An environmental project on sustainable use of forests is empowering rural farmers in Mutasa District, of Manicaland province, giving the vulnerable community alternatives for income and food security.
The project bankrolled by the European Union (EU) through the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and other implementing partners aims at improving food security of vulnerable rural communities through participatory sustainable forest management.
For thousands of Mutasa villagers the project has brought greater cohesion of economic activities as the community mobilization facilitated by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association has set up communal trusts.
ZELA researcher, Nyaradzo Mutonhori said these agricultural development trusts will give communities an enhanced capacity to deal with climate change shocks.
“This is an out grower scheme where the local farmers are capacitated in growing eucalyptus plantations, their management and operations.
“When they harvest, they sell their produce to Manica Boards and Doors through the Trust accounts and into their individual accounts.
“ZELA has chipped in to register a total of 8 agricultural development trusts and one umbrella association, which will benefit 2000 villagers.
“This will empower villagers, particularly women whom we are working with on the ground to create sustainable forest enterprises to cushion them from climate change induced hunger.”
Ebert Sanyamandwe, a beneficiary of the project said the initiative has vastly improved their livelihoods in the community as it is a viable means of extra income to boost their earnings from horticulture.
“This project helps us as villagers because our main source of livelihood is subsistence farming and the planting of the trees especially eucalyptus which requires little attention in terms of their upkeep leaving us ample time to focus on other things.
“The trees also help us in other things not only in selling them as we use them in our farm construction as well as on our ongoing project of bee keeping which is also affiliated to the Forest Forces projects.
“They give us an avenue for extra cash to boost the income we get from our other farming activities,” he said.
Veronica Kadara, a widow aged 68, said this program is impacting positively on her life as well as other women who face the brunt of social disturbances caused by climate change.
Kadara, who is chairperson of Agricultural Development Trust, said as women they bear the brunts of climate change as they are primary care givers, and for widows with combined roles the challenge is even much bigger.
“As a widows we are getting help from this project from the effects of climate change which has resulted in erratic rains and we have been encouraged to plant short season crops to counter this.
“Having another means of income gives us an opporunity to get a peace of mind especially in times where the harvests have not been good like this year,” she said.
Adding that, “The project has opened up our minds because we are also venturing into other income generating projects which are sustainable in the long run.”
The trusts will seek to promote sustainable exploitation of forest commodities, integrated rural development and improve food supply and household income through diversified utilization of forest and land resources.