A US$7 million worth project by the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund (ZRBF) has gone a long way to uplift the lives of benefiaciaries based in Matabeleland South Province.
Through funds provided by ZRBF, with Melana as the implementing partner, the women at Ntabemnyama managed to establish a stock feed mill in October last year and are producing up to 35 tons of stock feed per month which they sell at $100 for a 50kg bag.
The project is being undertaken by 12 villagers, eight of them being women and the driving force behind the success of the project is the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs).
One of the fund’s beneficiaries ,Thembi Mlilo said the initiative has gone a long way to transform the lives of both direct and indirect beneficiaries.
“We were not like this before. We were suffering a lot but we can now afford to eat well, send our children to school and even do corporate social responsibility programmes in our communities,” chairperson of the association,” Mlilo said.
From the US$7 million grant, ZRBF and Melana fund development projects in Umzingwane, Bubi, Nkayi and Umguza districts, the majority of beneficiaries being women working in community groups of no less than 12 each.
Through the use of ICTs, the beneficiaries are able to communicate to each other about the essentials of business.
For Mlilo and her Ntabemnyama group, their phones have become very important communication gadgets; always stuck around their necks.
They have become their links with friends, relatives and above all the markets.
“We can easily inquire what is selling and not on the market,” she said.
Technology has become a mainstay of development giving hope to previously marginalised communities, who before their advent had no other means of accessing information.
The stock feed is made using locally available resources, with the main ingredients being wild fruits, acacia twigs, carefully selected tree leaves.
“We grind each of them separately and then mix them together following appropriate measurements to produce stock feed which cattle and goats love so much,” the group’s secretary Mercy Nyoni said.
“So far, business is good. We supply up to 350 farmers around the district and also supply Mzilikazi Stock feed company in Bulawayo. The company takes up 7,8 tonnes every month,” she said.
Melana project markets linkage advisor Rodney Mushongachiware said they are working towards ensuring that the groups would continue operating even in the event of the funding initiative lapsing.
“Our projects are modelled in manner that would allow them to continue well after Melana has left. So we are training them to properly model their business and run it more professionally so as to ensure that it is sustainable,” he said.
For now, the intervention has brought huge relief for previously marginalised rural women, whose renewed hope can only serve to spur them to greater productivity.
ZRBF is a long-term development initiative with an overall objective of contributing to increased capacity of communities to protect development gains in the face of recurrent shocks and stresses enabling them to contribute to the economic development of Zimbabwe.