Recent news reports are raising concerns of a hunger crisis spreading across much of Southern Africa. Malawi has declared a state of emergency, whilst in Zimbabwe it is estimated that 2.8 million people living in rural areas have insufficient food. Lesotho, Mozambique and Zambia are also suffering food supply problems, while South Africa has said the drought is its worst in more than 100 years. The drought is caused by the unusually strong climatic phenomenon El Niño.
Food insecurity is a significant issue in any year, and contributes to rural communities being heavily reliant on natural resources. Coupled with a rapidly increasing human population, this reliance is placing communities in direct competition with wildlife for space and resources, and is an underlying driver of the declines in many species.
A few years ago ALERT sought to initiate programmes to help alleviate the threat of food insecurity to both communities and wildlife. Whilst our operational and financial capacity inevitably means our efforts to date are a flash in the pan in respect of the wider problem, we are very pleased that what we have achieved so far has made a significant and sustained difference, and could, with greater resources, be replicated.
In 2016, thanks to further donations we are able to expand the project further. Read on to learn about our success to date, and our future plans.
Our pilot project, serving seven families affected by HIV / AIDS, was the Chinotimba Garden located two kilometres from Victoria Falls town. Here, we assisted the families with manpower and guidance in managing the Garden, as well as establishing routes to market for excess produce. We helped the members to diversify their crops to better meet the demands of the various supermarkets, shops, hotels and local communities, as well as assisting them in advertising their produce to increase custom. Made possible through donations, we were able to purchase a water tank and hosepipes for the Garden. We were also able to pay for a member of the Garden to attend a training session on the use of green houses to improve food production. The Garden is now successful and being maintained by the members, so we have withdrawn from the project, but will continue to stay in touch and provide assistance if needed.
The Dako Garden, 20 kilometres from Victoria Falls, is our second garden project, serving 38 families affected by HIV / AIDS in the rural Monde area. Whilst members have farms at their homesteads in which to grow food during the rainy season, a lack of year-round water means these farms are no longer a secure source of food during the dry months. Dako is located close to the community’s borehole and plays an important role in ensuring the community is well-fed and healthy, an issue compounded by the fact that many of those who work in the Garden are HIV positive and on antiretroviral treatment. Project volunteers assist in tending the Garden, and with finding markets for excess production. We have installed a water reservoir and irrigation system, and also installed a toilet so members can stay working on site for longer periods. A now annual Seedling Project produces +- 500 seedlings for the Garden.
The Ntabengwe Garden has 17 project members; mainly women which have been affected by HIV and AIDS. The garden is located 15km away from Victoria Falls town. This project serves the local Ntabengwe Village as well as other Victoria Falls communities, when they have extra produce.
The garden at the Victoria Falls Old People’s Home helps to feed the 12 residents and staff, but also is a secure location to grow seedlings in our annual Seedling Project.
With a generous donation from the Landsburg Foundation, in 2016 we will be commencing a new garden. This will be the first garden that is created, rather than assisting with gardens already in existence but that needed additional help. The Woodlands Community Garden Project seeks to support at least 25 families by facilitating a plot that is easy for the community to use and caters to their needs, while remaining sustainable and encouraging food security in the area. The Woodlands communal land is part of the Matetsi Environmental Conservation Area, which is managed under the Community Based Natural Resources Management programme, which encourages communities to sustainably manage wildlife resources that are found within their area. The Matetsi ECA is also part of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area.
A group of 13 of the area’s women have undergone an agricultural training program near Bulawayo at the Agriculture Research Station and are adequately knowledgeable in farming practices. It is our aim to provide them with the infrastructure they need to properly hone this experience and create a sustainable farm for the area. Funding will therefore be used to site a borehole and fit a pump, as well as erect a fence to protect the Garden.
Meanwhile, in Zambia, the establishment of a garden in the rural Dambwa area, outside of Livingstone, is seeking to produce food that will help supply local schools, but will also act as a nursery and training centre so that local families and community groups can learn how to implement and manage gardens for themselves, and receive seedlings to start them off.
Sustainably managed community gardens are known to conserve the environment and reduce poaching. In addition to providing fresh fruits and vegetables, a garden can also be a tool for promoting physical and emotional health, connecting with nature, teaching life skills (such as planning, organisation and teamwork), and promoting financial security. Lessons learned in community gardens about water conservation, water quality preservation, environmental stewardship, and sustainable land use may be taken back to homes, businesses, and schools and implemented; improving environmental health.
If you would like to support ALERT in our efforts, please make a donation here.