Promoting women’s agricultural literacy for improved food security

Empowering women farmers can serve as a transformative tool to boost food production, while engaging women as leaders and agents of change in decision-making can engender a much-needed paradigm shift in the discourse on food security.

Such are the stories of Betty Shumba, a mother of two who resides in ward 13 Mwenezi district, and Mejury Mureri, a single mother of four from Chiredzi district. The duo benefitted under the USAID-BHA funded Integrated livelihoods project that was implemented in the two districts last year.

Like most of women in their communities, Betty and Merjury survived on farming. Their capacity to farm successfully and feed their families was crippled by financial incapacitation, lack of professional farming knowledge and climate change effects in the area.Through lead farmer trainings from the project, they were equipped with knowledge about smart agricultural practices and supported with resources to kick start poultry projects.

The women received fowl run building materials, small grain seed input, chicken feed and 15 (day-old) chicks, and were selected as lead farmers. As lead farmers they attended trainings along with their male counterparts in the project and were trained on small grain production, poultry production, feed formulation, climate smart agriculture and good agricultural practices.

“The project came as a ray of hope for my family because now I can sustain my family nutritionally from the eggs we are picking since the hens started laying eggs. I pick 8 to 10 eggs per day, and I sell some while we consume some. My children enjoy nutritious meals made from the eggs and we also supplement our diet with the meat,” bubbly Merjury said.

“The poultry project has transformed our household nutrition is a great way. My family is now able to enjoy eggs and meat, and we now have a diversified diet. I have hatched more than 56 chicks from the project and realised R500 from selling eggs,” Betty said.

From the 15 chicks the duo received under the project, they have been rearing hens following recommended livestock practices which include brooding and vaccination from common diseases such as Newcastle.

Being role models in their respective districts, Betty and Merjury cascaded training information down to their villages, educating more women in their communities about agriculture and nutrition to improve food security.

Betty’s quest for promoting agricultural literacy did not end with the Integrated Livelihoods project alone. When the Food Assistance (FA) project which is being implemented by Nutrition Action Zimbabwe in partnership with Action Contre LaFaim (ACF) Zimbabwe with funding from French Embassy came in her district, she took up the leadership role again to lead mothers from her village and cascaded down agricultural information to them.

Under the (FA) project, lead mothers and farmers were given seed input to establish their nutrition gardens. Betty also received the seed inputs and planted leafy covo, spinach, onion, garlic, carrots, tomatoes. As a lead farmer, she is using her keyhole demo gardens as a practical example to lead mothers in the community.

Due to water scarcity in the area, Betty adopted the Keyhole Garden structure because it doesn’t need much water and one can plant and harvest more veggies in a small piece of land. She is currently harvesting the vegetables and drying them for later consumption and selling surplus.

The mother of two is taking the role of lead farmer seriously as she is cascading information about good agricultural practices and the nutritional benefit of the household gardens to lead mothers.

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