Foundations for Farming has impacted some of the most remote communities in Zimbabwe. These communities are either very remote or vulnerable as a result of high levels of poverty, and are not very well known in Zimbabwe or beyond. From each of these communities 30 participants were selected to attend a two week training course at Foundations for Farming in 2017. These 60 participants were selected with the hope that they would return to their communities with their new found knowledge and skills acquired during the training, and become pioneers of Conservation Agriculture in their communities. It was exciting to see the transformation of people’s ideologies in relation to farming and the importance of organics in farming, and has been successful in spreading the message and methods of Foundations for Farming amongst remote and unreached communities. In this article, we would like to share the stories and testimonies of these communities:
The Tsholotsho Community / The San People
The San people are a tribe of Africans who have lived nomadically within Southern Africa for many decades. With a population of around 2,500 in Zimbabwe, our group is located in the area of Tsholotsho close to the border of Botswana. Originally hunters and gatherers, this community has been faced with varying challenges in maintaining their livelihoods and integrating into the surrounding communities. For most, this training was a time filled with completely new experiences. It was the first time they had left their community; the first time they had travelled on a bus and the first time they had visited the capital city, Harare. They arrived with the clothes on their back and were welcomed by our hospitality staff with warm beds and new attire.
After the two week training, individuals in the group testified to the love and mercy they had experienced here at Foundations. One man said, “You treat us the same.” A truly powerful statement coming from one of Zimbabwe’s most marginalized communities. As all but one were illiterate, the group most benefited from the basic farming technology performed during the practical’s. Although their concentration was limited, as many had never sat in a classroom before, they managed to glean valuable knowledge from the hands on activities in the gardens and fields. Our basic training “Eating the Elephant” and our Sweet Potato demonstrations were definitely a hit.
One trainee thanked the team by saying that they were “Going back more beautiful” from their stay in Harare. Another emphasized the importance of unity, a trait he had learned in the leadership segment.
The Bindura Community
To call this group the Bindura ‘ladies’ is a little unfair, after all, there were two men. It’s just that the background stories from most of the women are so powerfully lodged in our hearts it’s difficult to stop them from floating to the foreground.
Stories of child brides forced into marriages with older men, leading to relationships littered with abuse and neglect of both wife and children. Although most of these women are ‘married’ – in reality they are widows of a customary lifestyle. They do not have live in husbands. Instead, several of them watch from a distance as their spouses enter a ‘Small House’ each evening … the term given for where Africa’s mistresses are housed in return for sexual favours.
Hungry and ragged children linger in the doorway of a dilapidated shack as they watch their father return ‘home’ each evening across the way – where he stays most of the time with another woman and the progeny of their love nest. In the meantime their mother (his wife), hovers over a little paraffin stove preparing the meagre meal she has managed to scrape together. Stuffing her pain and anger, she pulls her eyes away from the sight of him to concentrate on the task at hand. A sad, but all too familiar picture of Africa.
Some of the women we trained shared aspects of this difficult lifestyle and background with us, including the following excerpts:
“I was married at fifteen. My husband was continually unfaithful and we divorced. I married again, but my second husband has been jailed for raping his daughter, so I am now living with my parents.”
“I did not go to school for long because I had to look after my siblings. Later, I was forced into a child marriage with an older man. He now has a small house. I stay alone with our three children.”
“One of the ladies asked for the group to pray for her as her heart was broken. The following were her words; “My husband is not faithful, he is not satisfied with me, I am so confused, I don’t know what to do – but being here at FfF has helped very much.”
“I was married and gave my husband three daughters but he wanted a son. He took a small house, and the woman there has now given him a baby boy. Please pray for me, my heart aches with pain, he lives next door while I am trying to bring up our daughters alone.”
“When my husband left us and went away with his girlfriend it broke me. I started asking myself a lot of questions. What’s wrong with me? Now, being a single mother is the most difficult thing on earth, especially knowing that my husband is with someone else. He left us when his children needed him most.”
Thank you for reading, and supporting our work with these extremely vulnerable communities.
Written by Kuda Kutesera, Foundations for Farming
Edited by Hannah O’Riordan, ZET