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Community tree nursery and garden bring a ray of hope to Zimbabwean village –

  • Tobacco production and brick making are needed sources of income for the Zimbabwean village of Guruve, but are also contributing to the rapid deforestation of woodlots to feed the growing industries.
  • To address deforestation, a community women-led tree nursery project has planted more than 200 native tree species in the past year and anticipates planting 2,000 more by the end of this year.
  • The project also includes a community garden that provides the women and families with an additional form of income not tied to tobacco production, and aimed at keeping kids in school by tackling food insecurity.

GURUVE, Zimbabwe — To get to Nyamukondiwa village in Guruve district in rural Zimbabwe, you have to navigate through 170 kilometers, or 106 miles, of mountainous terrain from the capital, Harare. The once thickly covered mountains, where mopane (Colophospermum mopane), zebrawood (Brachystegia spiciformis) and red mahogany (Khaya anthotheca) previously dominated, are now desert-like as villagers cut down trees for brick molding, firewood and tobacco curing.

Along the road, people carry bundles of native timber for commercial use. To fire a kiln to produce 20,000 bricks takes about three cartloads of zebrawood and mopane wood. A stack of 1,000 bricks retails for $35, a needed source of income for villagers. To power Zimbabwe’s lead as the largest producer of tobacco in Africa (and No. 6 worldwide), it takes 15 carts full of firewood per hectare (or six carts per acre) to cure tobacco leaves. Zimbabwe harvested and sold an estimated 200,000 metric tons of tobacco this year, up 11% from last year, according to latest data from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board.

Now, with woodlots in Guruve vanishing rapidly, farmers are traveling deeper into the mountains to find more trees, and households that rely on firewood for cooking are running out of the resource.

During the off season, the fields are empty, and livestock feed on maize stalks. Image courtesy of Derick Matsengarwodzi.

However, away from the environmental ruin, the birth of the Kufunga Ndomunhu Project is bringing hope to the village through a women-led reforestation and community garden project that benefits 21 families from three different villages. The project addresses deforestation loss from the tobacco industry and feeds around 600 villagers, including school-age children, to reduce dropout rates due to hunger.

“We started a garden community of young and elderly women with the assistance of resources and ideas by Perseverance Ganga, a son from the village, now based in Harare,” said Isiah Makoshori, the Guruve village head. “We get water from his solar-powered borehole to sustain our garden.”

As the project grows, more new members are expected to join.

Cash crop driving deforestation

When it rains in December, the dry riverbeds start filling up and tobacco farming gets into full swing. After seedbeds and transplantation into fields are completed in late November, the labor-intensive harvesting commences. A sizeable number of villagers, including women, grow the cash crop, a major foreign currency earner for Zimbabwe. Tobacco contributed 10% of the country’s GDP in 2018. By 2025, the government anticipates turning the tobacco industry into a $5 billion industry.

A tobacco barn used for tobacco curing. Image courtesy of Derick Matsengarwodzi.

However, the production of tobacco is eating away at the environment, and native trees in particular. These trees are favored for their ability to burn longer than exotic species, such as gum trees (Eucalyptus robusta). Some 30 out of the 600 residents of the village of Nyamukondiwa are tobacco farmers, each cultivating about 2 hectares (5 acres) per season.

Despite the tangible returns of tobacco farming to the economy, the effects of deforestation in Guruve are glaring. Local plantations don’t grow enough gum trees to supply the need for firewood to cure the tobacco leaves. This has had an impact in Guruve, which only had 4.7% tree cover in 2000 and lost 8.1% in 20 years despite multiple reforestation initiatives.

According to Zimbabwe’s Forestry Commission (FC), the country is losing 300,000-350,000 hectares (741,000-865,000 acres) of forests each year, approximately the size of 350,000 soccer pitches.

Community reforestation intervention

To replenish the native woodlots, the Kufunga Ndomunhu Project created a native tree nursery along with a community garden. The reforestation project aims to teach the community conservation methods, implement an agroforestry system, and provide families with another source of income outside the tobacco industry. In years to come, the community anticipates cultivating herbal medicine, food and firewood from the woodlots.

Fed by a regular supply of water from the borehole, the villagers collect mahogany, mopane and zebrawood tree seeds from the forest, including the soil where the trees originally grow, to create their own woodlot. Native trees are favored over exotic species because they’re more resistant to pests and diseases, adapt easily to the local climate, and require minimum caring and watering.

“We are focusing on training women on planting trees found in the area to create a sustainable agroforestry system,” said Perseverance Ganga, the borehole owner.

Colophospermum mopane tree. Image courtesy of Ragnhild and Neil Crawford / Flickr.

After one year in operation, the plantation has 200 budding trees, and members of the community anticipate planting 2,000 more by the end of this year. So far, the community is benefiting from the help provided by both private and state agricultural and environmental experts, including Ganga’s philanthropy.

“The first step is to plant more trees, shrubs, flowers, grasses and climbers,” said Shamiso Mupara, founder of Environmental Buddies Zimbabwe (EBZ), an NGO that promotes sustainable use of forest resources. “Then, they must prevent ongoing veld fires from destroying both old and young trees.”

According to Greatman Gunha, an environmental scientist at Midlands State University of Zimbabwe, the garden project brings hope to Guruve’s forests. However, he said there’s also more that needs to be done as tobacco production continues to grow in the country.

“There is also a need to substitute sources of fuel to cure tobacco in order to preserve woodlots,” he said.

The garden, with water from the solar-powered borehole, now provides vegetables to 21 families. Inside the fenced garden, members engage in multicropping, including the cultivation of okra, a delicacy for many, that can withstand dry spells. Tomatoes, watermelons and herbs are also grown, accessing the same perennial source of water. Some of the vegetables are sun-dried so that they can be eaten later when vegetables are in short supply.

Members use hoes, pitchforks, shovels and picks to prepare allocated plots, adding animal manure. To preserve moisture in this hot weather, the women use grass for mulching. Crop rotation is strongly encouraged to control diseases and pests, including the growing of drought-resistant varieties.

A sustainable source of income

Before the project began, most of the women relied on their husbands for much of their daily tasks. Although women were previously involved in farming, the management of resources, including land and the money from crop sales, fell to their husbands. An aim of the project was to help women achieve financial independence and receive their own income that could help the family pay for school fees and food and contribute to savings.

“Each member is allocated specific plots of land to plant vegetables to sell at the market and feed their families,” said Dolis Makoshori, the village head’s wife, who leads the garden project.

Members of the community in the tree nursery and garden. Image courtesy of Derick Matsengarwodzi.

The provision of other sources of income for the community that are environmentally sustainable aims to reduce deforestation, Mupara said. He said capacity building for other forms of revenue and education are key to changing attitudes toward the environment and in turn encouraging communities to act to protect forests.

In the year that they’ve been working on the project, the members have collectively saved $700 by selling vegetables, and plan to reinvest the money in farming. Presently, 7.9 million Zimbabweans are considered “extremely” poor, living on less than $30 per month. However, with this project, villagers say they can escape such poverty.

For years, before the establishment of the community project, Stella Marumahoko relied on her elder children working in the city to keep her financially afloat. Each year, when the harvest failed, she faced the dilemma of how she would feed her family. That has since changed.

“After selling our products, we pool the money into a savings venture. We then used money from our savings to pay school fees, agricultural inputs and started a chicken rearing project. I can now buy monthly provisions,” Marumahoko said.

The garden members also promote a weekly school feeding program by contributing $1 to $5 per month and supplying vegetables. Poverty and hunger in Zimbabwe have led to children dropping out of school to help the family earn money. In a notable case in 2017, 6,000 students dropped out of school due to hunger and increasing droughts in a rural province. School dropout rates are high in most drought-prone rural areas of the country.

With success recorded elsewhere, village chief Mupara said he’s optimistic about the Guruve project as other tree nurseries spring up in other rural areas of the country.

“Our small steps hope to leave a generational legacy, in years to come,” he said.

Banner image: Members of Shingai Matimba Garden at work as part of Women and Land in Zimbabwe, a rural women’s organization that addresses unequal ownership of, and control over, land and natural resources. Image courtesy of Women and Land in Zimbabwe.

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Odisha govt plans development of colleges – Times of India

The Biju Pattnaik College Of Science & Education

BHUBANESWAR: After starting work on transformation of schools, the state government has rolled out an institutional mechanism called district college development facilitation centres for development of higher secondary and higher education sectors.
Chief secretary Suresh Chandra Mahapatra on Friday directed collectors of all districts to operationalise these centres for addressing the problems encountered by colleges. While conducting a district-wise review of these centres, Mahapatra said the development of colleges is a priority of the government and collectors must be directly involved in the process.
He also asked the collectors to look into the major issues including settlement of land in the name of colleges, separation of Plus-II wing from the degree colleges, expedited implementation of development projects in the colleges, proper utilisation of government funds given under different schemes and development of academic ecosystem on the campus.
Collectors were directed to convene meetings with different colleges for having a first-hand assessment of their problems and accordingly prioritise those according to the guidelines issued by the higher education department.
Higher education secretary Saswat Mishra said direct involvement of the collectors and district administrations will easily resolve many ground-level issues.


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Bihar government to recruit 4,600 teachers in colleges: Minister – Times of India

PATNA: Altogether 4,600 teachers will be appointed in the colleges to help in timely completion of courses and conducting examination on time, education minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary on Friday said in the Vidhan Parishad.
He also said 6,421 posts of Vidyalaya Sahayak (school assistants) have been created for works related to computers and other fields.
Choudhary was replying to a starred question raised by RJD MLC Ram Chandra Purbey, who said the students were suffering because of delay in completion of courses.
Purbey cited the example of the B R Ambedkar Bihar University in Muzaffarpur and said 60,000 students could not apply for the 4335 posts of POs and management trainees because of delay in holding examination of the 2018-21 batch.
The minister said all the vice-chancellors and registrars, in a meeting at Raj Bhavan recently, were instructed to complete the courses on time.
To another short-notice question raised by MLC Sanjeev Kumar Singh, the education minister said his department has created 6,421 posts of school assistants and computer literacy has been made mandatory for their appointment. Choudhary said the induction of these assistants will help in carrying out several duties.
Singh pointed out that teachers have to be engaged in various works like enrolment and registration of new students, issuing admit cards and other works in the absence of school assistants and clerks. He further said the teachers had to go to cybercafé for completing the works as many schools do not have computer facilities.
Choudhary also said a software was being developed to have a record of land availability of schools and instructions have been given to get the encroachments on educational premises removed.
Exchange of couplets: The last day of winter session witnessed exchange of couplets between education minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary and Congress MLC Prem Chandra Mishra after a question regarding the status of Maithili teaching. When Mishra read out an Urdu poem, Choudhary replied in a poetic way. Choudhary said the state government was serious about Maithli education and 55 teachers were working while 114 posts of teachers had been created in senior secondary schools. He further said 49 teachers were appointed at the college level.

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Govt must stop abusing COVID-19 regulations – NewsDay

THE Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) rejects the knee-jerk, irrational and unscientific imposition of adjusted national lockdown regulations under Statutory Instrument 267 of 2021. This follows the recent discovery of the Omicron variant, first detected in South Africa and Botswana.

As part of the measures, a daily curfew was imposed from 9pm to 6am, while shops were directed to open for business from 7am and close by 7pm.

The regulations also require all returning residents and visitors to undergo PCR testing and those found to be negative will be quarantined at their own cost for 10 days, while those who are found positive will be isolated in accordance with the provisions of the principal order.

These regulations are the clearest yet sign that government is using the cover the COVID-19 pandemic to push an ulterior agenda which we strongly believe to be centred on its quest to stifle free and legitimate operations of citizens trying to recover from the effects of the same pandemic on their livelihoods.

The latest regulations were initially announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on November 30, 2021 ostensibly to avert threats of a fourth wave in Zimbabwe.

While we appreciate government’s efforts at containing the pandemic as prescribed in the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines on handling the new Omicron variant, we are concerned that the new measures are disproportionate to our situation as a country and seem not based on any scientific logic.

The latest WHO recommendations on the new variant encourage authorities to enhance surveillance and genomic sequencing efforts and urge them to continue reminding communities and individuals to continue adhering to the “tried and tested” protocols already in use.

The latest regulations are surprising given that the government’s post-cabinet briefings of November 16 and 30, 2021 assured the nation that the COVID-19 pandemic was “under control” in the country following several days with few or no reported deaths and few new infections.

The Zimbabwe Association for Doctors for Human Rights is in agreement with government’s assessment based on the fact that the national positive rate in the last three to four weeks has been less than 2,5%.

WHO ratings project that a positive rate of more than 5% signifies a pandemic out of control and anything below 5% is a well-controlled pandemic.

Ironically, WHO and health experts are reportedly convinced that the new strain is “super mild” and has, so far, not led to a surge in COVID-19 death rates anywhere in southern Africa, urging countries to drop travel restrictions and end the mass hysteria associated with the new Omicron variant.

Additionally, Zimbabwe has been singled out as one of the few African countries that has implemented a successful COVID-19 response strategy that has been applauded by the WHO.

Given the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the economy as well as the livelihoods of many of our citizens, the latest measures are surprising as they peg back the nation from realising a quick recovery to the pandemic-induced economic backslide.

Unemployment in Zimbabwe is estimated at over 90%, with many citizens relying on the informal economy to sustain their livelihoods. It is these citizens who will face the brunt of these unjustified regulations.

The limiting of operating times for business will affect actors in both the formal and informal economic sectors, which will inevitably peg back any economic recovery efforts.

We would have expected the government to be concentrating on ramping up its vaccination drive, which has gradually stalled and is way behind projected targets.

Getting herd immunity through vaccination has been identified as one of the quickest ways of ensuring full opening up of the economy so that citizens can return to their normal life routines and secure their livelihoods.

We are worried that enforcement of COVID-19 regulations has often been used as cover for gross rights violations with the army and police brutalising citizens for violating the regulations.

Since March 2020, it has become quite apparent that COVID-19 regulations in Zimbabwe have been used to entrench authoritarian rule and violate citizens’ fundamental rights through the imposition of restrictions without proper any justified scientific basis. -CiZC

Parly must craft national disability policy

VENDORS Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation today commemorates the International Day of Persons with Disabilities under the theme Leadership and Participation of Persons with Disabilities Toward an Inclusive, Accessible and Sustainable Post-COVID-19 World.

This year’s event comes on the backdrop of continued vulnerability for this sector of our population owing to the ravages of COVID-19 with no support from Government and its agencies.

Not only have our members been deprived of support, but containment measures such as vaccination and associated publicity campaigns, people with disabilities have been  left out, yet sign language is recognised as part of the country’s 16 official languages.

According to a Unesco Rapid Assessment report of November 2020, on the effects of COVID-19 on persons with disabilities asserted that the majority of persons with disabilities (PWDs) survive on informal sector activities such as vending and begging on the streets.

People with disabilities faced significant difficulties to access support from government, non-governmental organisations and private individuals owing to travel restrictions imposed by the government during the lockdown period.

Mary Mushayi, a PWD in a report of December 2020, said when borders are closed, relatives cannot send groceries to them and they are unable to move around to collect parcels owing to transport challenges compounded by the ban on commuter omnibuses.

For Viset, this sector is a critical component of the informal economy as many persons with disabilities derive their living from the sector due to the fact that there are less barriers to entry as many of them are deprived of formal education.

A walk in the central business district will confirm this assertion, yet government and local authorities have no plan to ensure this constituency is accommodated in accessible buildings and facilities such as public toilets and transport.

Viset calls for the enactment into an act of Parliament the National Disability Policy that was launched by the President in June 2021.

We also call upon all policing authorities to be trained in communication and interaction of persons with disabilities and cessation of the heavy handedness that is applied to the sector in raids. -Viset

IN response to Omicron hits Zimbabwe, THANDIZINTO says: Zimbabweans have to be vigilant in fighting the new COVID-19 variant, as well as other variants to come. I am slowly getting inclined towards thinking that COVID-19 is some kind of biological warfare.

IN response to No US$ bonus for nurses, NDABANENGI says: Government is not being fair. It should treat all its employees in an equal manner. Every one of its employees plays an integral role in the day-to-day running of government business. The authorities are feigning confusion, yet I believe this was a calculated move. President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration is playing games with the people. In actual fact, why should we keep such people in power? They should be kicked out come 2023 elections.

IN response to Exams invigilation: Govt reads riot act, PIKIRAYI says: The education sector is in a state of decay, and government is not doing anything to correct the anomaly. In fact, the authorities are pretending as if everything is normal. I believe they are telling themselves that the next leaders will fix this mess. The funny thing is that now I am 33 years old, the same people who are leaders now were leaders when I was born, and they were telling us that we were the future leaders. Surprisingly, they are still in power and messing up the country.

IN response to Zec bemoans paltry budgetary allocation, MAKHELWANE says: Whether it gets more money or not to run elections, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) does not have the capacity to produce credible election results. It is an extension of the Zanu PF regime. Zec failed to proclaim by-elections date and abrogated its duty to the Health ministry. What I know is that when Zanu PF wants things done, it will fund the electoral management body and everything will be all systems go. Zanu PF knows that even if some mogul funds Zec, no one will be able to question the funding since already everyone knows a budget was set aside, and also that no one will be able to get into Zec’s books to see where the money came from and how it was used.

IN response to BCC rakes in $455k in fines, MHONDIWA says: I like Bulawayo City Council’s way of doing things. Its councillors are somehow transparent, despite that many times Zanu PF throws spanners into their works.

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