Mwenezi district is located in the South Eastern area of Zimbabwe and characterized by low rainfall and high temperature. Most households depend on agricultural production. However, the economic and humanitarian situation has deteriorated since 2008. Poor harvest caused by both excessive rainfall causing flash floods, and drought, has increased need for food assistance and has also negatively impacted the psychosocial wellbeing.
Lutheran Development Service (LDS) Zimbabwe work in the area with development and resilience, building upon existing community resources and capacities, frameworks of equity and “do no harm”, and recognizing the importance of implementing psychosocial programs through a complementary, integrated and multi-sectoral approach.
LDS engaged the community in assessing their needs and find suitable interventions. In conjunction, the community was given training in community-based psychosocial support (CBPS) to see how they could have an active role in resolving their needs.
The community leaders, child protection committees, caregivers, youth leadership, men, and women took part in the training and the mapping. The CBPS training encouraged all community structures and community members to be pro-active in the process. The community then found a need to commit to saving themselves and the most vulnerable group affected by shocks. The group of orphans was considered to be most vulnerable and was growing in number. The orphans and abandoned children were a result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, but continued to grow because of poverty. Family members were forced to leave the community in search of survival resources, looking for work in South Africa or engaging in commercial sex. When the family members returned to the community, the HIV was further spread, increasing the number of orphans, single parent and child headed families. The children were exposed to child marriages, early pregnancies or child labour.
The community identified a nutrition garden as an immediate project that could be embarked to alleviate some of the stresses. A garden with a shared water source could be used for livestock drinking, irrigating the garden, as well as sustain other community chores. LDS supported with materials, such as fence, tools and start seeds in the establishment of the kitchen garden. The 1-hectare garden was opened to 57 participants, 47 female, and 10 male, and received water from Chingami dam. The establishment of the garden encourages community members to participate, including the affected groups’ youth and children. Direct benefiting households enjoyed the immediate profits and nutrition from the product, while the community at large got access to buying fresh products. The participants additionally engaged in a saving a lending association, improving their savings and income base.
The participants set out a portion of the garden where they work, where the gain supported the orphans within the community. The local leadership, the child protection committees, and the garden participants have monitored and assessed the project, and its effect on the children. School staff working with child protection have been trained in CBPS to assist in the monitoring process. Cases with a need of further assistance have been referred to counselling, or to social welfare or child units.