Posts

Gogo OliveSeventy-two percent of Zimbabweans live under the national poverty line, making it the 22nd poorest country in the world. Gogo Olive is a charity whose focus is to mitigate some of the problems faced by Zimbabweans, specifically women. Here is how one charity is changing the lives of Zimbabwean women.

The Problem: Difficulty Making a Living

One hardship faced by many women is HIV/AIDS, a disease that affected 1.3 million Zimbabweans in 2016. This results in many widowed parents who have to provide for their families by themselves. Providing for their households, however, is a difficult task when job opportunities are so limited. The unemployment rate in Zimbabwe is currently at 11.3 percent, and increases when excluding the large numbers of subsistence farmers and those working in the informal economy. This, however, is not the main problem for Zimbabweans.

The real problem, according to the International Labour Organization, is the poor quality of employment, characterized by low wages, no sick leave for employees and poor working conditions. In this way, the great need in Zimbabwe is decent jobs. Gogo Olive has met this need by employing women to knit goods, primarily in the form of knitted animals.

The Solution: Gogo Olive

Gogo Olive was founded by Julie Hagan as a way to create jobs for six women through knitting. Since its inception in 2008, the charity has grown to include about 80 knitters who produce hundreds of these knitted animals each month. According to the website, “Knitting was chosen as it only requires basic materials and can be done anywhere and at anytime, which suits the lifestyle of a Zimbabwean woman.”

The charity operates on two levels. Gogo Olive Knits creates jobs and generates income for women by selling their knitted products. Gogo Olive Cares focuses on meeting the other needs of the women. This includes establishing savings plans, running educational workshops, distributing care packages, and setting up an emergency fund to help with health costs and school fees. This is how one charity is changing the lives of Zimbabwean women: they not only provide an income, they also include additional benefits that have no doubt helped the poor greatly.

Gogo Olive Knits presents a flexible way to earn income. The knitters are paid monthly for each product they produce. According to Ruth Hagan, they can earn up to $250 monthly.

An additional benefit of working for Gogo Olive is the educational workshops. The majority of the knitters have had little education, a problem which keeps them in the poverty trap. Some of the topics covered are budgeting, HIV/AIDS awareness, healthcare, single parenting and farming techniques.

Beyond Income: Gogo Olive Cares

Gogo Olive Cares also provides an emergency fund for people in special circumstances. This includes school fees for their children and medical fees for medication or treatment that the women would otherwise be unable to afford. Ruth Hagan shared a story about one of the knitters who received a payment from the emergency fund. “In January, one of our knitters accessed the fund which allowed her to have a hip replacement following living in considerable pain for a number of years.” The knitter, Florence, is now back at work and able to walk with a crutch.

The benefits extend far beyond simply meeting physical needs. Ruth explains, “We love that we are able to teach a skill and offer employment to many ladies. Not only does this allow them to make enough money to feed their children and pay for school fees but it also gives them each a sense of value and worth as they have meaningful occupation.”

Ruth Hagan said of the experience, “It is great to be a part of positively impacting lives of so many in Zimbabwe.” Seeing how one charity is changing the lives of Zimbabwean women goes to show that any good deed, big or small, can have an immense impact.

– Olivia Booth
Photo: Flickr

Banana farming in Zimbabwe
Banana farming in Zimbabwe has evolved from a subsistence crop to a commercial enterprise, transforming rural communities in the eastern part of the country.

In 2010, USAID funded the Zimbabwe Agricultural Income and Employment Development (Zim-AIED) program that worked with banana farmers in the Honde Valley in eastern Zimbabwe to improve agricultural practices, access to markets and the production of high-quality bananas.

The Food and Agriculture Organization also implemented the Mupangwa irrigation scheme in the Honde Valley to help farmers improve banana cultivation and link them to markets and other farmers in the region.

Prior to USAID intervention, banana farming in Zimbabwe was a low-income enterprise. Farmers earned less than $200 per year due to a lack of formal markets and very low harvest yields. Bananas were only grown on a small scale and sold on the roadside to middlemen that took advantage of these small-scale farmers by paying low prices only to sell them for much higher prices.

Where monthly yields used to be only 30 to 50 kilograms of bananas, individuals are now able to produce over 1,000 kilograms per month. The region has gone from producing 2,000 tons in 2011 to more than 27,000 tons in 2017, contributing more than $7.5 million to the rural economy each year.

Banana farming in Zimbabwe has been wildly successful because the trees are easy to manage. Banana trees require a humid tropical climate, good drainage and fertile soil. The Honde Valley in eastern Zimbabwe ticks all of these boxes and thus is perfect for banana farming.

By 2015, about 600 banana farmers had received technical assistance in agricultural techniques. They were able to transform their farming practices to increase their production and incomes drastically. Those farmers then passed on their knowledge to neighbors and others in their community. Now, the Honde Valley is home to more than 5,000 commercial banana farmers, each earning an average of about $4,200 per acre per year.

Banana farming in Zimbabwe has opened many other doors for rural farmers and their families. Access to credit and bank loans has increased dramatically, school enrollment has increased and local small and medium-sized businesses have sprung up in the region. Young people that had left the country in search of employment have returned to eastern Zimbabwe to take up small-scale banana farming. Half of the African population is under 25 years old, so providing decent employment opportunities is vital for the young labor force.

Commercial banana farming in Zimbabwe has also empowered women. Women constitute approximately 60 percent of banana farmers in the Honde Valley. Many of the newfound banana farmers are widows trying to make ends meet to support their families. Other women help supplement their husbands’ incomes with the profits from banana farming.

Banana farming in Zimbabwe has helped pull rural communities out of poverty, improve nutrition and food security, increase incomes and empower individuals throughout the Honde Valley.

– Sydney Lacey

Photo: Flickr

poverty in ZimbabweAfter 57 years of colonial rule, African guerilla forces wrested control of the territory that had been Southern Rhodesia since 1923. By 1980, Robert Mugabe was elected to the position of Prime Minister of Zimbabwe.

Following Zimbabwe’s independence, the economy, which was mainly supported by the agricultural industry, fell on tough times. In 2000, the government chose to instigate a policy of land redistribution from whites to native Africans. This reorganization placed the fate of the country’s economy in the hands of comparatively inexperienced farmers.

Cash crop production, once a huge contributor to the Gross Net Product, was nearly lost as a result of unyielding droughts. Additionally, those farmers who produced the dietary staple maize faced further difficulty in production, due to the government’s lack of support in areas such as water management.

To further demonstrate the severity of the country’s situation, look no further than the 72.3 percent of the population living in poverty in Zimbabwe.

10 facts to clarify the state of poverty in Zimbabwe

  1. Since the early 1990s, roughly 20 percent of Zimbabweans have emigrated in search of greater economic prosperity elsewhere. This has left a large gap in the nation’s workforce and knowledge base.
  2. With the majority of males moving from rural agricultural towns to the cities, women are increasingly becoming single heads of household.  
  3. Poverty in Zimbabwe is mainly concentrated in the northern province of Matabeleland, and in the southeastern regions of Manicaland and Masvingo, where water is extremely scarce.
  4. As of 2015, 16 percent of Zimbabweans were food insecure, meaning they were unable to obtain nutritious and plentiful food for their families.
  5. Just 7.6 percent of farmers in Zimbabwe practice conservation agriculture, a method of soil management that ensures nutritious soil and increases crop production.
  6. Zimbabwe suffered from 12 years of sanctions imposed by the U.N. in opposition to President Mugabe’s continued rule after the disputed election of 2002. In 2015, the U.N. lifted those sanctions and offered the government $273 million in aid, which was intended for collaborative development projects.
  7. About 28 percent of children in Zimbabwe are stunted by a lack of adequate nutrition in their diets.
  8. Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product has been declining since the 2008 financial crisis. In the years immediately following the crisis, it fell by 17 percent.
  9. 86 percent of households in which the woman is widowed are impoverished.
  10. 57 percent of women living in rural areas use contraceptives. The maternal mortality rate is 960 out of 100,000 births, with a dramatic increase in rural areas.

The question now is whether or not Zimbabwe will be able to improve its situation in the coming years. Unfortunately, with the economic growth rate dropping to just 0.5 percent between 2015 and 2016, there may be a need for an increase in external development aid if there is any hope of reversing the effects of poverty in Zimbabwe.

-Katarina Schrag

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in ZimbabweThe Republic of Zimbabwe, a landlocked nation in southern Africa, was once known as one of the best in health and education on the continent.

However, between 1990 and 2003 the political and economic climate began to decline, causing the rates of poverty in Zimbabwe to more than double from 25 percent to 63 percent.

While urban areas of Zimbabwe face the threat of unemployment, it is rural Zimbabweans that feel the presence of poverty and food scarcity the most acutely. More specifically it is Zimbabwe’s rural farmers that need reinforcement to start back on the path towards development.

In some areas rates of poverty in Zimbabwe have grown to exceed 90 percent. These include Lupane, Gokwe South and Mudzi. The cause of this can be traced back to the many problems plaguing the agricultural industry.

Food shortages are an on-going threat for both rural and urban populations. Even those with access to food are not always able to afford it; around 96 percent of those living in rural farming areas are forced to get by on less than one dollar per day.

Agriculture in Zimbabwe is most easily explained by dividing it into the two main subsets of large-scale production and smaller local farms. Large-scale farms produce many cash crops such as tobacco and grain, which at one point were being harvested in enough excess to export around the world. The more scattered, rural farms grow mostly maize, as it is an important crop to feed people in towns and villages across the country.

Government sanctioned land reform jeopardized the employment of more than 400,000 people in these rural farming areas, affecting the economy by preventing new investment and in turn discouraging budding enterprises from flourishing.

Scorching temperatures in an area already prone to drought has made a difficult situation even more of a challenge for the farmers of Zimbabwe.

With such an amalgam of obstacles for rural farmers, it is estimated that almost 20 percent of the population has fled the country since the 1990s. Many others are afflicted with HIV/AIDs and unable to work, further contributing to the slowed production of food.

UNICEF estimates that one-third of Zimbabwe’s children suffer from malnutrition as a direct result of these issues. Many organizations and relief groups have come together to impact the lives of Zimbabweans. Most notably, the United Nations and World Food Program were at one point feeding over half of the country.

While the risk of recessing further is always a possibility, aid such as this provides Zimbabweans the opportunity to put effort into other aspects of life besides basic survival.

A group called TechnoServe put together Agro Initiative Zimbabwe in 2011 with funding from the Department of International Development. This initiative provides innovative solutions for the agricultural industry impacting 40 businesses and 54,000 smallholder farms.

This program and efforts like it have the potential to get Zimbabwe on a brighter path so long as it receives the necessary support. Donations and volunteers matter at all levels, from home and overseas in order to keep lawmakers and leaders focused on what is important.

The cycle of poverty in Zimbabwe can be reversed and Zimbabwe has many great organizations on its side as well as hardworking and passionate citizens striving to do what they can for the good of their nation. Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs) and many other strategic programs are hard at work to make Zimbabwe and the rest of the world a better place.

Aaron Walsh

Photo: Flickr


Poverty in Zimbabwe seems like a fact of life. However, Zimbabwe used to have some of the best health and education statistics in Sub-Saharan Africa.  However, political and economic crises in recent years have exacerbated poverty and brought with it a host of social problems.  Between 1990 and 2003 the poverty rate rose from 25 % to 63%.  Deterioration of infrastructure has isolated rural communities and led to a high poverty rate in these rural areas.  This isolation has also contributed to a decrease in farm income and production as a result of inaccessibility to markets.  As such, food shortages  in the country are rising.  HIV infection, though declining, remains at 18 percent, one of the highest rates of infection in the world.

As a result of the poverty in Zimbabwe, which is concentrated in the Matabeleland North where 70 percent of inhabitants are classified as poor, migration of male heads-of-household has increased the number of female-led families.  Since women typically have less access to economic opportunity and credit, these households are incredibly disadvantaged, as many of them are also in arid areas without irrigation.

Before independence and the shift towards smallholder agriculture in the country, Zimbabwe relied upon two sectors of agriculture: large scale commercial cash crops and small scale food production.  But land reforms by the government have forced a transition to small scale agriculture across the board, which has led to much unemployment and a difficult changeover process.  Capital investment is almost nonexistent in Zimbabwe because of sanctions and economic crises, further hindering economic growth.

One key to fighting poverty in Zimbabwe is stimulating agricultural growth through investment in basic infrastructure.  Nearly 40 percent of the country’s roads are in poor condition; fixing them will provide rural areas with better access to water, seeds, fertilizer and other basic agricultural supplies. Such a move would also give the country’s farmers better access to markets.  Other infrastructure investments along this line could include irrigation systems, water sanitation, and railway access.

Like several other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Zimbabwe needs to become more politically and economically stable if any progress is to be achieved in the region.  Ultimately, if political stability is achieved there, new investments in infrastructure could be made, stimulating economic growth and helping to decrease poverty rates. Western markets could also begin to reap the benefits of raw materials from one of the most resource-rich regions in the world.

– Martin Drake

Source: Rural Poverty Project, World Bank
Photo: Action Aid