HIV/AIDS In Zimbabwe
HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe has become prevalent, mainly due to unprotected sexual transmission. The U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe reported that in 2020 there were “approximately 1.23 million adults in Zimbabwe living with HIV.” Zimbabwe has the sixth-highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world, considering that the nation has roughly 31,000 new infections annually. However, despite the common misconception, the high rate of HIV/AIDS does not stem only from sexual activity. High case rates have become common among children as infected mothers pass HIV/AIDS on to their kids during childbirth. Organizations are working to reduce the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe.

What is HIV/AIDS?

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) “is a virus that attacks cells that help the body fight infection, making a person more vulnerable to other infections and diseases.” When an HIV/infected person goes without treatment, the condition can develop into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a “late stage of HIV infection that occurs when the body’s immune system is badly damaged because of the virus.” There is no cure for HIV/AIDS to this day, despite extensive research since the virus was initially identified in 1981. However, by taking antiretroviral drugs, people “can live long and healthy lives and prevent transmitting HIV to their sexual partners” and children.

Action to Address HIV/AIDs in Zimbabwe

The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) supports an HIV/AIDs program in Zimbabwe that began in 2004. In 2019, the program achieved a milestone, extending the reach of antiretroviral treatment coverage to 82% coverage for infected men and 88% coverage for women. In 2017, a UNICEF-led HIV program helped achieve the target of “ensuring that 80% of pregnant women, new-born, children and adolescents have equitable access to cost-effective and quality health interventions and practice.” With the support of organizations, overall, Zimbabwe has had success in “expanding access to HIV testing and treatment, including prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) and lowering HIV prevalence.”

Data from the Zimbabwe Population-based HIV Impact Assessment survey (ZIMPHIA 2020) shows the nation’s progress. The survey indicates that almost 87% of HIV-infected adults knew their status. In addition, of the population “aware of their status,” 97% were receiving antiretroviral treatment. Finally, “among those on treatment, 90.3% achieved viral load suppression,” meaning they are now unable to transmit the disease to other people. With this progress, Zimbabwe is on its way to achieving the UNAIDS target of eradicating AIDS by 2030.

Looking Ahead

Although HIV/AIDS has been a significant public health crisis in Zimbabwe for quite some time, the government is taking the necessary steps to reduce its prevalence. Increasing diagnosis rates have set off a chain reaction in Zimbabwe as people seek the necessary treatments and educate themselves on the condition and preventative measures to protect themselves and others. There is still much work that needs to occur, however, the country is doing its part to safeguard the lives of its citizens through early detection measures and access to treatment.

– Sara Jordan Ruttert
Photo: Flickr

Reduce Food Insecurity in ZimbabweEsnath Divasoni is changing the game when it comes to how the world thinks about food and sustainability. The 33-year-old rural Zimbabwean “edible-insect farmer” is promoting the cultivation of crickets and other types of insects as a source of nutrition and sustenance that could help reduce food insecurity in Zimbabwe and across sub-Saharan Africa.

Divasoni’s Education

Divasoni’s journey to becoming an insect farming expert is a long and impressive one. Thanks to CAMFED, a pan-African non-governmental organization that campaigns for marginalized females to receive strong educations, Divasoni was able to attend secondary school. CAMFED also enabled her to later attend EARTH University in Costa Rica.

She was the first person from her village to travel abroad to receive an education. EARTH University served as a jumping-off point for Divasoni, who studied agricultural sciences at the school in San José, Costa Rica. There, she discovered the potential of insects in combating food insecurity in developing nations.

Divasoni grew up collecting insects in plastic bags and picking worms from trees around her family’s farm. Loving the taste of insects herself, she began to research how she could turn bugs into a reliable food source. She has since received funding from The Resolution Project, a nonprofit that funds, mentors and supports young leaders with global, innovative ideas, for her project that she calls Jumping Protein.

Why Crickets?

The practice of harvesting crickets brings with it a plethora of benefits, the primary benefit being nutritional value. More protein-rich than beef or chicken and low in fat, 100-200 grams of crickets can feed and nourish a family of four to five. With Divasoni’s market rate of $1 for a 50-gram pack, Divasoni’s cricket endeavor brings in an income to reduce poverty all while aiding those suffering from food insecurity in Zimbabwe.

Unlike locusts, since crickets are incapable of flight and have many natural predators, increasing the number of crickets in a local ecosystem does not pose any biological risks. Locust plagues can decimate crops, a phenomenon well-known in Africa, but with crickets, the risk level is much lower. Cricket farming is both cost and space-efficient, and in addition, cricket excrement can be used as fertilizer.

Divasoni’s cricket farm is now up and running. She has around 20 plastic washing tubs, which she uses as feeding containers for the insects. The bugs take between five and eight weeks to mature, at which point Divasoni collects their eggs for the next cycle before harvesting around one kilogram of crickets per tub.

The Potential Impact

Food insecurity in Zimbabwe is a pressing issue, especially in the country’s rural areas. In 2019, estimates from the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee calculated that roughly 5.5 million people in Zimbabwe’s rural areas were food insecure during the countries peak “lean season,” which occurs between planting and harvesting periods.

Through insects, Divasoni hopes to alleviate the hardship of food insecurity that afflicts millions who grow up in rural villages. Since the project is in its earlier stages, data is limited on the full impact of the Jumping Protein initiative. There is plenty of room and opportunity for growth across Zimbabwe and beyond. The “global edible insect market” is estimated to reach close to $8 billion by the year 2030.

Divasoni is multiplying her impact through teaching with the help of CAMFED. She is one of the core trainers in the CAMFED Agricultural Guide program, which has led hundreds of training sessions in eight rural districts across Zimbabwe. These sessions specifically focus on women, empowering them with innovative farming techniques like insect farming. All of the resources needed to start a farm like Divasoni’s are available locally for many Zimbabwean farmers.

Looking to the Future

Practices and innovations like cricket farming could revolutionize the entire concept of agriculture in areas with high food insecurity in Zimbabwe. Thanks to various nonprofits that invest in global aid in underserved areas, Divasoni was able to make Jumping Protein a reality. Through the perfect blend of agricultural education, local knowledge and commitment to her community, this project has the potential to feed an entire nation.

– Sam Dils
Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in ZimbabweThe COVID-19 pandemic tremendously affected the lives of children in Zimbabwe. From food and health insecurities to school shutdowns, the children of this nation are in an economic, health and educational crisis. According to the World Bank, in 2019, 38.3% of  Zimbabwe’s citizens lived in poverty. Moreover, since schools closed down in Zimbabwe due to COVID-19, only 27% of impoverished children continued to engage in education and learning. However, nonprofit organizations such as Makomborero and Save the Children are taking the initiative of tackling child poverty in Zimbabwe amid COVID-19. These nonprofits offer hope for positive change through their praiseworthy work.

Makomborero’s Work

Makomborero focuses on eradicating poverty in Zimbabwe. This organization specifically tailors toward the needs of Zimbabwean children. It allocates the necessary educational resources to enable students to achieve their educational goals and ultimately escape poverty. Makomborero, meaning “blessings” in Shona, provides girls with an opportunity to engage in a mentorship program. The organization also funds the education of 10 students every year through its scholarship program. Recently, the organization built a science laboratory for students. Children got to practice and apply what they learned in a modern lab.

Despite the challenges brought about by COVID-19, Makomborero successfully persevered. This nonprofit organization was able to lift children out of poverty in myriad ways. Makomborero’s team donated “backpacks, lunch boxes, water bottles, toiletries, stationery, hand sanitizer, masks, solar lamps and food packs” to students on March 20, 2021. Additionally, 80 girls were also given “sustainable sanitary wear” due to Makomborero’s outreach efforts. As of September 2020, the organization’s sponsored students were able to attend in-person classes, thus increasing access to and quality of education.

Save the Children’s Efforts

Save the Children is an international nonprofit organization focused on reducing child poverty in Zimbabwe and other nations amid COVID-19. The nonprofit provides both short-term and long-term solutions. It has served children in Zimbabwe since 1983 by addressing the urgent food, health and educational insecurities nationwide. For example, Save the Children constructed a family tracing and reunification program to ensure the safety of Zimbabwean children. Furthermore, its emergency response program provides highly effective emergency relief aid to all children in Zimbabwe.

In 2020 alone, Save the Children positively impacted the lives of 246,000 children by allocating educational, health and other necessary resources to lift them out of poverty. Moreover, the child sponsorship program attempts to decrease the number of children living in poverty, which is currently more than 3.8 million Zimbabwean children, according to Save the Children.

Positive Progression and Outcomes

Save the Children educated 82,000 Zimbabwean children and lifted 31,000 children from poverty, according to its recorded data from 2020.. In general, approximately one million children are sponsored by U.S. citizens alone through this child sponsorship program. The positive progression of lifting children out of poverty in Zimbabwe, especially amid COVID-19, translates over to the achievements of the Makomborero organization as well.

These organizations address the urgent short-term needs of children in Zimbabwe along with long-term endeavors. The organizations are succeeding in eradicating child poverty in Zimbabwe amid COVID-19. Nonprofit organizations such as Makomborero and Save the Children play essential roles in lifting children out of poverty in Zimbabwe. The positive progression of Zimbabwean children since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic continues because of the applaudable service of organizations.

– Nora Zaim-Sassi
Photo: Flickr

hunger and povertyPresident Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe announced that the government has committed itself to end hunger and poverty in the country by expanding and improving its agricultural strategies. The president made this announcement at a United Pre-Food Systems Summit Dialogue hosted by the president of Malawi. Zimbabwe was one of many African countries that receive representation at the Summit.

Hunger in Zimbabwe

In the past two decades, farmers in Zimbabwe have struggled to feed the entire nation. In 2014, Africa Renewal reported that 2001 was “the last time Zimbabwe produced enough maize to meet its needs.” The reason for the lack of substantial produce is a deficit of financial support for the agriculture system in the country.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened the inconsistency of agricultural produce. This is prevalent in the recovery of agriculture as a result of improved control of COVID-19 cases in the country. Food inflation during May 2021 was at 179% and records determined that prices were at a 0% to 20% decrease, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Progress Toward Ending Hunger

While the agriculture industry in Zimbabwe may be on the mend since the pandemic, there is still work that needs to occur. For example, 2021’s Global Report on Food Crises has found that there has been no recent progress toward the goal of reaching “zero hunger” in the world by 2030.

This is one of the motivating factors behind President Mnangagwa’s decision to end hunger and poverty in Zimbabwe. He claims that Zimbabwe’s best strategy requires that “institutions of higher learning must be roped in to offer innovation that climate-proofs the vital agriculture sector,” as the Zimbabwe Chronicle reported.

Higher-learning institutions can provide farmers and agricultural members with the knowledge of how to better cultivate the food they need. The institutions can also give resources for financial assistance, equipment access, lessons on nutrition and strengthening strategies within Zimbabwe’s food systems. With this strategy, the president believes that the agriculture system in Zimbabwe will be able to grow.

Boosting Zimbabwe’s Economy

As evidence suggests, the growth of agriculture and food systems in Zimbabwe is the key to boosting the entire economy. President Mnangagwa explains that “the present economic blueprint” and the country’s agriculture and food systems development plans “situates the agriculture sector as having a critical role in the overall development and growth of the economy.” He says further, “This is anchored on food and nutrition security, import substitution, exports generation, employment creation and the raising of household incomes.”

The positive development of agriculture in Zimbabwe is the key to ending hunger and poverty throughout the country. Agriculture provides citizens with food security and boosts the economy with exports, sales and employment. Thus, if the president’s plan falls into place as described, it could bring about a positive change for Zimbabwe, contributing to reduced global hunger and poverty.

– Riley Prillwitz
Photo: pixabay

Poverty in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe was once a rising economy in Africa, with its mining and agricultural industries propelling the country forward. However, Zimbabweans now struggle with war, internal corruption, hyperinflation and industrial mismanagement. A closer look at the country provides insight into the context of poverty in Zimbabwe.

8 Facts About Poverty in Zimbabwe

  1. Poverty affects 76.3% of Zimbabwean children living in rural areas as of 2020.
  2. Roughly 74% of the population lives on less than  $5.50 a day and the average wage per month is $253.
  3. Half of Zimbabwe’s 13.5 million people live below the food poverty line and about 3.5 million children are chronically hungry.
  4. Approximately 1.3 million Zimbabweans were living with HIV as of 2016. However, the number of HIV cases has been declining since 1997 because of improvements in prevention, treatment and support services.
  5. About 60% of rural Zimbabwean women face period poverty, meaning they lack access to menstrual supplies or education. Girls who experience period poverty miss an estimated 20% of their school life.
  6. Due to famine and the HIV/AIDS crisis, the average life expectancy for a Zimbabwean was only 61 years as of 2018. However, life expectancy has steadily risen since 2002 when it was only 44 years.
  7. In 2019, two million Zimbabweans had no access to safe drinking water due to the impacts of drought.
  8. The government allocates a significant portion of the national budget toward education. As a result, Zimbabwe’s adult literacy rate is 89%, one of the highest in Africa.

Why Poverty is Rampant in Zimbabwe

Since Zimbabwe gained its independence in 1980, its economy has primarily depended on its mining and agricultural industries. Zimbabwe’s mining industry has immense potential as the country is home to the Great Dyke, the second-largest platinum deposit globally. Additionally, Zimbabwe has more than 4,000 gold deposits.

However, the country’s mining sector is inefficient — its gold output dropped 30% in the first quarter of 2021. While illegal gold mining hurts the industry, Zimbabwe’s lax mining licensing laws also allow foreign companies to mine minerals at cheap costs for years on end, leading to a lack of incentive to accelerate mineral production.

Furthermore, the Zimbabwean government’s decision to support the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the Second Congo War drained its bank reserves, alienated its allies and caused the U.S. and the EU to impose sanctions. Subsequently, Zimbabwe’s economy collapsed. As a result, the government began printing more money, leading to widespread hyperinflation of the Zimbabwean dollar.

NGOs Combating Poverty in Zimbabwe

The situation in Zimbabwe is improving. In 2021, Zimbabwe’s GDP could potentially grow by nearly 3% thanks to increased agricultural production, increased energy production and the resumption of manufacturing and construction activities. Unemployment rates will likely continue to decrease. The rebound is primarily due to increased vaccination efforts, with China providing two million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the country.

In addition, multiple NGOs are fighting poverty in Zimbabwe. For example, Talia’s Women’s Network seeks to end period poverty in the country’s rural areas by helping 250 girls gain access to menstrual products. The project also seeks to provide the girls both with an understanding of the menstrual process and with access to support structures to combat early childhood marriage, gender-based violence and unwanted pregnancies.

Another organization, Action Change, supplies lunch to 400 primary students in Zimbabwe. It also works to break the cycle of poverty by providing resources for education. Zimbabwe spends 93% of the estimated $905 million it allocates toward education on employment costs, leaving only about 7% of the budget for classroom resources. Action Change provides schools with resources such as textbooks.

American Foundation for Children with AIDS helps 3,000 children and guardians who have AIDS by providing them with livestock and food self-sufficiency training. Meanwhile, the organization also provides resources and training to fight food insecurity and ensure that children eat well.

Stimulating the Agriculture Industry

The key to reducing poverty in Zimbabwe is stimulating the country’s agricultural industry. Nearly 66% of Zimbabweans rely on their small farms for survival. However, great inequality in water access exists between the country’s many small farms and few large commercial farms. Equality in water access would increase productivity and income for small farmers. A revitalization of the agricultural sector would spur economic growth and alleviate poverty in Zimbabwe.

Although the country still has barriers to conquer to truly eradicate poverty, it also has immense potential to become an African superpower.

Matthew Port Louis
Photo: Flickr

The Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in ZimbabweThe effects of COVID-19 have been felt throughout the world. However, countries that were already experiencing poverty and health disparities are in worse shape now. Zimbabwe is one particular country that is struggling with the COVID-19 crisis. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Zimbabwe “further complicates Zimbabwe’s economic and social conditions.” With global aid and support, Zimbabwe can successfully recover from the effects of the pandemic.

COVID-19’s Economic Impact on Zimbabwe

According to a June 2021 economic analysis conducted by the World Bank, the number of  Zimbabweans living in extreme poverty increased to 7.9 million in 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study also reveals that the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Zimbabwe escalated extreme poverty overall to almost 50% in 2020. The COVID-19 crisis has also impacted basic public services in the areas of “health, education and social protection.”

Prior to the pandemic, poverty in Zimbabwe was already on the rise. In 2011, the number of Zimbabweans living in poverty increased from three million people to 6.6 million people in 2019. Before COVID-19, rising fuel and food prices contributed to the rising level of poverty in the country. However, the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Zimbabwe has only exacerbated the dire circumstances with increased job losses and reduced household income.

It was reported that at least 30% of formal jobs within the country were lost due to the increasing number of COVID-19 restrictions. The country has lost roughly $1 billion from a lack of tourism. Zimbabwe still has restrictions at hotspots such as Mashonaland West, Masvingo and Bulawayo provinces. Intense restrictions require businesses in these areas to trade until 3 p.m. instead of 6 p.m. Limited trading hours economically impact the revenue of businesses.

Avoiding Another Lockdown

As Zimbabwe prepared to enter a third wave of the pandemic, another nationwide lockdown seemed unavoidable. The president of the Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz), Israel Murefu, warns that another lockdown would have a disastrous impact on the economy. Due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, businesses have suffered nationwide and Zimbabweans suffered extreme job losses.

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Zimbabwe has left its mark on the country. The rising level of unemployed Zimbabweans has caused a spike in extreme poverty cases. Murefu states that “adapting production processes to the new normal requires a huge capital outlay and takes time,” adding that the country should avoid another lockdown.

Global Assistance

Aside from internal changes that need to occur such as the government creating policies that will protect the impoverished and provide resources to people hit hardest by the pandemic, aid from world superpowers would help Zimbabwe get back on track.

Zimbabwe is experiencing a significant shortage of vaccines. As cases continue to rise, it is more important than ever that the global community steps in to help. It was reported that China would be providing Zimbabwe with 2.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of June 2021. As more people receive vaccinations, COVID-19 restrictions can ease and Zimbabwe can find its way to economic recovery.

Zimbabwe has reported more than 43,000 COVID-19 cases as of June 24, 2021. As cases continue to rise, the Zimbabwean government has committed to improves its COVID-19 awareness campaigns across the country in order to help reduce the spread of cases. A reduced burden of COVID-19 cases will decrease the economic burden stemming from strained healthcare services in the country.

It is also important for other countries and international players to provide more vaccine doses to Zimbabwe. Being that the country is unable to acquire enough resources to combat COVID-19, the generosity of other countries will help Zimbabwe regain stability. Though the recovery of Zimbabwe’s economy and job market will take time, recovery progress will accelerate if the global community is able to reach out a helping hand and share resources.

– Jordyn Gilliard
Photo: Flickr

solar-powered tricycleZimbabwe is one of the most impoverished countries in the world. After years under the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe, and with the added impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of Zimbabweans living in extreme poverty peaked at 7.9 million in 2020, equating to almost 49% of the population. In the rural Zimbabwean district of Wedza, a solar-powered tricycle scheme is helping women improve their living standards. The scheme was started in 2019 by a Zimbabwean startup called Mobility for Africa to promote community-based transport solutions for rural communities. Mobility for Africa leases solar-powered tricycles to groups of Zimbabwean women.

A Tricycle Scheme for Women

The groups of women consist of up to five members and pay $15 a month as a group to lease a solar-powered tricycle. The solar-powered tricycle called “Hamba” rotates from one group member to another. To change the battery of the tricycle, which functions on solar power, costs up to $1. The tricycle transport solution allows women to sell their farm produce at markets a distance from their homes. It also allows them to offer transport service to locals and carry out domestic duties with more ease. According to one of the coordinators of the solar-powered tricycle scheme, women have even been able to increase their incomes because they are now able to engage in income-producing activities like baking and tailoring.

According to U.N. Women, females engage in “at least two and a half times more unpaid household and care work than men.” As a consequence, women have less time to engage in paid work that would bring in an income and help women rise out of poverty. Mobility for Africa’s solar-powered tricycle scheme recognizes that giving Zimbabwean women access to affordable transport solutions can empower women and help reduce poverty as it gives women an opportunity to increase household income.

Community Model and COVID-19

By using a community model, Mobility for Africa provides a clean energy transport solution to women facing poverty in Africa. The community model of the solar-powered tricycle scheme has enabled women with farms in rural Zimbabwe to increase their income by selling produce in markets that were previously too far to reach. The solar-powered tricycles have also made household chores less time-consuming. For example, women no longer have to walk long distances carrying heavy firewood back home.

The community model pursued by Mobility for Africa has helped people in the Wedza district during the COVID-19 pandemic. A nationwide decrease in household income is one of the most significant economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The solar-powered tricycle scheme has allowed women in the Wedza district to contribute to increasing household income during the pandemic. The scheme has also been important in ensuring rural communities receive essential health services. The tricycles are often used to transport people to health clinics and collect medicines for patients.

Increasing women’s access to paid labor goes hand-in-hand with reducing global poverty. Women, especially in developing countries, are more vulnerable to poverty. Empowering women means recognizing the fact that women play a significant role in reducing global poverty. Mobility for Africa’s Hamba scheme is one example of how private companies can contribute to the fight against global poverty.

Frank Odhiambo
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Food Insecurity in Zimbabwe
Rates of food insecurity in Zimbabwe have been on the rise since the COVID-19 pandemic began in the fall of 2019. Internationally, food prices have increased by about 38% since January 2020. Some household food staples, including corn and wheat-based products, have increased by as much as 80%. The World Food Programme (WFP), an organization that supplies aid for countries struggling with malnourishment, estimated that by April 2021, an additional 111 million people would be malnourished because of COVID-19. For Zimbabwe, a country already facing large amounts of food insecurity before the pandemic, the increase in food prices has only added stress to its acute hunger crisis.

Food Insecurity in Zimbabwe

Voice of America (VOA) recently reviewed a report from the government of Zimbabwe on the country’s rising food insecurity. The report revealed that about 2.4 million Zimbabweans who were not food-insecure pre-pandemic are now struggling with food insecurity. The food scarcity problem is especially difficult for members of Zimbabwe’s urban communities. In urban centers, misinformation about the virus was rampant during its initial spread. Many urban Zimbabweans received conflicting information about COVID-19, increasing the number of cases.

Like many sub-Saharan African countries, Zimbabwe also struggled to counter the virus because healthcare facilities are typically under-resourced or too expensive for many residents. Many urban Zimbabweans lost their jobs during the peak of COVID-19 and have struggled to find consistent work since, only increasing the cases of food insecurity.

Although international aid organizations and the government of Zimbabwe have indicated that plans are emerging to help combat the growing hunger crisis, many Zimbabweans have taken matters into their own hands. The way they are fighting food insecurity is by growing mushrooms.

Mushroom Growing in Zimbabwe

One Zimbabwean who lost his factory job during the pandemic, Murambiwa Simon Mushongorokwa, said that growing mushrooms was keeping him and his family members afloat. “I used to get about $30 a week. It was not enough for my needs. But when the lockdown came, it got worse, until I started growing mushrooms. It’s slowly improving my life,” said Mushongorowka.

Others are following Mushongorokwa’s lead. Several nonprofit organizations, including the World Food Programme (WFP), have begun teaching other Zimbabweans how to grow mushrooms. The Future of Hope is another such organization. The Future of Hope has been able to provide Zimbabweans with additional income that has improved their situation. Simon Julius Kufakwevanhu, an official from The Future of Hope, has been teaching about the benefits of mushroom farming. Kufakwevanhu stated that “Before the introduction of mushroom farming in this place, it was very tough for people in this community to survive because of the lockdowns and so forth. But when The Future of Hope brought in mushroom growing, it’s changing because you can now buy something, able to go to shops and buy mielie meal [coarse flour], sugar and so forth. Even if I fall sick I can go to the hospital after selling mushrooms.”

Mushroom growing has proven to be a viable way to fight food insecurity in Zimbabwe. According to the WFP, over 700 mothers have received training in the past few months. The process allows the mothers to grow their own mushrooms and to pull their families out of food insecurity. The WFP plans to expand the mushroom classes in the future.

– Grace Parker
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Zimbabwe
Poverty stretches beyond lack of food and water, as period poverty is one of the biggest challenges Zimbabwean women face. With more than 3 million girls in Zimbabwe menstruating, there is high demand for feminine products. Those most likely to experience period poverty in Zimbabwe are underprivileged girls whose parents or guardians cannot afford to buy tampons, pads or menstrual cups. A lack of access to feminine products results in the unhygienic use of rags and cow dung. This not only affects the girls’ health but also strips them of confidence and dignity.

Many girls in Zimbabwe are at risk of developing infections and suffering the embarrassment of leakages and discomfort. Sanitary products are overpriced, so families have to choose between purchasing feminine products or buying food, with most settling on the latter. As a result, period poverty in Zimbabwe has risen to unimaginable heights and incited the government and many nonprofit organizations to work tirelessly to mitigate this problem.

7 Facts About Period Poverty in Zimbabwe

  1. Clean period underwear for girls and women in Zimbabwe is in high demand. Many homeless and rural girls do not own a pair of underwear, and underwear is very expensive to buy. The price of underwear is very high, and many consider it a luxury to own a clean pair. Individual projects and nonprofit organizations, like Hope for a Child in Christ, try to meet some of these needs, but the demand remains high.
  2. Some girls and women experience menstrual cramps and also require pain relievers. However, many pharmacies sell their medication in foreign currency that is inaccessible to the majority of low-income families. Some girls resort to unhealthy solutions, such as sniffing glue, to intoxicate themselves and relieve the pain of period cramps. This causes many to end up addicted to these inhalants that result in long-term effects like nulling brain function and heart failure.
  3. Zimbabwe’s protracted economic crisis has severely damaged the country’s economic potential. Basic needs like food and water are scarce which significantly lowers the standard of living. Girls and women must eat healthily and wash, especially during their menstrual cycle. However, some have little to no access to clean water, most commonly in rural areas, so they risk getting yeast infections and other health issues.
  4. There is also a lack of female-friendly toilets. Privacy is an issue, with some toilet cubicles having no doors or sanitary bins, which results in the girls throwing their sanitary wear on the floor or flushing it down the toilet. This increases the risk of diseases developing in various communities and harms the environment. Local ministers have sought funding from the government and work with nonprofit organizations, like Dutch, to build more female-friendly public toilets at schools and shopping centers.
  5. A study by SNV Zimbabwe states that 72% of menstruating schoolgirls do not use sanitary pads because they cannot afford them. Sanitary wear production is low in Zimbabwe, so the women rely on the importation of the products. Many women activists have voiced their concerns in the hope to raise awareness and shift the government’s mind to provide young women and girls sanitary wear at a more affordable price or better yet, at no cost at all. In December 2018, the government removed the value-added tax, which lowered the price of sanitary wear.
  6. With period poverty comes a plethora of other problems, including period shaming and bullying. When young girls and women resort to the use of rags and other unsustainable solutions with little absorbency, leakages occur and stain the young girls’ clothing or school uniform. Girls are then embarrassed and fear being around certain family members and peers. This disadvantages their education and mental well-being. As a result, many talented young girls give up their dreams and settle for early child marriages.
  7. Education about menstrual hygiene and how to use different sanitary products is a requirement for girls. Volunteer teachers and nonprofit organizations, like Talia Women’s Network, make an effort to close the period poverty gap by providing workshops and demonstrations on how a girl should care for herself during her cycle.

A conducive environment is a requirement for young girls and women. An environment where period stigmatization is low to nonexistent gives girls a better chance to be confident and driven. Moving forward, it is essential that more organizations make reducing period poverty in Zimbabwe a priority.

Pamela Patsanza
Photo: Flickr

How Elizabeth Mpofu is Transforming Agriculture in ZimbabweElizabeth Mpofu’s workday begins before dawn, rising at four in the morning to sweep her fields and check on her cattle. She proclaims that this quiet stretch, when it’s just her and the task at hand, is her favorite part of the day. Yet, when the sun rises, the enormity of the work ahead becomes apparent. In Zimbabwe, a country where 76.3% of rural children live in poverty, a fundamental change is desperately needed. Now, Elizabeth Mpofu is transforming agriculture in Zimbabwe.

Mpofu is an organic farmer and activist. With a focus on gender equality and agroecology, she is fighting to transform the landscape of agriculture in Zimbabwe. For Mpofu, this begins with one key distinction — food security versus food sovereignty.

Food Sovereignty Versus Food Security

Agriculture in Zimbabwe is geared toward food security. According to an interview with Holding Our Ground, Voices for Food Sovereignty, Mpofu wants to change this focus to food sovereignty.

Advocates for food security aim to put food in the marketplace and on the table. However, this does not account for the quality of that sustenance, the sustainability of its production and the people’s relationship with what they consume. On the other hand, food sovereignty emphasizes people’s personal ownership over what they grow and eat, as well as the cultivation of sustainable, locally-grown foods. For instance, if giving a woman a fish is food security, teaching her to fish is food sovereignty.

Mpofu argues that the current state of agriculture in Zimbabwe, which places profit over all else, yields homogenous, mass-produced food that is not as nutritious as what a small-scale farmer might grow on their own land. As a result, many impoverished Zimbabweans are being fed but not nourished. According to UNICEF, nearly one in three children in Zimbabwe under the age of 5 are malnourished.

In 2007, Mpofu took the first step toward shifting her community’s focus to food sovereignty when she co-founded a nonprofit, Zimbabwe Organic Smallholder Farmers’ Forum (ZIMSOFF).

Planting Traditional Seeds

Among many of its functions, ZIMSOFF advocates for the use and protection of traditional seeds. The organization gave rise to the Zimbabwe Seed Sovereignty Programme, which has established seed banks, seed fairs and raises awareness of the importance of cultivating food that is native to the land. Such crops include rapoko (a type of millet), groundnuts and peanuts. These traditional crops are more drought-resistant and more suitable for the soil than those brought to the country by foreign entities.

Empowering Women

In 2002, Elizabeth Mpofu was nominated to represent Zimbabwe at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. She was hesitant, citing her inability to speak English and her self-proclaimed lack of knowledge. Now, Mpofu is the leader of Via Campesina, a coalition of 164 organizations in 73 countries. It is one of the largest coalitions of farmers in the world. Despite her ascension to the international stage, it’s her work with the women of her community that she finds most rewarding.

She leads workshops where she trains women in agroecology. This is the practice of farming that maximizes crop yield in a sustainable, ecologically sound manner. Women recognize the value of their own labor, even if it is treated as insignificant compared to men’s labor. Mpofu and those she trains present their case for food sovereignty to local leaders. The whole community benefits when women are empowered to make decisions.

“They, like me, stop seeing access to land as a privilege and see it instead as both a right and a responsibility,” says Mpofu in the Holding Our Ground interview, about the women with whom she works alongside.

The Road Ahead

Mpofu believes that the keys to sustainable agriculture in Zimbabwe are already known. “Knowledge is not in short supply amongst farmers. What is lacking is the documentation and the spread of this knowledge,” says Mpofu.

In 2020, the GDP of Zimbabwe shrunk by 8% due in large part to COVID-19. In 2021, it is set to rebound by nearly 3% as the agricultural sector recovers. The road to recovery is a long one. In the eyes of Elizabeth Mpofu, if women’s empowerment and agroecology are put at the forefront, then that road will lead not just to food security, but food sovereignty for all the people of Zimbabwe.

– Greg Fortier
Photo: Flickr