• It takes courage and determination to pick up life’s pieces and stitch them together when everything seems to be going west, and there is no one to turn to.

    A women’s group in Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo, is giving women in different challenging situations a second chance at life. Named Sizimele Sodwa, or “We stand alone,” the women’s group grows vegetables to sell to supermarkets.

    Nomalanga Gumede is one of the group members who practice urban gardening in the city group. The group was formed in February 2013. Mrs Gumede joined the group in August 2014, four months after losing her job. She lives in the densely-populated Sizinda, a suburb in Bulawayo. Having worked at a clothing manufacturer for more than a decade, when Gumede lost her job, she was devastated. But ever since, she has relied on vegetable farming to make ends meet for her and her four children following the death of her husband in 2012.

    “I found it difficult to support my children after losing my job [and] before applying to join this [vegetable] scheme … I tried many things like selling airtime, but it all failed,” she recalls. “I then decided to try urban gardening by joining the urban farming club [in my area],” Barza Wire reported.

    The women who plant a variety of vegetables including onions, carrots, tomatoes, and potatoes, make weekly supply to big supermarkets in the locality. The women make $1.09 per a kilogram of onions and $0.79 for a kilogram of tomatoes.

    In a good month, Gumede takes home about $200 after sharing the profits with five other group members.

    How it works

    In a bid to support their families, the women set up the self-help farming project, with the help of an NGO, that provided technical assistance and training to the women. They started with $500 capital. They also got a donation in the form of a borehole.

    Every morning, members like Gumede fetch water from the borehole that is located a few hundred meters from the garden to water their vegetables.

    It is not always smooth, Jane Ngwenya, a founding member of the group says. According to her, urban market gardening has its set of challenges: “It is labor-intensive because we use buckets to fetch water from a borehole to water our gardens. For example, to water one bed of onions, one has to make 10 trips to the borehole.”

    When it comes to finding markets for their crops, it’s also difficult, but she tells Barza Wire that she has no regrets about joining the women’s farming group.

    Nesisa Mpofu is the senior public relations officer for Bulawayo City Council. She acknowledges the importance of the boreholes in helping residents like those in the women’s farming club to use the nearby land for farming and other activities.

    As for urban farming, Ayanda Tshuma, an agricultural expert in Bulawayo says it is important to urban residents’ lives and needs to be promoted and protected. He adds: “It is also an opportunity for enterprising residents to augment their income, and also for households to access cheaper vegetables.”

    One of the future plans for the group is to expand their business. The group is aware that the current space is not enough: “If we can get a plot, our lives will drastically change. Our plan is to raise enough monies to be able to buy a plot—or at least rent one,” Gumede explains. Her heartfelt gratitude goes to the city council for the land they are currently using and to the group that has afforded her an opportunity to send her children to school.

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