Nkayi Lahlingubo Local Market Initiative Resilience Journey

The Chronicle

Ismael Hamandiche

“TOMORROW belongs to those who prepare for it today”, is a timeless African proverb that has been embraced by the women of Ward 5, Nkayi District, who have taken matters into their own hands to change the course of their financial destiny .

In a district where the culture of leaving wives in rural areas is still alive as men seek employment in the city or neighboring countries, women are generally left financially vulnerable.

Although most families depend on men for financial support, economic challenges and changing social roles over the years have given women equal responsibility for caring for their families.

As part of measures to empower the Nkayi community, the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund (ZRBF)-MELANA has introduced and promoted Gender Action Learning Systems – a community-led empowerment methodology that uses the principles of inclusion to improve the income, food and nutrition security of vulnerable people. people in a gender-equitable manner.

Zimbabwe Resilience Fund

Nkayi District, like most parts of Zimbabwe, has experienced the vagaries of climate change, with estimates indicating that recurrent droughts in Nkayi District killed a total of 2,479 cattle between 2019 and 2021.

While the local economy is driven by livestock, animal deaths have increased household vulnerability at a time when farmers need them for animal traction, as a source of food and as a social safety net in times of disaster. crisis.

In line with community engagements carried out by ZRBF-MELANA in partnership with government extension workers as part of its disaster risk reduction initiatives, ZRBF-MELANA conducted market linkage trainings.

These are intended to strengthen the business skills of existing groups.

It has also enabled groups to embrace new business ideas that build a strong financial base and maintain sustainable businesses.

Prior to the ZRBF interventions, there was Lahlingubo, a local market player comprised of six women and two men primarily focused on internal savings and credit.

After engaging in ZRBF formation, the group transformed its business and ventured into various business models as a means of diversification.

Over the years Ward 5, Nkayi has faced a number of challenges related to dry weather conditions, which have severely affected livestock production.

ZRBF-MELANA, through its risk mapping exercise, has helped communities in this area to identify and plan for these shocks and stresses.

Identifying some of these dangers before they happen has helped the community feel better prepared for the future, said Maureen Sibanda, president of Lahlingubo.

She says the mapping has helped Lahlingubo adopt business models that best address the unique challenges they face.

One of the obvious options to avoid livestock deaths from poverty was for farmers in Ward 5 to buy feed for their animals.

However, feed companies struggle to meet herders’ demands during drought and they rarely bring feed to communal areas and when they do, very few farmers can afford it.

Livestock

A 50 kg bag of animal feed in Nkayi costs between 20 and 25 US dollars excluding transport.

And to fill the gap, Lahlingubo produces bushmeal and sells the same amount of feed for US$12, which is relatively affordable for herders.

The group contributed US$617, paying 30% of the funds needed to purchase a hammer mill, with ZRBF-MELANA contributing the remaining 70%.

This has been a transformative tool with significant benefits for the community as they can purchase locally produced animal feed at a cheaper cost.

The hammer mill has a dual purpose, since it can be used both as a grinder and for processing bushmeal.

Bushmeal is a survival food produced by milling edible wild pods and small tree branches into palatable livestock feed.

The feed is then supplemented with crop stalks, grain, salt to name a few ingredients.

Some of the natural materials like tree branches and wild fruits like ihabahaba (monkey bread) ruminant animals cannot eat them naturally so they have to go through the milling process.

The types of trees needed for bushmeal production are in abundance in Ward 5 Nkayi district. Therefore, exploiting these locally available resources greatly helps pastoralists.

The production of bushmeal also contributes to the restoration of rangelands and is also used to control the encroachment of the bush through the reduction of the population of undesirable plant species in the rangelands.

Some of the plants have serious negative impacts on pastures as they greatly suppress pasture growth.

Mrs. Susan Sibanda, beamed with happiness as she highlighted how ZRBF-MELANA has helped her family.

“Thanks to the various projects we are engaged in, I now have the financial capacity to help my husband with some household needs. South Africa is not always rosy,” she said.

Her household is a typical example of many Nkayi families where husbands have moved to neighboring countries for greener pastures.

Mrs Janet Dube, another Lahlingubo member, says the bushmeal project has helped her save her five calves and cows from drought during the dry season, when most farmers suffer severe animal deaths.

“In addition to calves surviving, I see an increase in milk production when we supplement the cows’ feed with bushmeal.

We now have enough milk to produce amasi for the family,” she said.

To date, the group has served a total of 2,387 farmers with bushmeal and milling services, selling a total of 10,869 tons as of 2019 and earning a total income of US$2,169.04 from the bushmeal. only.

Lahlingubo also purchased a multi-grain thresher in May 2021 through co-financing where they paid 30% of the total cost, with ZRBF-MELANA contributing the rest.

The thresher is also another transformative tool as it has helped the community increase its hectare of small grain production.

“Before buying the thresher, we barely produced small grains as a community because it was laborious when it came to threshing,” Ms Sibanda added as she posed in her one-hectare field. variety of sorghum that repels birds.

Farmers

To date, the thresher has reached a total of 50 farmers, threshing a total of 36.79 tons while earning a total income of US$801.00.

Lahlingubo has hired 20 farmers in Ward 5 for the 2021-2022 farming season, who will sell and thresh their grain with the group.

Besides the obvious benefits of generating income for Lahlingubo, it will encourage farmers to increase their small grain area as they will benefit from the income.

With the community continually facing periods of drought, an increase in small grain production will ensure food insecurity for most households, something Lahlingubo members have experienced since venturing into small grain production. in 2017.

As the bushmeal and threshing business is seasonal, the group further diversified into selling Sasso chickens after receiving training from Hamara Feeds, a company specializing in the poultry production value chain. , which also works in partnership with the ZRBF-MELANA project.

The group received Sasso birds and four bags of poultry feed with a broody mother and are now selling chickens to the local community when they are three weeks old.

“If we sell the chickens, we can easily meet our daily needs as a group and contribute to the nutritional needs of the community because the chickens lay eggs and provide meat,” said Mr. Christopher Nkomo, a farmer also based in Ward 5.

The project promotes the brooder model to reduce the mortality of chicks from the first day to the fourth week, which is the most difficult stage of production, especially for most communal farmers.

As part of promoting resilient smart agriculture initiatives, ZRBF-MELANA also co-financed a mechanized conservation agriculture planter at a ratio of 30-70%.

The planter will facilitate labor in conservation agriculture and boost business in Lahlingubo as it will be leased to the community at US$10, the planter is expected to start operations in the next farming season.

The overall outcome of this initiative is to ensure that farmers participate in smart and resilient agriculture, which will help them in their efforts to ensure their food security.

“We have learned over the years that working together as a group greatly helps our group weather the shock and stress we face, and it will also trickle down to other members of the community on our journey to resilience,” said said Mrs. Sibanda. .