Rural communities embrace SDGs
By Byron Mutingwende
Basking in the glory of a bumper harvest following the good rains in the 2016-17 farming season are the people of Makoni and Mutasa districts in Manicaland Province. The visit to the areas by this reporter was necessitated by the United Nations through a tour with media practitioners on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“This is a component of the 2016-2020 Zimbabwe United nations Development Assistance Framework (ZUNDAF), co-chaired by the Government and UN to support national development efforts in areas of social services and protection; poverty reduction and value addition; food and nutrition; gender equality; HIV and AIDS; and public administration and governance,” said Sirak Gebrehiwot, the UN Communications Specialist ahead of the site visits.
There was a field visit to Chida Beekeeping Apiary near Watsomba Business Centre in Mutasa District. This is a par of the European Union (EU)’s grant of €3.5 million and US$500 000 meant to support the integration of agriculture with sustainable forest management and agro forestry in an effort to increase and diversify sources of food and income for small-scale farmers, thereby increasing their resilience to shocks and improving food security and food availability in Zimbabwe.
Leonard Makombe, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) Communication Officer said that smallholder farmers adopted sustainable agricultural technologies and agro-ecological principles like conservation agriculture so as to increase food production and nutrition.
“Apart from conserving the trees to protect the environment, forests can be used to generate income from natural resource utilisation techniques like beekeeping through selling honey. It also builds the farmers’ resilience to other shocks,” Makombe said.
FAO notes that those farmers with fruit trees and those who use different ways of agro-processing tend to be healthier in their communities than others. It was found that in addition to their environmental stewardship and supply of nutritious food to those in dire circumstances, small family farms are integrally linked to rural economies and as such contribute to household food, nutrition and livelihoods security.
It adds that forests and trees outside forests contribute to food security through provision of forest foods and incomes and protection of soils and water resources upon which agriculture depends.
“Unfortunately these resources are being lost at an alarming rate of 312 000ha per year (FRA 2015) due to lack of management, uncontrolled fires, over-exploitation and conversion to extensive agriculture. Commercial forestry contributes 3% to GDP but is currently restricted to the private sector yet it has potential to contribute to smallholder livelihoods. Since most of the dry areas that are agriculturally marginal are well endowed with trees and forests, it is imperative to integrate agriculture with sustainable forest management and agro forestry to improve food.”
Abraham Chaukura (52) who is considered as a role model in beekeeping in Mutasa district and takes pride in the fact that he guides community members in conserving the environment. He owns 400 Kenyan Top Bar beehives and nearly 100 Langstroth beehives. Part of his income comes through bee hiring.
“Some of my bees were hired by orchard owners for pollination of apples at $2 per hive for one day for one and a half weeks. Every season, I sell over 500kg of honey in Mutare and Nyanga. I am now training other farmers from my ward on beekeeping and am a renowned bee remover in Mutasa district,” Chaukura said.
To date, the honey value chain has been developed through market linkages with the private sector and incomes of beneficiaries have increased substantially; forest based enterprises have been supported with material and equipment for value addition to Non-Wood Forest Products from Marula, Baobab, Manketti and Jatropha trees; and the capacity of communities, government and private sector officials has been enhanced in Integrated Pest Management (IPM), forest fire management beekeeping and silviculture resulting in the establishment of nurseries and plantations.
The Makoni One Stop Centre was set up with support from the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development after recognising that gender based violence was a protection priority, but one with extremely limited gender based violence response services such as health care, psycho-social support services and legal aid for survivors.
“In those communities where services exist, there is limited scope, comprehensiveness and capacity and in most cases a survivor is unable to access a complete service package due to the travel and costs related to accessing the required services; hence the the establishment of the One Stop Centre initiative to respond to the identified gaps.,” said Verena Bruno, the United Nations (UNFPA) Zimbabwe’s Gender Officer.
In 2009 a pilot one stop center was established at Rusape General Hospital: the Makoni One Stop Centre. This was established as a joint program by the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development and the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare with technical and financial support from UNFPA through the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). The Makoni One Stop Centre is currently serving the whole Manicaland population (approx. 1.75 million) as it is the only centre offering such services in the Province.
All services at the One Stop centre are provided free of charge. The Ministry of Health and Child Care provides immediate medical assistance (like treatment for physical injuries); conducts HIV and pregnancy tests, provision of emergency contraception and HIV post-exposure prophylaxis to victims within 72 hours
and collects and analyses the necessary forensic evidence for prosecution.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Women Affairs Gender and Community Development provides emotional and psychological support services to survivors and creates awareness of the services available at the One Stop Centre while the Zimbabwe Republic Police Victim Friendly Unit offers security, Protection Orders to survivors and assists them through the court process and apprehension of perpetrators of GBV. It also issues Form 234 (request for medical examination in cases of suspected sexual abuse) to survivors.
The Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association provides survivors with information and advice on accessing justice through laying criminal charges against perpetrators. It also assists with court processes regarding securing protection orders, cases of economic abuse, child maintenance and custody.