Livelihood diversification program in Hwange and Binga Districts - Zimbabwe

Place: zimbabwe, Africa
Sustainable development of small rural communities Sustainable development of small rural communities
Total Budget: € 0,00 | Period: From March 2010 To


The project had the objective of improving the livelihoods of vulnerable communities in Hwange and Binga Districts. The beneficiaries were 10,000 farmers’ households living in marginalized dry area often supported by poor external aid. The project intervened on different component of the livelihood. The one presented here regards the Drought Tolerant Crops component. Thanks to the project the farmers achieved to triplicate the yields of small grains cereals (Millet and Sorghum) and Legumes (Groundnuts and Cowpeas) adopting Conservation Farming practices. The beneficiaries have been trained on community seed self-production in order to satisfy the community demand, they have been organized in an Association, a farmhouse was built and equipped with machinery able process the small grains into flour to be sold in the town supermarkets. The earnings of the sales will ensure sustainability giving an important contribution to the economic development of the region. 


Coordination of Voluntary Service Organizations - Italy

Lead applicant

COSV is a non-profit organization involved in international cooperation since 1968, with projects in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe. COSV works for peace, for the defense of fundamental human rights (life, dignity, justice ..), for environmental protection, it works to promote a culture of solidarity that rejects all forms of racism and encourages the active participation of free men and women, and human, material and cultural development. COSV fights against the persistence of global hunger, the absence of democracy, plundering of raw materials. COSV is implementing both development and emergency projects and currently it is operating in Lebanon, Turkey, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Ecuador, with project of environment, local development, waste management, civil society empowerment, agriculture, heath.

Lubhancho - Zimbabwe

Initiative partner

Lead - Zimbabwe

Initiative partner

innovative approach to market for small scale farmers: From external food aid dependency to grain processing and selling

The main innovation has been the introduction of means able to add value to local crops grown in an environmental and economic sustainable way, in order to produce a new product (flour) that is very appreciated by town consumers. More in detail the project provided training in Conservation Farming allowing to achieve improved yields of Millet and Sorghum and to process the surplus into Millet and Sorghum Flour to be sold in the main town: Hwange. It should be underlined that such stage has been the results of a constant presence of the project staff on the field that made the beneficiaries actively part of the evolution of the process. The growing feeling of being part of a change and the development of a new attitude are two fundamental components that should always be put under attention in the implementation of a project otherwise no activity would be run in an effective way. The presence on the field included: practical training, field days, open shows, exchange visits.

The presence of the project staff on field The constant presence of the project staff on the field made the beneficiaries actively part of the process: 10.000 households have been involved in DTC production and their growing feeling of being part of a change has been a fundamental pillar to reach the project results.

The rural communities of Hwange and Binga Districts are living in the most arid part of the Country. These areas are strongly marginalized also because the Ndebele and Tonga minorities live here. They are historically in opposition with the dominant Shona ethnic group who keep the key of political and business power in the Country. The population in these rural areas relies on the erratic rains that occur only two months a year. Before COSV intervention, the farmers were not able to cultivate efficiently to have enough food for their households unless supported by external emergency food aids. What we have observed through our beneficiaries is that the food aids were often given in the form of food distribution with a negative impact on the population, eliminating any sense of resilience and developing the diffusion of the so-called "Donour Syndrome". Now the population is able to be food independent and is more proactive, even if the external conditions are still impacting them.

The district of Hwange The districts of Hwange and Binga are located in the region of Matabeleland North, where more than 80% of the rural population lives below the poverty line. In these areas, food insecurity threatens the everyday life of the whole community. This region is also at risk of desertification.

Thanks to the project, the farmers have their yields of Millet and Sorghum doubled compared to the pre-project situation: from 305 Kg/ha to 614 Kg/ha achieving an increased number of meals per day for the entire household. The skills acquired during the project allowed the farmers to produce locally the seeds necessary for the coming seasons making them independent from seed companies and creating in many cases a new job: the seed grower. The knowledge and the expertise developed through the project: preparing the soil, sowing and harvesting following Conservation Farming methodologies, and processing the small grains into flour, allowed the farmers to get involved in farm business ensuring them higher incomes than before. For example: a bucket of Millet seeds (almost 5Kg) is currently sold at around 2-3 usd, the same amount of seeds processed into flour is sold at around 6-8 usd.

A new job: the seed grower Thanks to the skills acquired during the project, farmers are able to produce locally the seeds necessary for the coming seasons. They are now independent from seed companies and a new job has been created: the seed grower.
Sustainable food production improves lives During the project, farmers developed new skills in preparing the soil, sowing and harvesting following Conservation Farming methodologies, and processing the small grains into flour. They can now produce enough food for their households and are involved in farm business, ensuring them higher incomes than before.

The beneficiaries are 10,000 small scale farmers living in the dry areas of East Zimbabwe, at risk of desertification, where more than 80% of the rural population lives below the poverty line. Before the intervention the beneficiaries were mostly living on subsistence farming due to the recurrent drought, production mismanagement and the absence of investments of the Government. The 60% of the beneficiaries are women headed households, looking and supporting orphans and/or caring people with Hiv/Aids. Almost 100% of the beneficiaries belongs to the minorities of Ndebele and Tonga.

The professional support of the agronomists During the whole implementation of the project, farmers have been supported by expert agronomists
Women at the core of development The majority of farmers involved in the projects are women: they have been involved in trainings on topics as sustainable agriculture, irrigation systems, crop diversification and commercialization.

The staff involved locally in the project is formed by:
- one Project Coordinator (G. Amato) employed by COSV. He is an Italian agronomist, he has been working in the development (Food Security) in different countries since 2001.
- one Project Manager (B. Shinda) employed by Lead Trust (local ngo partner of the project). He's a Zimbabwean Agriculture Engineer in charge of coordinating the agronomists and field activities.
- two agronomists (N.Skue and F.Moyo) employed by Lead Trust they are the two field technicians and agricultural experts.
- one administrator (R. Mishi) employed by COSV in charge of the accountability and administration of the project.
- one monitoring specialist (K. Zemi) employed by Lead Trust in charge of the data collection and analysis.
- 5 auxiliary workers (secretary, driver, security guards) employed by COSV.

Project agronomist with farmers The continuative and professional presence of the technical staff has contributed to the empowerment of the farmers.
The Project Team Part of project Team at Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), with COSV HQ staff.

The main difficult as in many project lies in the capacity of the local staff to induce a "change of attitude". After many years being neglected from government and after long time spent receiving foreign food aids, the population became used to think at themselves as unlucky people without any chance of developing local initiatives. The project started with this background and had to work hardly on the sense of ownership of the beneficiaries and of the non-beneficiaries to create the basis for sustainability and real development. Following the very good results achieved after the first 2 years, the project staff decided to build structures to enhance the marketing of the products produced by the farmers and to involve them directly in the construction with their money. Part of the beneficiaries contributed in cash and organized them in an Association becoming the real owner of project and eliminating their complex of inferiority.

A Farm House for the newborn association A Farm House has been built for the newborn farmers’ association. The farmers organized a fundraising to contribute in cash to the construction. An opening ceremony has been organized to officially deliver the keys to the Farmers' Representative.

The adoption of the Conservation Farming is a key point of the project. The area is mainly sandy with problems of imminent desertification. Adopting conservative methods allow saving soil from erosion, restoring the natural fertility whiles maximizing the use of the available rainwater. The use of mulching, the adoption of crop rotation, the arrangement of the soil in basins and the extensive use of manure are all Conservative techniques that caused an increase of productivity and an improved health of the crops. All the techniques were taught to the Contact Farmers with a Training of Trainers methodology in order to spread the skills acquired to others farmers in a cascade process. The project was concentrated therefore on environment protecting activities and to compensate some activities of the population (tree cutting for cooking for example) and the desertification the project promoted the setting up of two forest nurseries.



Conservation of endogenous plants To face the risks of desertification, Conservation Farming methodologies have been applied. Forest nurseries have been set to promote a responsible use of natural resources.

The Project sustained and promoted the official registration of the Association of Farmers (Jaspro) with its Headquarters in the recently built Farm House equipped with machinery to process Millet and Sorghum into flour. The Association is formed by about 6,000 farmers who will continue the activities of producing, processing and selling following the guidelines given during the years of the project. Moreover the governmental agriculture officers (AGRITEX) are currently taking advantage of the net of Contact Farmers created by the project as a means of diffusion of good practices to other farmers: this will allow a continuous and deeper penetration of the training contents into the population of Hwange District, creating a virtuous multiplier effect of the good practices.

Community meeting of the newborn association The Association is formed by an orientative number of 6,000 households who are willing to continue follow the guidelines given during the project.

A part from the normal training session the project performed several initiatives in order to disseminate the skills but also in order to grow a feeling of ownership and togetherness. The Field days: events during which the farmers opened their plots to the public and shared lesson learnt, good practices and challenges. The Seed Shows: public events where the whole population is called to display its products, they have represented the most important event of the year for many people of the Districts. The events grew year by year involving local authorities, community leaders, farmers, and even people coming from outside the districts. In some locations not included in the project farmers have independently organized Seed Show (spillover effect). Another initiative was the participation to Trade Fairs where farmers displayed their products and were awarded for their agricultural performances. The farmers’ stand was visited by president Mugabe and by the EU Ambassador Dell’Arriccia.

The Project at Zimbabwe International Trade Fair Farmers and project staff participated to the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), to present the methodologies applied and the project results. The European Union's Ambassador to Zimbabwe, H.E. Aldo Dell’Ariccia, visited the farmers’ stand.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Tanya Muzinda ambassador for food security project Tanya Muzinda, the first Zimbabwean female motocross champion in history, is Ambassador for the Food Security project! “For the EU it means that we are able to help a courageous Zimbabwean girl fulfil her dream and develop her career as a champion”, stated EU Head of Delegation in Zimbabwe, Aldo Dell’Ariccia, during the EU Day. “It also gives visibility to an excellent project that, thanks to the commitment of the farmers and the communities, has transformed an area which was totally dependent on external food aid into an area that can now export grains and that can even process its grains into the much appreciated flour for red millet sadza”.