Organic farming breaks new ground in Zimbabwe
The Makoni Organic Farmers Association, developed to transition away from tobacco cultivation and chemical-intensive agriculture, is leading the way in environmental conservation and sustainable use of resources.
“In organic agriculture, we do not need to buy fertilizers or struggle to raise money for chemical pesticides. We are now able to use that money for our other household needs,” said Regina Chiwaya, a member of the association.
- Introducing alternative organic livelihoods and scaling up activities helped local farmers increase income and get access to new, more lucrative markets.
- The initiative is part of a $400,000 programme on sustainable use of biodiversity to enhance livelihoods.
- Out of over 450 farmers in the association, about 60% are women.
Founded as a community development organization in 2007, the association, with 450 members, originally focused on raising awareness on organic farming as an alternative to tobacco cultivation and pesticide use. Supported with a USD 50,000 contribution from the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grant’s Programme, implemented by UNDP, the farmers established organic gardens and trained in the application of crop rotation, livestock and green manure, composting, mulches and cover crops.
The members ensure that projects are community driven and led. “The association is involved in all phases of the project beginning with the proposal formulation, implementation and monitoring of project activities,” says Tsitsi Watawunashe, Programme Officer. “This plays a key role in empowering the communities involved.”
The introduction of alternative organic livelihood options – ranging from horticulture production to nursery management, mushroom production, aquaculture, beekeeping and agro-forestry - has helped local farmers increase incomes and facilitated access to new, more lucrative markets.
As a result, the food security status of the participating community has significantly improved, while participating farmers have reported improved and increased yields from their fields. On average, participating farmers have been able to generate annual incomes of USD 250 to USD 300 from the sale of vegetables in local markets.
“Nearly everyone in the area is doing the same now, besides the core members,” says Sifelani Zvigerenani, the Association’s Chairperson, adding that the group is well-organized, with members having established a revolving fund to facilitate access to capital.
The group was certified as organic farmers in 2012, which opened access to regional and international markets. In 2013, they exported peas to the United Kingdom for the first time.
More recently, the group was among the 25 winners of the coveted Equator Prize, recognizing outstanding local efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. With a USD 5,000 cash award, the association intends to procure fencing materials to extend its organic gardens and increase crop production.
“This award encourages us to have more strength and desire to go forward,” says Zvigerenani. “We had never imagined that what we were doing would take us this far. This has been really a dream come true.”