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Hannah O’Riordan

ZET Blog: Diaspora Remittance Taxes

The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) hosted a public event in 2014 about the high cost of sending remittances to Africa. It brought together various speakers from the banking sector, NGOs, politicians and the money transfer market, interestingly, no migrants were on the panel. The central point highlighted the significance of remittances for Africa’s development and particularly how and why sending money to Africa attracts such high charges compared to other parts of the world; some of the key points are as follows:

According to ODI’s report on remittance cost to Africa, compared to other developing regions like South East Asia and Latin America, (i) remittance flows to Africa are still smaller than Aid to Africa, (ii) they are also lower than private capital and Foreign Direct Investment, though much less volatile. The report also estimates that remittances to Sub Saharan Africa are about USD32 billion, (half of the USD60 Billion estimated by the World Bank for the whole of Africa). (iii) This figure represents about 2% of the regional GDP, that’s the average for the whole of Sub Saharan Africa, (iv) yet remittances are not equally distributed in this region; Nigeria for example, receives the highest amount of remittances compared to smaller countries like Lesotho. Therefore this implies that out of 54 countries in Africa, SSA (as defined by the UN) has 48 countries – all of which receive USD32 Billion, compared to the 6 North African countries that are considered part of the Arab world, receiving the balance of USD28 Billion. (v) The report then frames remittances as an important source of support for SSA families at household level, citing how they are used to pay for education, health, investment in home building, businesses and all the things an average African already knows.

So, if remittances are so important, why is it so expensive to send money to Africa? First, the average global cost of sending money is estimated at 7.8 %, to South Asia it costs about 6.5%, yet sending money to Africa costs 12%. This is more than twice what was recommended at the 2009 G8 summit labelled the 5×5 initiative, which meant to bring down remittance costs to 5% globally. All this means that on average SS Africans pay USD2.2 Billion more than the recommended 5×5 estimate each year. To understand this, the report summaries four ways for sending money to SSA through Banks, Post Office, Money Transfer Operators (MTO) and Others. However, 89% of all transfers are through MTOs and a detailed look at the main MTOs revealed that MoneyGram covers 24% and Western Union covers 40%, therefore 2 thirds of all money transferred to SSA is through 2 private operators that have created a duopoly. This lack of competition is cited as the reason why charges are so exorbitant and also why SSA is specifically affected compared to the rest of the world. The report goes on to reveal how the two operators have shared the SSA market geographically between them to further reduce competition even between the two, yet another ‘Berlin Conference’.

While all this is very informative and interesting, it begged some questions from the diaspora; for example, why is ODI (which is funded by DFID) suddenly interested in spending so much money to carry out this research and report? What’s the end goal and how will this research essentially “pay dividend” to its commissioners? There was talk that perhaps DFID and other traditional donors may be trying to find a way to access remittances under the rubric of ‘saving Africans’ yet again, what with the crisis and austerity these days. Though it is unclear how this can be achieved since migrants have no such confidence in sending money through traditional donors or their various governments. However, these bigger players do hold policy strings and by ‘attacking’ the MTO sector, it gives them leeway to ‘muscle’ into the market under the label of driving down sending costs through competition. While no such declaration was made (even though The Global Native asked that question specifically) the Shadow Minister for Education Rushanara Ali MP, alluded to the creation of what she called a “Remittance Bank” of some sort. This perhaps partially explained the absence of migrants from the forum, since they only represent a ‘moral impetus’ for carrying out this work.

In fact, ODI approached The Global Native asking for testimonials from migrants regarding their experience of paying such high costs, and perhaps including how much more could have been achieved had the charges been lower. The Global Native put this request to some of the migrant communities in London and the response was exactly that of high suspicion. They wondered what would be done with their information, would this go on some official data base for other Machiavellic use? They essentially refused to be ‘used to justify some potential policy they don’t understand’. Some even questioned why the Africans are not organising these events themselves. So I took a quick glance and found that the African Union Commission established the African Institute for Remittances, (AIR) signed in December 2009, in partnership with The World Bank, African Development Bank, European Commission and the International Organisation for Migration. They have a web page which is still under construction, and Facebook page that has only 162 followers, I felt compelled to ‘like’ it, so now they have 163, in fact it made me feel like a founding member. Granted, it is new and there’s much to be done, though I did muse over the irony that Africa’s remittance authority is broke.

Other thoughts at the event pointed out how ironic and hypocritical it was that here are organisations, such ODI funded by DFID, who are controlled by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) which writes migration policy- publicly declaring to be fighting for migrants and yet “one can’t switch on the TV without hearing how bad migrants are for the UK” said one attendant. What’s even worse is that “here we are running to such events ourselves, knowing how much we are badly treated by these very same people, as though we really deserve to be cheated like this” said another migrant. While all these concerns are very real, it is still an interesting time of shifting alliances and perhaps while the ODI report may not herald a genuine care for migrants and their cause – this “fight between governments and banks and these others” which the same attendant suspects, can be an opportunity for positive change if the diaspora can think it through and find ways to take advantage of it. The Global Native is very keen to understand what opportunities may lie in the fission created by this “suspected dispute” between giants. As the proverbs says, ‘when elephants fight, the grass gets hurt’ so it is in the grasses interest to watch these events keenly; but equally so, ‘after every revolution comes a new order, but before that, there’s opportunity’. That last line is taken from a good movie, just in case you’ve seen it. So, what are your thoughts?

 

This article originally appeared on the Global Native website in 2014

Written by Na Ncube, Director of The Global Native
Edited by Hannah O’Riordan, ZET Operations Manager


ZET Blog: The Importance of Legal Registration

The following article outlines real life stories collect by Trinity Project field workers. Each case outlines the importance of legal registration and protections for vulnerable persons, and how complicated it can be to backdate registration.

Although these cases can seem quite upsetting, in every instance, Trinity has since supported beneficiaries; providing them with legal advice and support; advocating on their behalves; and directing them towards the help they need.
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Sizwile

Sizwile was the only girl in a large family. Her family lived happily in a small village, supported by the small local supermarket her father ran. Unfortunately, this all began to change when both her parents died, while Sizwile was only twelve years old.

Sizwile’s parents never wrote a will, codifying how to share their estate when they passed. Her family and community took advantage of this, and her eldest brother inherited everything. They left Sizwile without a penny, with those around her believing that as a young girl she had no say in such decisions, and expecting her to do nothing but marry and move away anyway. With this destiny decided for her and living in poverty, Sizwile was forced to drop out of school, and was married off to an older widower by the age of sixteen.

At first, she viewed her husband as her savior, rescuing her from a life of poverty and suffering. However as the years passed, he became increasingly abuse and controlling. Without access to contraception or sexual autonomy, Sizwile had five children by the age of twenty-two. In just ten years, her life had been transformed from an educated, happy child to an abused and impoverished wife and mother, dependent entirely on her husband.

There are many tragedies that left Sizwile in this position, not least the institutional sexism that silences girl-childen and leaves them vulnerable to this kind of abuse and exploitation. However it is clear that legal registration and protections, such as wills, can help young women in this position, and could have protected Sizwile from this fate.
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Mrs Makhathini

Mrs Makhathini is the guardian of two childen, Nokuthaba and Nqobile. These children have been abandoned by both parents and both sides of the family, who are embittered by disputes between them and have forgotten to prioritise the children.

The children were left to her as infants by their father, who migrated to South Africa to find work. The mother also went to South Africa, but has since cut ties with the father and her family, and her whereabouts are no longer known. Mrs Makhathini understood the importance of registering the two children in her care, so that they could access education, healthcare and a host of other rights and entitlements. However, the situation that the parents and the family have left behind has made this incredibly difficult.

You need both parent’s documents to register a child. The father has made his documents available, but without being able to contact the mother, Mrs Makhathini was dependent on extended family on the mother’s side to access these documents. The two children’s maternal relatives have been uncooperative, claiming that the father still owes them ‘lobola’ (dowry) and refusing to support his children’s registration until this is resolved. Legally, neither guardians nor paternal relatives are allowed to register children. So without the mother or support of maternal relatives, Mrs Makhathini is at an impasse and the children are left unprotected and unacknowledged by the state.

The bitterness between the parents and their extended relatives surrounding separation and lobola is all too common, but in this case it has led to a violation of the two children’s rights. Every child has the right, enshrined in law, to birth registration, and the many public services this provides access to. Nokuthaba and Nqobile are being denied this, by their own family members. This leaves them unrecognised as persons by the Zimbabwean government: unable to attend school, sit public exams or access healthcare, and more vulnerable to child marriage or child labour. We desperately need legal change, to make registration more accessible for complex cases like this, and an increased awareness in communities to understand the importance of children’s rights and registration, and always prioritise this.

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Lubhelile

Birth registration can become a cyclical issue. Lubelihle had a difficult upbringing, financially insecure and was never registered by her parents. As a result of this background, she was forced to drop out of school and married when she was just a teenager. Early in the marriage she gave birth to a son, but not long after her husband abandoned her. Since then, she has been forced to work low-paid, insecure jobs just to support her and her child. Lubehlile was never taught the importance of registration – and more than this, she has to work several jobs and still barely meets the costs of rent, food and other bills, let alone taking on the expense of a complicated registration case. Since she is unregistered, she could not give birth in a public clinic or hospital. There is no state record of her, her former husband, or her childbirth. As a result, it would be very difficult, drawn-out and costly to register her son.

Whilst it is understandable that Lubelihle has little time or money to prioritise registration, this is already starting to impact on her son. He was meant to begin nursery two years ago, and has not been allowed a place as he is unregistered. He has also been denied healthcare at the local clinic. There is a clear cycle of children being born into complicated, insecure backgrounds, without proper access to education, healthcare, or other legal protections – which in turn makes them far more likely to expose their children to the same fate. Some parents do not know the importance of registration; others do, but still cannot afford or access it. Either way, vulnerable families are far more likely to perpetuate non-registration.
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Gogo

Gogo is a grandmother, who approached the project for advice about registering her grandchildren. Gogo’s son migrated to South Africa with his wife, where they had two sons. Her son was then arrested and imprisoned, leaving his wife alone with her two children. She buckled under the pressure of working and raising two children alone, and one day broke down and left the younger son, a newborn baby, in a rubbish bin.

Fortunately, one of the neighbours discovered this, and arranged for both sons to be smuggled back to Zimbabwe to live with their grandmother, Gogo. After this point, the mother fled and Gogo has lost contact with her. Gogo was keen to register the two children in her care, fully aware of the importance of registering them so they could access healthcare and education. However, when she came to the registrar she realized the complexity of the case. Neither child had been registered in South Africa where they were actually born, then they were illegally smuggled back into Zimbabwe, and had been separated from both their parents with no way of accessing either parent’s legal documents.

Gogo had researched the registration process, and had her faith restored when she realized that the extended maternal relatives could assist her and get the two children registered. Unfortunately, these relatives were uncooperative. They believed Gogo and her son had caused them to lose touch with their own daughter, the mother of the children, and rejected the opportunity to support Gogo or the two boys. Since then, Trinity officers have visited these relatives as mediators, and explained the importance of registration. We are optimistic this will help progress the case. This case again demonstrates how complicated the registration process is, and how poorly it protects unconventional or vulnerable families. Even with Gogo fighting for her grandchildren to fulfil their rights, it is an uphill battle.
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As each of these cases show, registration is often overlooked at the best of times, and downright impossible when cases get more complex. There is much need for third parties, such as Trinity, to mediate between families, local registrars and other relevant institutions, and lawmakers, to smooth the registration process. The good news is that Trinity has grown to a national figure in the past 5 years, changing laws, raising awareness, and supporting thousands of individuals. Trinity is absolutely vital, helping disadvantaged and vulnerable young people to fulfil the rights they should have, just by virtue of being born.

Stories collected and reported by Trinity Project field officers
Written by Hannah O’Riordan, ZET Operations Manager


ZET Blog: Farming Reform

The Land Reform Program, amongst other detrimental changes in the climate and political stability around the year 2000, precipitated the initial food shortages and crippled the country’s economy; tipping the scales from economic recession to full blown chaos. The proportions were colossal and were only made worse with several years of mismanagement, bad governance, poor policy formulation and implementation, systemic corruption, and blatant human rights violations which significantly contributed to turning the once so called bread basket of Africa, into an empty basket case, and a basket case of empty stomachs. The normal Zimbabwean, the typical small-scale farmer in rural areas, was not spared in the collapse of the country’s economy and agricultural downturn. The consequences of this recession was; millions left in perpetual need of food aid, millions more trapped in a ‘hunger on repeat’ horror sequel and even more Zimbabweans fleeing into neighbouring South Africa, Zambia and Botswana.

Ever since this downturn, Zimbabwe has relied on grain imports and aid from foreign donors to meet the country’s demand for grain. Drought, lack of financing and political instability hit commercial agriculture severely and those who had benefited from the Land Reform Program failed to produce adequate grain yields to sustain the ever increasing demand for food.

This obviously paints a sorry picture of incompetent authorities, but they did put effort into rectifying the situation. In 2005 and 2006 the government introduced the first Command Agriculture Scheme which was called “Operation Taguta / Sisuthi”. In that program, the army was given the task of tilling large tracts of land as it was peace time and their labour was available. The scheme unfortunately failed to yield the expected results. In 2007, the government introduced the Farm Mechanisation Scheme which was championed by the then Reserve Bank Governor. The scheme largely failed, potentially as a result of alleged corruption whereby mechanisation resources may have been distributed on a political basis to elites.

Government efforts proved to be fruitless and ineffective, and the situation only got worse last year when the maize shortages hit endemic lows due to a severe drought, caused by El Nino which crippled whatever production capacities were left in the country. According to the statistics collected at the time, 4 million people were left in desperate need of critical relief and food aid. This made the government realise the importance of a waterproof strategic plan of action which would be able to guarantee the peoples’ access to food in the event of another reoccurring drought. After the drought in the 2015-2016 farming season, the country experienced more than average rains which paved the way for another government scheme to be introduced. There was much scepticism aligned to the scheme because of the previously failed attempts by the government to ensure food security in the country, on top of issues such as corruption, farmer disloyalty, payment methods for the farmer’s grain and drastic changes of the weather. A lot of risk was involved in the scheme’s implementation process as there were a lot of critical areas which needed attention in order to make the scheme a success.

In 2016, the government re-introduced the Command Agriculture Programme, but this time the army was not involved in the implementation process. The programme was now designed to solve a fundamental problem the country faced in the aftermath of the land reform and severe drought, which was that of mobilising sustainable and affordable funding for agriculture so as to ensure food security, eliminate imports of food to increase exports from the sector and eventually reduce poverty. The 2016-17 farming season set the stage for achieving this goal. The scheme was introduced as Zimbabwe grappled with economic problems and its targeted beneficiaries were farmers near water bodies who could put a minimum of 200 hectares under maize per individual. 2000 farmers met this criteria in total, and each farmer was required to produce at least 1,000 tonnes of maize. Each participating farmer was required to commit 5 tonnes per hectare towards repayment of advanced loans in the form of irrigation equipment, inputs and chemicals, mechanised equipment, electricity and water charges. Farmers would retain a surplus product produced in excess of the 1,000 tonnes. The programme initially cost $500 million with each farmer earmarked to receive US$250,000 worth of loans. To ensure the success of the scheme, the government introduced regulated banned grain imports to protect the local farmers as well as ensuring food security and farmer prosperity.

The Ministry of Agriculture developed a database of all the beneficiaries of the Command Agriculture Programme, which expanded as more farmers sought to benefit from the scheme and more activities are added to the initiative. As of now, apart from maize the ministry has added specific loans for the production of wheat, soya beans and livestock production. Farmers do not benefit from the scheme unless they are registered in the ministerial database and the financing terms are currently at an all-inclusive interest rate of 5% with a tenure of one year, to allow farmers to sell their produce. Despite the margins of the schemes’ success being debatable – the scheme has been successful in some spheres and pointless in others – the truth of the matter is this: to the hungry old women from the down-trodden rural areas, having sufficient food stocks for the first time since the start of the millennium is a welcome development. The scheme has managed to strategically involve women in participating towards the re-establishment process of the nation’s food security state, revival of the economy and the country’s status as the “Bread basket of Africa”. The integration of Climate Smart Agricultural practices (CSA) could easily double the anticipated yields to be achieved by the farmers, thereby increasing their profitability which means the reduction of the loan repayment period by farmers. The anticipated results have been met in the first phase of the scheme, which was the 2016-2017 season and expectations are high that the 2017-2018 season will yield even better results. This is yet to be seen.

Written by Kudakwashe Kutesera, Foundations for Farming
Edited by Hannah O’Riordan, Zimbabwe Educational Trust


ZET Blog: 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, we take a look back at what your support has enabled us and our partners to achieve this year!

It’s been a busy year for ZET, providing vital support for three grassroots partner organisations in Zimbabwe and expanding the work we do back here in the UK. Thanks to you, we and our partners stepped up to the challenge…

Trinity Project

Trinity faced a challenging start to the year, beginning the first year since 2012 where they would receive no UK government project funding and being impacted by devastating floods across southern Zimbabwe. As ever, they rose to the challenge and launched a ZET-supported emergency appeal to provide food, shelter and supplies to flood victims. Beyond this, Trinity provided longer term recovery efforts including nutritional gardens and village loan schemes to help communities back on their feet.

Incredibly, Trinity Project also managed to carry on their usual work on birth registration. This year, responding the needs of the communities they work in and to support more vulnerable groups, Trinity expanded to work on access to a range of socioeconomic rights, including registration, education, healthcare and social services. This was very successful, reaching hundreds of families to provide services and support. Trinity is finally reaping the benefits of years of advocacy work, having been asked this year to draft a parliamentary motion on birth registration, meeting with multiple elected officials and community leaders, and having continued exposure in local media and academic articles. ZET’s support this year has funded transport and vehicle costs, which is essential in keeping the project successful and enabling staff to visit beneficiaries, local communities and stakeholders to provide their services.

Rafiki Girls Centre

Rafiki continued to provide transformative opportunities for young women in Harare, supporting 60 women this year to obtain education and training. Each graduate completed three months of life skills training, aimed at building up their confidence and self-sufficiency, with courses including sewing, computing, cookery and offering optional HIV testing and counselling. Trainees finish their time at Rafiki with a six-month vocational course run by an externally-accredited organisation, to build up their qualifications and employability and providing them with a connection to an employer when they graduate. Courses running in 2017 included hospitality, design, teaching and nursing, amongst others. This vocational training and link to an external organisation offers women the best chance to build a career, and 85% graduates went onto obtain work. Rafiki also works to holistically develop its students, offering them opportunities to relax and have fun, a vital part of growing up which they often do not have at home, through a range of recreational activities. These included movie nights, dinners and away trips to a national park, as well as extra-curricular learning opportunities such as HIV workshops and Careers Days.
Rafiki also has exciting news! Thanks to increased support from one of their other partners in the UK, Rafiki have been given partial funding to DOUBLE their capacity. This step is essential, as Rafiki currently receives three applications for every place it can offer, and this time last year the Centre had dozens of girls actually turn up on their doorstep, desperate to be considered for a traineeship. As demand for Rafiki Girls Centre and its vital services is so high, this step is important. However, we are not there yet, and Rafiki needs more support and funding from other donors, such as ZET, to be able to deliver this new expanded capacity. We will desperately need your support to make this a reality in 2018.


Foundations for Farming

The year was kickstarted for Foundations for Farming, who secured their largest ZET funding since our partnership began. This enabled them to run a project working with two local schools, building up the capacity of staff and students on conservation agriculture, so they would be better equipped to manage the land and produce more food and potential income for their school and community.

The projects were relatively successful, led by passionate staff at Foundations for Farming who went above and beyond to support the needs of the two beneficiary schools, and working with two very engaged and willing local schools. There was a lot of evidence that staff and students had adopted the principles taught by Foundations for Farming and were keen to implement these methods. However, both schools faced challenges beyond their control. The first school was forced to shut down due to lack of funds, however the teacher we had been working with was so committed to the project that she continued teaching these farming methods in her own back garden, with great success. The second school struggled with producing crops due to water shortages in their village. The school relied on students to bring in water from home to supplement the school and the plot, which was unsustainable. Foundations for Farming were impressed by their knowledge of and commitment to the project, so continued to support the school by providing them with tools, crops and farming methods more suited to dry arid land. Next year, Foundations for Farming desperately needs support to be able to reach more schools with this provenly effective project which helps staff and children gain skills and put food on the table, but also so that the project team have the capacity to provide additional support and resources when it is needed, as it has been this year.

Schools Outreach

This year, ZET has launched an exciting new initiative, working with local schools to deliver global learning sessions, where children and young people can learn about life in Zimbabwe, building up empathy and community links. We have been kindly supported by local organisations and universities, who have made this work possible and we look forward to expanding this work in the new year.

So far, ZET has worked with Westerton Primary School and Lee Briggs Infant and Nursery School, running interactive assemblies and workshops which aim to inform the children about Zimbabwe and challenge some of the misconceptions they may hold about other cultures and communities.

We have worked with children ranging in age from 5 to 9 running sessions, activities and games which teach about life, school, homes, jobs and culture in Zimbabwe, the history of the country and the UK’s relationship with them, and the work of ZET. We have been continuously impressed by how empathetic and engaged the children have been and it was lovely to see them engage with Zimbabwe in a positive, constructive way. The classes showed real interest by asking challenging questions, retaining detailed information and putting themselves in the shoes of children in Zimbabwe – even discussing complex issues like climate change, political shifts in Zimbabwe, and the birth registration process!

We will continue to work with these schools and more in the future, so watch this space.

Fundraising Events

Thanks to a team of dedicated volunteers, ZET has regularly held fundraising events throughout the year, all of which have been a resounding success and raised over £1000 for the Trust between them. This includes student-run pub quizzes at a range of local pubs – so we continue to thank Leeds students and their locals for having us! On top of this, the parishioners at Headingley St Columba ran an appeal this Lent and raised £1310 for ZET, so thank you all for your very generous support.

Most importantly, ZET turned 30 this year!!! And we celebrated in style with a big event in October, with music, poetry, Zimbabwean food, dancing and speakers all coming together to celebrate Zimbabwean culture, diaspora and the incredible work of ZET over the past 30 years! Thank you so much to all of you who attended or supported us – here’s to another 30 years.

If you have an idea for an event or fundraiser, or would like to raise money for ZET, please do get in touch!

Looking forward to 2018…

ZET has big plans for next year, starting the year with a visit to each of our partners in Zimbabwe to plan for working together in the future and develop our strategy and goals for the next few years. ZET hopes to capitalise on the momentum being felt across Zimbabwe, to transform the opportunity of a new period in the country into opportunities and support for our beneficiaries. We will continue to fundraise and support each of our partners, and hope you will join us in this mission.

Thank you so much for all your support this year. Together, we have transformed the lives and opportunities of hundreds of disadvantaged young people in Zimbabwe.

If you would like to give the gift of education this Christmas you can donate here: www.zimbabweeducationaltrust.org.uk/support-us

Written by Hannah O’Riordan, ZET Operations Manager


ZET Blog: Development Approaches

Development – like freedom, cannot be endowed, it must be achieved

Apparently the world of international development is at an impasse – so many theories, so many conferences, so many papers published, and still the poor remain poor and the development workers somewhat at a loss. The journey has been long – from a certain General Marshall’s utterances in 1947 through the large-scale construction projects, from the ‘discovery’ of poverty by the World Bank in the seventies to the present day era of glamour-aid. Though some successes have been noted, poverty on the whole is still here – and increasing.

So then, why is so much goodwill generating such conflicting results? What are we doing wrong? Well, this is my view – in the first instance, what is development? My belief is that development is – in the words of McEwan – a natural, immanent evolutionary process without intentionality. What I think he means is that, left alone, people will find a way to improve their lot in life. That in fact this is an instinctive drive in all of humanity to improve our condition. We do this in a form of trial and error – learning, adjusting, adapting – and in the process, developing or improving. The process is as important as the result. But more importantly, the result is not always clear at the beginning – so for instance I set off thinking I am going to be a farmer, and through trial and error find that actually I am a talented musician, and maybe I should be a rock star. We all more or less meander our way through life in this way – and the key thing here is that we make the choice of what lessons to keep, and what lessons to discard – a process describe by sociology as agency : the ability of people to make independent choices.

However, with the ‘discovery’ of poverty, development changed from being a natural process informed by independent choice, to ‘an intentional practice with a set goal’ i.e. a means to create order out of the social disorder of rapid urbanisation, poverty and unemployment. Development thus could be determined and directed towards a known end using suitable tools. This therefore meant that someone (the development expert) sat down and decided what the desired goal was (the poor person will be a farmer not a rock star) and then said expert devises tools to make this happen. Expert then sells plan to a donor and a timescale is agreed – so development worker has 3 years to turn poor person into a farmer.

This is where the fun begins. We have had five decades of tools of development – from the original blue-prints that assumed so much and achieved so little. We have redefined words like participation, local ownership, sustainability etc. In fact we have even debated and understood agency (and then tried to manage it…..) We have created complex tools like the log-frame. Conference papers have been read in their numbers, and small successes hailed. But in the main – people are still poor. And now we have an impasse.

The impasse is, I believe, the best thing to come out of international development. Because now we can look at what development is – a natural process. And what it is not – the intentional practice. All the effort of trying to harness what is essentially an internal process has not worked because it cannot work. No amount of planning and funding can replace agency – the need for people to make independent choices. Both those who hand over this internal drive to another, and those who try to manage this in the lives of other people – no matter how well intentioned, will fail. Development is the process, it’s what people achieve for themselves – it cannot be planned and managed by a third party.

This article was originally published by The Global Native in 2016.

Written by Na Ncube, Director at The Global Native


ZET Blog: The Power of Ingenuity

Rafiki Girls Centre: Patricia’s Story

It is very difficult to estimate the size of the informal sector in African economies as the topic easily becomes very political, but a new labour force survey suggests that the sector in Zimbabwe is huge, and growing very rapidly as retrenchments mount and formal employment slides. According to a report by the Zimbabwe National Statistical Office (Zimstat), 94.5% of the 6.3m people defined as employed in Zimbabwe are working in the informal sector. The largest number (4.16m) is made up of smallholder farmers in communal agriculture, followed by 615,000 in trade and commerce. Some 210,000 are said to have informal jobs in manufacturing, 70,000 in mining, 118,000 in education and 92,000 in transport (The Economist, 23 June 2015). To this end, Rafiki’s economic empowerment programs have made it possible for graduates to establish themselves in the informal sector and contribute meaningfully to the economy.

The story of Patricia Kabike is a beautiful and inspiring one. Patricia is a young woman who graduated from Rafiki in November 2010 with a certificate in Interior Designing. In the first three months of training, Patricia took all the twelve compulsory Rafiki Program Modules which included Basic Cookery, Basic Sewing, Machine Knitting, Cake Making and Flower Arrangement. In her own words, Patricia “took every module very seriously” and ensured that she perfected every skill, and to this day she is using all these skills to earn a living.

Soon after graduating, Patricia immediately started using her newly acquired skills to earn a living, including catering and decorating for parties and events. She also competed in a cooking competition, and used her prize money to purchase a sewing machine. She continued to use her skills and initiative to move from strength to strength, working from home with her sewing machine to make a living.

Patricia was one of the pioneers at the establishment of the Rafiki Sewing Centre in 2013, where she worked for four years until June 2017. The Sewing Centre was established as a way of fundraising for the sustainability of the Rafiki Project, but due to economic challenges the Centre was temporarily closed in June 2017. During her stint at the Sewing Centre, Patricia gained a lot of experience in designing and sewing different items which included kitchen sets (placemats, aprons), bags, clothing, curtains and bedding (duvet sets, comforter sets, pillow cases, runners and bedding hollow fibres). The closure of the Rafiki Sewing Centre did not pose a big challenge to Patricia, as she quickly returned to her survival skills – that of self-employment and working from home.

She continues working from home to this day, has managed to build a good clientele base and looks forward to growing bigger. All of her clients praise her creativity and ingenuity, both in her sewing designs and in her work ethic. She is well-known for taking risks and creating intricate designs just from one brief description or picture as inspiration. One of her clients was so pleased with her work that she presented her with a brand new industrial sewing machine to expand her work.

Patricia’s parents live in a rural area and every month she sends them money for food and their general upkeep. She was quick to mention that in the past, her family members never used to celebrate special occasions like birthdays and Christmas, but because of the skills she acquired from Rafiki she was able to encourage them to make such occasions special. She has been doing this by making cakes and preparing special food to celebrate such events in the company of her family and friends. People from her village now know about her skills and every time she visits home they come and place their orders for garments, curtains, bedding and other interior design products.

However, Patricia resides in a one room property which doubles as a workspace, which can make working on larger orders or multiple clients challenging. Renting an office is not an option for her as many landlords do not accommodate the needs of informal sector start-ups and would not permit clients to visit. The current economic situation in Zimbabwe has also impacted on her business negatively, in that for example fabric suppliers do not accept bank/money transfer payment methods but cash only, yet most of her clients pay using bank transfers. With the current cash shortages prevailing in the country it makes it difficult for her to re-stock in terms of fabric and other necessary supplies. Lastly, access to finance is a big challenge. Patricia believes that if she were to obtain capital or a cheap loan to finance her capital expenditure she would grow her business, register as a formal company, and even employ a few of Rafiki former girls who were trained in cutting and designing and interior designing to work with her.

Patricia’s story shows how Rafiki Girls Centre is making impact and transforming girls as well as the community where the girls come from. It shows how, when given opportunities and support, young women can use their skills and enterprise to build a successful life for themselves and those around them. Patricia and Rafiki Girls Centre would like to thank all our donors who have made a difference and hope that many more will assist financially so that more girls can receive hope just like Patricia has.

Written by Hildah Mahachi, Director at Rafiki Girls Centre
Edited by Hannah O’Riordan, Operations Manager at Zimbabwe Educational Trust


ZET Blog: Farming Practice Crisis

My people perish for lack of knowledge!

An ever-widening knowledge gap in the unsustainable farming practices of most Zimbabwean farmers, who are mainly small-scale, has not only left the stewards of the land bound in shackles of poverty, but also in its wake ugly wounds which resonate deep into Mother Nature’s core. As a consequence of oblivion, emphasis has been placed on crop performance with a disregard to the holistic farming principles which fairly encompass the entire agro-ecosystem. The substandard yields over the past years have been exacerbated by significant postharvest losses and chemical giants whose hands only extend beyond the counter, leaving the illiterate farmer to fend for themselves with a cocktail of poisons and a shrunken wallet. This only highlights the redundancy of an approach to a livelihood of nearly three quarters of the populace.

Tradition and culture have been a major driving force of the farming practices implemented. Growing up with ties to a rural farming background, it was and regrettably still is common doctrine that, “the deeper the plough the more bounteous the harvest”, or “the burning of savannah and crop residues are the best form of land preparation. It was only through the lens of education that I saw the deleterious effects of ploughing, overgrazing and deforestation, the agents of erosion, as they peeled the land bare layer by layer, while the erratic rains swept away the remnants of soil structure and integrity, leaving more rocks to harvest than food. Through the same lens I saw that in the heat of a losing battle with pests, weeds and diseases, the unmindful mass destruction of the defenceless soil biota through both the judicious and negligent toxic chemical applications which accumulate, not only left some the field’s barren but also incapacitated to sustain life. They don’t know any better, but what are those of us who have been enlightened doing about it?

According to statistics, 68% of the Zimbabwean population live in rural areas, while 70% of the rural population is reliant on agriculture for food and income. More than a third of the national population is undernourished! Let’s momentarily forget the potential profitability of farming as a business and look at these producers who can’t feed themselves and their families, how then can we expect them to feed a growing nation? When traced back to the root of the problem, it all leads to knowledge deficiency. If the critical questions of: what to grow, when to grow it, how to profitably grow it, have been asked then they have evidently gone unanswered. Whose responsibility is it to answer these questions? What is your trade dear sir/madam? What part are you playing in society, and are you giving back or you are just taking?

It comes as no surprise that 72% of the nation is subject to a life under the dark cloud of the poverty datum line. A widespread pandemic of the crippling dependency syndrome has swept through the country and corrupted the mind-sets of many. The longer people spend on their knees with palms open for donations, the more intimately they will know poverty as a loyal companion. When aid becomes a lifeline, its demerits are apparent when it arrives untimely or if at all. I am an advocate of charitable work, but only in the right context. Is it out of love or convenience when you give away those faded second hand clothes? Does anyone think about the vendor trying to make an honest living when containers of free food are donated to a village?

When I close my eyes I picture poverty as a mountainous mound of interlocked padlocks. One man cannot untangle it. Each lock represents the individual member of the community. I strongly believe the way to tackle poverty is by equipping the people down to community level with the right key. Ultimately it is up to the discretion of the individual to free themselves or to remain shackled, but no one can do it for them. Donations kill desire. Teach a man a skill instead, something he can bequeath to his children. That is charity in action, it is sustainable, it requires effort and interaction, and it shows love!

Climate-conscious agriculture is that key and it has never been more relevant for an agrarian people living in times of threatening climate shifts. To lead the poor out of poverty, it is necessary to meet them where they are. Imagine an all-inclusive, low-input, harmonious and forgiving farming system that not only heals the land with every season, but produces healthy, chemical-free and nutrient dense food in abundance, creates sustainable employment, self-worth and purpose. That almost takes us back to the Garden of Eden where there was oneness between man and all creation, and it was good! We ought to discard our habits for a moment and learn something from this model of farming void of any disc harrows or boom sprayers. Conservation agriculture and organic farming are systems that come close to that picture. They can be tailor-made to synergise the successful indigenous practices with the latest scientific advances to create specific systems that optimally leverage the available resources in almost any environment. I believe more of our efforts and resources should be in support of entities that teach this way of farming and more research should be done to improve on what we already know. That sounds like a legacy worthy to be passed on to the future generation.

While the United Nations are encouraging the development of small-scale organic farm, a mere 56% of the total arable land in Zimbabwe is in use, predominantly under conventional farming. The silver lining is that nearly half of the land in the country has had a chance to heal and restore. As an optimist I see this as a unique opportunity for us to rebrand and elevate ourselves as an organic nation, where farming is a noble profession and farmers not only grow enough for themselves, but have enough left over to sell and make a living. This is very possible, but it requires enlightenment and a willingness to change among the Zimbabwean community and the policy makers.

Written by Moses Mhindurwa, Foundations for Farming Volunteers
Edited by Hannah O’Riordan, ZET Operations Manager


ZET Blog: Rafiki Stories

ZET and Rafiki Girls Centre help around 60 girls each year, providing intensive support and training to offer each and every graduate a second chance into education, employment and opportunity; empowering them to live independently and successfully.

The invaluable support ZET donors have provided to hundreds of women in recent years can be difficult to truly comprehend. Together with Hildah, the director over at Rafiki Girls Centre in Harare, we have collated a few personal stories of ZET supported beneficiaries, and how the training they received thanks to your support and donations transformed their lives.

  1. Everjoy

One such beneficiary is Everyjoy, who has come from great personal difficulty and tragedy, and empowered herself. She has asked us to share her story, so we have done just that.

Everjoy and her brother became orphans at a young age, as both her parents unfortunately died from AIDS. They then moved in with their uncle, but were forced to leave when Everjoy bravely reported him for regularly raping his wife and infecting her with HIV, and he was arrested. She then moved in with an aunt, who sent her brother away to work. Everjoy has not seen him since and was heartbroken by his absence.

This aunt asked Everjoy to get an HIV test, and her life became very difficult when she tested positive. Her aunt did not allow her to sleep in a bed or use the furniture, cook or share utensils with the rest of the family – including a plate, cup, and bath. Not being able to cook made it difficult for her to take her ART medication. Her aunt also stopped paying for her school fees, as she believed Everjoy would die soon and education was a wasted investment. This forced Everjoy to drop out of school and instead, she worked as a maid round the house and for her aunt at the market, told this is how she would pay her way. None of the family respected or cared for her, and she was regularly abused and neglected.

Desperate, she called into a radio show to ask for advice. She was then referred to Rafiki Girls Centre, and lived with the radio show presenter, Dr Makoni, whilst she completed her training. During this time, she slept on a bed for the first time in 8 years and was able to take her medication properly and effectively. Whilst at Rafiki, she received advice and counselling for her positive status and gained the life skills she needed to live independently of her relatives. She worked extremely hard to get onto the exclusive Nurse Aide course, and relished her education in this field.

She finished her training at Rafiki with a qualification in nursing in 2013. Her aunt called her at her graduation, to tell her that now her training was finished, she should come back and work at the market to pay her way. Determined to not return to her former life, Everjoy was helped to find a job by Rafiki and Dr Makoni, who allowed her to stay on at his house until she finds employment and can afford her own place.

Everjoy was so happy to have found a family that accepted her, and looks forward to future where she will be self-reliant. She plans to earn an income so she can pay to sit her O Levels, and then continue her training to become a doctor. She also wishes to track down her brother as soon as she can afford to. She is confident the support and training she received at Rafiki will enable her to transform her life, and is so passionate about this that she wishes to open her own charitable home to help others like Rafiki helped her.

  1. Loveness

Another beneficiary of the important work at Rafiki is Loveness. Loveness comes from a large, polygamous family. However, her mother and sisters are not loved or respected by the rest of the family, as the mother gave birth to girl children only and so are not as desirable or useful to the patriarch, her father. Her father refused to fund her or her sisters’ education and told them they would never make it in life, encouraging them to marry young instead. Loveness wanted to choose education and employment rather than early marriage, but struggled without the funds or support to do so.

When Loveness heard of Rafiki Girls Centre, she seized the opportunity to prove her father wrong and realise her dreams. She was a dedicated student, and excelled in her sewing skills training. Loveness is now training to be an interior designer, and loves education. She has also started a small business using the skills she learnt at Rafiki, sewing items such as aprons and hats, to raise money for her mother and sisters – particularly their school fees. She hopes to show her father, and men like him, that when girls are given the chance they can be the source of change in their families and communities.

 

The following three beneficiaries are new students who joined the centre this summer, so although we are yet to see all the incredible things they will be able to achieve when equipped with second chance education, they do each demonstrate the difficult circumstances many of the students face.

 

  1. Alice

When Alice was only a year old, her father died and her mother ran away. She then lived with her grandparents, until they too passed on, and she was forced to live with relatives she hardly knew. Alice struggled to meet school fees and the relatives she now lived with were also unable to cover these. So, although she took her O Levels, her results were withheld because of her debts to the school. Alice went on to take a job as a housemaid, so she could support herself and gain skills.

Through this role she learnt about Rafiki Girls Centre, who could provide her with the training she needs to empower herself, and gain skills, employment and go onto live independently and successfully. At Rafiki, she plans to specialize in tailoring and go onto work in this area in Harare.

  1. Christwishes

Christwishes is an orphan, who lives with her siblings after both her parents died from AIDS. Her and her oldest sister were forced to drop out of school and sell fruit to raise money for the food and rent for the family. She told staff at Rafiki Girls Centre that her life changed completely and became very difficult once her parents had died.

Christwishes wants to come to Rafiki Girls Centre so that she can learn employable skills, and wishes to specialize in sewing. This will enable her to gain an income-generating job, to not only support her family, but to pay for school fees so they can all go back to schools and complete their O Levels. This is her main wish, and learning skills to live independently and gain employability will enable her to complete her education and empower herself.

  1. Vanessa

Vanessa is an orphan who lives with her siblings and extended family. Tragically, after the death of her parents, her house was attacked by a petrol bomb and some of her siblings and relatives were killed. Vanessa survived, with severe burns.

After this heartbreaking incident, she was forced to miss school for a year while she recovered. Without parents to pay her school fees, and having fallen a year behind, Vanessa was forced to drop out of school. Her greatest desire is to break the cycle of poverty her family is trapped in due to low-paid, low-quality employment, by receiving training in a range of skills and going on to obtain a professional job. She would use the income from this to support her relatives and siblings, after all they have done for her.

It can be difficult to recognize what difference your donations and support are making. It is only by digging a little deeper, and asking these truly inspirational women about their stories and their aspirations, that we can begin to recognize how the opportunities provided at Rafiki Girls Centre really can prove transformational, offering women – and often their families – the opportunity to pursue their dreams and prosper.
Written by Hildah Mahachi and Hannah O’Riordan


ZET 30th Anniversary Event

Zimbabwe Educational Trust turned thirty this year!

We commemorated thirty years of advancing educational opportunities in Zimbabwe with an evening of celebration with our loyal friends and supporters from throughout the years. Many of the guests had known of Vuli and the Trust since its founding in 1987, but the evening was also an opportunity to welcome new friends and spread the word.

For those of you who came, thank you so much for your support! Together we raised an incredible £818!

For those of you who unfortunately weren’t able to make it this time, you missed a fantastic evening…

The night kicked off at St Chad’s with a performance by Harmony Choir, a wonderful community choir who aim to bring together people from all different cultures and walks of life, who regaled the audience with interactive songs and dances from Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

   

We also had engaging talks from esteemed colleagues, including author John Farndon who spoke on the education sector in Zimbabwe and teacher Philip Weiss who spoke on the importance of diaspora links.

Several members of the Zimbabwean diaspora rallied together to cook a gorgeous authentic Zimbabwean meal for the occasion, including stews, sadza and caterpillars – topped off with ZET-decorated cupcakes!

Our long-term goodwill ambassador, Dumi Senda, performed a collection of his wonderful poetry, including the ever popular ‘I am an African’, and sold copies of his book at the event to raise money for ZET.

Finally, the night finished off with traditional African dancers – who absolutely raised the roof! – and a world music disco. We do hope all our guests enjoyed the event as much as we did!

ZET would like to say a big thank you to all involved for making it such a fun and memorable evening, and thank you so much to those of who you attended or donated to support our vital work advancing education in marginalised Zimbabwean communities.

If you would like to give ZET a 30th birthday present, you can donate at http://www.zimbabweeducationaltrust.org.uk/support-us

Written by Hannah O’Riordan


ZET Blog: Learning from Zimbabwe

Which country has the highest literacy rate in Africa? South Africa? Nigeria? Egypt? Well, actually none of these. According to some sources the answer is, perhaps surprisingly, Zimbabwe. Yes, Zimbabwe has a literacy rate of 92 % (or 87% according to UNESCO), which compares favourably with the USA, where more than 1 in 7 people cannot read!

In the UK, there is an image of Zimbabwe of a country in trouble. What outsiders often remember about the country, beyond the longevity of its leader Robert Mugabe – now an astonishing 93 years-old – is that it is something of an economic basket case.

An image looms large in the standard outsiders’ view of the country of the terrible time in 2008 when the economy nosedived, and Zimbabwe was sucked into the worst period of hyperinflation of any country – ever. At this time, prices in shops were changing several times a day. A simple loaf of bread cost tens of thousands of dollars and notes became so devalued that people resorted to taking huge wads of cash to market in wheelbarrows. In November 2008 inflation peaked at 79.6 billion per cent!

But to focus on the troubles of the economy – now at least partly receded – is to entirely miss the achievements of Zimbabwe’s education drive, and just what is possible. When the country became independent back in 1980, the new government was determined that education should be at the heart of their country’s goals. Mugabe’s new constitution identified education to secondary level as free and compulsory for all.

Factoid: Zimbabwe spends 8.5% of its GDP on education – that compares with 5.7% in the UK and just 4.9% in the USA (World Bank)

In the first 20 years of independence, reading rates accelerated from well under 80% under white rule to well over 90% – a remarkable achievement in any country, especially in comparison to other African nations.

Sadly, though, the education drive has faltered the wake of the economic crisis, and the dream is in danger of fading. Many schools are in physically poor condition. There are too few textbooks, and there is a severe shortage of teachers because poor pay has driven them to leave the profession.

Thanks to the drive for education, there is a yearning to learn among the young, but the school system is now letting many of them down. Many children are denied places at schools, and it may not be until well after 2030 that education becomes universal. Girls in particular have been excluded, and less than half receive secondary education.

When western commentators and development agencies look at the developing world, they tend to focus on economic resources. But education may actually the best gift for the future that the children of Zimbabwe and other developing countries can be given. Education helps give them the power to build their own futures.

As the extraordinary young Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai said, “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” I, for one hope, that Zimbabwe can get that educational dream back on track and give every Zimbabwean child that chance.

Written by John Farndon, Author
Edited by Hannah O’Riordan, ZET Operations Manager

John Farndon will be speaking at our event next weekend, to celebrate Zimbabwe and 30 years of ZET. You can buy tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/zet-30th-anniversary-discover-zimbabwe-tickets-36953536021#/ 

If you would like to write for ZET Blog, please contact our Operations Manager on contact@zimbabweeducationaltrust.org.uk

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