a member of the Zimbabwe Seed Sovereignty Programme (ZSSP), held a Seed and Food Fair.

Women farmers showcased some rare seeds that are prevalent in their rural areas.

Women, who were well-represented at both food fairs, said they were yearning for markets for their produce.

Shashe local authority representatives such as the district administrator, Agritex officers, the police, health professionals, and the headmaster of a local school all spoke positively about the use of agroecology and the production of organic food that is wholesome and nutritious.

Shashe Endogenous Development Organisation, is one of the SFOs in the central cluster.

Based at the Masvingo Rural District Council, this group started working together in 2000 as an agroecological community where members of other communities could visit, spend a few days, and learn from the practices of the local farmers, especially focusing on seeds, soil and water conservation, integrated livestock management, and the local efforts to link producers and consumers.

Shashe was formed by formerly landless farmers who engaged in a two-year land occupation exercise before being awarded the land through the government’s land reform programme.

As in the other clusters, the Shashe Endogenous Development Organisation is particularly interested in training other farmers and enhancing a community-based and horizontal learning system.

Hundreds of families are “connected”, sharing the knowledge gained from their own experience.

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Pensioners Of Closed Companies In A Quandary, Fail To Access Payouts – New Zimbabwe.com

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By James Muonwa 


THOUSANDS of former workers of companies that ceased operations are failing to access their pension payouts from the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) after years of contributing religiously to the scheme.

Mashonaland West Pensioners Forum chairperson, Rumbidzai Zingwari-Tandi lamented NSSA was demanding signatures from officials at the closed companies, a development that has thrown thousands of deserving social security beneficiaries in a quandary.

She requested for a relaxation of the application process and criteria for eligibility for pensioners, who worked hard for the country’s development through contributions to the welfare fund.

Zingwari-Tandi said: “Some pensioners whose companies ceased operations are facing difficulties in having their applications processed by NSSA as they are asked to have application forms signed by company officials who no longer exist in view of the closure of the respective companies.”

She added: “I cite Golden Kopje Mine (in Chinhoyi) as an example. We request that there be security measures that these pensioners may be able to access their pensions.”

Former workers at commercial farms were also suffering the same fate as most dispossessed white farmers have fled the country following the controversial seizure of their land by the government to pave way for black Zimbabweans.

“As for pensioners who used to work on farms, the farmers are no longer there so when you ask them to have forms signed by their former employers who are no longer there, where should they go?”

Participants at an interactive engagement with Labour Minister Paul Mavima last week in Chinhoyi suggested evidence such as payslips and long-service awards should suffice to prove one’s employment history.

Since the turn of the millennium, hundreds of companies have folded, leaving millions jobless as the country’s economic implosion continues to worsen.

Closed companies were mainly from the construction, clothing, motoring, and agriculture sectors.

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COVID-19 jobs carnage : The numbers – NewsDay

BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA

“THERE were unprecedented global employment losses in 2020 of 114 million,” the International Labour Organisation (ILO) reported early this year.

A new report by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) shows that job losses locally were nearly 1,5 million last year from both the formal and informal sectors.

The statistics confirm how millions of Zimbabweans were affected by the COVID-19-induced job carnage.

According to the 2019 labour force and child labour survey report by Zimstat, almost 2,9 million people aged 15 years and over were found to be employed.

But, in a new joint 2020 survey report on ICT usage in the country by Zimstat and Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz), there were only 1 426 744 people identified as either permanent or part-time workers, a significant decline from the 2019 levels, and a worrying development for the country.

The drop is further proven in the increase in persons within the stipulated age group doing an economic activity, which rose to 8 989 981 from a 2019 comparative of 8 101 515. Zimstat defines economic activities as activities in which people are engaged in work to produce goods or provide services for pay or profit only, which covers both formal and informal sectors.

The joint report is titled ‘2020 Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Access By Households and Use By Individuals Survey Report.’

“(According to) details of individuals 15 years and above…highest proportions of 29,5% for the male population and 37,8% for the female population, indicated that they were own account workers in agriculture who produced mainly for subsistence,” part of the report read.

“Countrywide, 33,6% of individuals (aged) 15 years and above were subsistence own account workers in agriculture. The female category also recorded 17% of its population aged 15+ as homemakers, compared to 2,3% which was reported in the male category for the same age reference.”

In the report, 1, 4 million were recorded as being employed from the total number of economically active persons.

Another 1,2 million were own account workers (people working for themselves), while 165 330 were contributing family workers.

The report said  421 213 were uncategorised.

Lastly, 909 649 were recorded as homemakers with 334 646 being retired or too sick or old to be engaging in any form of economic activity.

“When asked the main kind of economic activity in which establishments they work for are engaged in, close to a third (26,2%) of the individuals aged 15 years and above indicated that they worked for institutions mainly involved in wholesale and retail trades; repair of motor vehicles and motor cycles sector,” the report read.

It is a worrying development, because almost all of these sectors are in the service economy of which productive sectors are not being utilised to their maximum potential.

Most foreign currency-generating exports are derived from manufacturing sector operations.

“Just above a fifth (21,8%), of the surveyed people said they worked for establishments mainly engaged in agriculture, forestry and fishing.

“The highest proportion (39,6%) of the female population, 15 years and above, worked in wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motor cycles sector, while the highest proportion of male individuals (22%), was employed mainly in agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors.”

Last year, the global market came to a standstill owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced government to apply hard lockdowns which allowed only a few sectors to continue operating.

As a result, companies began to reduce working hours to try and contain the spread of the virus, which meant lower profit margins.

Of course, companies were forced to downscale with jobs being the first to be affected.

This problem has affected many countries.

However, in Zimbabwe’s case, existing economic challenges, including a depreciating currency piled more pressure on businesses to implement cost-cutting measures, with job cuts being the solution for most companies.

As a result, companies and those running small businesses in the informal sector were forced to cut jobs.

Recently, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions described the job market as volatile.

“If that is the number, then that is correct in the sense as what is counted as employed people include people that are in the informal economy. Remember in the last labour force and child labour survey of 2019 it was indicated that 76% of the jobs were informal jobs. So, with COVID-19 the sector that was mainly affected was the informal economy,” Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president Peter Mutasa said.

“We lost a lot of jobs in the formal economy…but we also lost a lot of jobs in the informal economy. People are no longer working because of COVID-19 around the country. Many people even had to migrate back to rural areas and the unfortunate part is that we are not very robust in terms of reporting our labour market information.”

He said the trend of jobs losses had continued up to now owing to mostly technological advancements and economic challenges with COVID-19 only accelerating the process. The loss in income has been catastrophic, owing to the rise in the cost of living.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) says in September, prices of most basic food and non-food commodities increased mainly in Zimbabwe dollars.

Parallel market exchange rates saw increases of up to 15%, contributing significantly to price increases.

Maize grain prices went up in Zimbabwe dollar terms by between 10% and 15% across FEWS NET’s main sentinel markets.

While the government has relaxed most COVID-19 restrictions, allowing for improvements in transport availability, economic activity, and recovery of livelihoods and income-earning opportunities, the improvements have not been enough to stave off job losses.

“Improvements in income are expected to be limited as national borders remain closed to non-essential goods and services, continuing to constrain informal cross-border activities, remittance flows, and other livelihood activities,” FEWS NET said. Harare Residents Trust director Precious Shumba said the majority of households are struggling owing to “declining incomes that could not meet the rising cost of living…household income has shrunk to very depressing levels”

Government must quickly address the situation otherwise the poverty rate which is currently close to 50% will further increase.

  • This article first appeared in Weekly Digest, an AMH digital publication

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Corruption Busters In Court For Extortion – New Zimbabwe.com

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By James Muonwa, Mashonaland West Correspondent


TWO employees of an anti-corruption organisation have appeared in court following their arrest for extortion.

Mind Musokeri (33) and Wilfred Nyahunda (44), who are employed by the Southern Africa Regional Anti-Corruption (SARACO) appeared before Chinhoyi magistrate Rumbidzai Tshuma charged with two counts of extortion and were remanded in custody for the next fortnight.

Prosecutor Knight Tawanda Rwodzi pleaded with the court to deny the pair bail due to the seriousness of the offence.

The first complainant is Kudakwashe Faranando (34) of Murereka, Chinhoyi who is employed as a fuel attendant at Ram Petroleum, Lion’s Den.

He is also a farmer and beneficiary of the Command Agriculture Scheme for the 2020/2021 season.

In count one, the state case is that sometime in September last year, around 8 am, Musokeri met Faranando while in the company of his friend Tendawakura Kanyenze at D&R Service Station.

During the course of their discussions, Musokeri revealed he was a member of SARACO tasked to make follow-ups of all beneficiaries who had not paid back money for Command Agriculture inputs.

On the same morning, Musokeri met with Nyamunda at D&R Service Station in Chinhoyi.

They were joined by Faranando and his friend Kanyenze.

It is at this point that accused persons advised Faranando and Kanyenze that their names were on the list of defaulters to be arrested for failing to repay the inputs loans.

Accused persons demanded a US$1 000 bribe in order to strike off the names from the defaulters’ list.

Musokeri was handed US$15, before telling Faranando to raise the required kickback which they would collect the following day.

On the second count, the complainant is Ludi Zuze, who is also a beneficiary of the inputs loan scheme.

The court heard that on October 3 this year, at around 1 pm at Lion’s Den shops, Zuze, Tennis White, and Raymond Mapambawenyu were advised they were among the list of people who had not paid back for inputs they had received.

On that same day at around 8 pm, Musokeri and Nyahunda arrived at Lion’s Den to meet Zuze and his colleagues.

The two then introduced themselves to Zuze as members of SARACO, who were on an operation to apprehend defaulting clients of the scheme.

Out of fear, Zuze handed over US$100 to Nyahunda.

The pair was arrested after complainants reported the cases to the police.

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