Mbire District in the Zambezi Valley is a region hard-hit by intermittent droughts and floods with some areas competing with wildlife for water and food. Development initiatives are erratic and communities depend on stakeholders who partner in capacitating them to adopt, adapt and remain resilient in the face of shocks and stresses that often plague the area.
By Byron Mutingwende
On one hot afternoon, Jessica Chitsungo, a villager in Mbire district goes to her small maize field to prepare for the planting season, oblivious of the disaster that is to strike immediately. Suddenly a huge whirlwind comes, uprooting small trees and swirling huge amounts of dust into the air. Chitsungo lies motionless, her face downwards, to avoid inhaling dust.
The whirlwind leaves a trail of destruction in Mhako Village in Ward 5 of Mbire District. The village borders Mozambique to the north and Muzarabani to the east. The incident happened on the 19th of November 2016 at about 5pm. Three staff houses at Msengezi Primary School had their roofs swept away by the whirlwind.
“This area is prone to such natural disasters. Flooding is the most serious and when it hits our area, we are usually displaced to higher ground. Providers of humanitarian assistance often provide us with tents and food but we usually lose our crops and livestock in the floods,” Chitsungo says, gathering up her water bucket and hoe thrown some several metres away by the whirlwind.
To build resilience to such shocks, the Zambezi Valley Alliance (ZVA) Consortium comprising ActionAid Zimbabwe (AAZ) which has expertise in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and disaster risk reduction; the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) with expertise in agronomy and productive asset creation and the Zimbabwe Environment Law Association (ZELA) who are frontrunners on natural resource governance, is working in the area. The consortium also engaged Afrosoft Holdings Limited (AHL) which an expert in Information Communication Technology for Resilience (ICT4Resilience) and African Breeders Services Total Cattle Management (ABS TCM) training the community on rearing livestock.
“ZVA is implementing the ZRBF project in Binga, Kariba and Mbire districts and aims to reach out to 145, 105 households throughout the course of the project, i.e. from June 2016 to July 2019. The broad objective of implementing the ZRBF project is improved resilience and food security for targeted communities. This is brought about by the realization of three primary outcomes which are improved absorptive, adaptive and transformative capacities of at risk communities in the targeted districts,” said Ebenezer Tombo, the acting ActionAid Team Leader for the ZRBF project for the Zambezi Valley Alliance.
The ZVA approach to resilience building involves a multi-stakeholder, multi-disciplinary and integrated system that seeks to address the unique challenges faced by at risk communities hindering sustainable development. Thus, the incorporation of WASH and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), Agronomy, Productive Asset Creation (PAC), Natural Resource Governance, Information, Communication Technology For Resilience (ICT4R) and Livestock thematic areas into the ZRBF project as the fundamental aspects in protecting development gains and transitioning communities from sustained vulnerability to increased resilience.
On the other hand, Care International Zimbabwe is currently urging smallholder farmers in the Midlanda and Masvingo Provinces to grow drought-resistant crops like sorghum and millet since the areas receive erratic rainfall amounts and are prone to droughts. In parts of Gokwe, district, farmers are now growing sesame and cowpeas which do not require a lot of rain.
“Apart from encouraging the growing of small grains by smallholder farmers to cushion them aginst shocks during droughts, we are also constructing dams and nutrition gardens. The ultimate objective is not to continue giving food handouts to the communities but to capacitate them to produce food for their own consumption and for the markets,” said Philip Christensen, the Care International Zimbabwe, Country Director.
The Matebeleland Enhanced Livelihoods, Agriculture and Nutrition Adaptation (MELANA) project being implemented by Welt Hunger Hilfe and its partners is improving infrastructure like dams, irrigation schemes and dip-tanks.
“The growing of drought-resistant crops, promotion of conservation agriculture techniques, health and nutrition clubs will ensure food and nutrition security and improve the livelihoods of vulnerable communities,” said Regina Feindt, the Welt Hunger Hilfe Country Director for Zimbabwe.
The Embassy of Sweden and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) signed USD 8 million grant on Wednesday 31 July 2017, giving a boost to the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund (ZRBF) and marking Sweden’s increasing development cooperation in resilience building and climate action in support of the people of Zimbabwe.
Addressing partners at the signing ceremony, Bishow Parajuli, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative said, “Since the launch of the ZRBF in May 2016, some 407,000 labour endowed vulnerable people in nine rural districts benefited from climate-smart agriculture; nutrition and livelihoods; productive asset creation; access to finance and value chain development; and community-based natural resources management.”
“The nine districts that are currently benefitting from the Fund are: Binga, Umzingwane, Kariba, Mwenezi, Mbire, Umguza, Bubi, Nkayi and Chiredzi”, said Parajuli.
The ZRBF is a five-year multi-donor fund managed by UNDP in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, as well as other national players such as Ministry of Environment; Water and Climate, Ministry of Public Services, Labour and Social Welfare; Department of Civil Protection; and Food and Nutrition Council.
The ZRBF, officially launched in May 2016 with generous financial and technical support from European Union (EU), and UK Department of International Development (DFID), prioritizes 21 vulnerable districts targeting 800,000 people with a total budget of USD 70 million over the life of the programme.
Noting ZRBF’s innovative, forward-thinking approach, which builds on intensive knowledge and evidence to make a real impact in terms of resilience-building in the country, Swedish Ambassador to Zimbabwe, H.E Sofia Calltorp said, “resilience lies at the heart of Sweden’s new five-year strategic commitment to Zimbabwe in fighting poverty, environmental degradation and in ensuring absorptive and transformative capacities in the face of climate change.”
Recognising women’s transformative role in social and economic processes, Ambassador Calltorp said, “Sweden will strive to ensure that gender equality is adequately integrated into the work carried out by the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund including its implementing partners and consortia to ensure that Zimbabwean women equally benefit from this support as they often carry the brunt of shocks, stresses and disaster when it occurs.”
The overall objective of the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund is to contribute to increased capacities of at risk communities to protect development gains and achieve improved well-being outcomes in the face of shocks and stresses.