More than 137 000 households in eight of the country's food insecure districts have benefited from the Promoting Recovery in Zimbabwe (PRIZE) project, an official said.
Addressing stakeholders and guests at the commissioning of Moza Irrigation Scheme Extension in Bulilima district recently, Social Services director in the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Mr. Sydney Mhishi said the PRIZE project had empowered local communities to produce their own food.
PRIZE project is made up of Catholic Relief Services, CARE, ACDI, Community Technology Development Organization (CTDO) and Orap. The project funded by USAID has been operational in Bulilima, Mangwe, Matobo, Beitbridge, Gwanda, Mberengwa, Mudzi and Rushinga districts.
"There are a number of achievements which have been realised in these eight districts. A total of 1 303 productive assets such as the Moza Irrigation Scheme have been established or rehabilitated, 8 500 farmers now have access to irrigation, 5 758 farmers have been equipped with marketing skills and 5 900 livestock farmers have been trained and their capacity in livestock farming has been boosted, " said Mr. Mhishi.
"To me this is what community development and empowerment is all about. All the way communities were involved in the identification of the productive livelihood activities that suit their particular districts."
Mr. Mhishi said the PRIZE project has gone a long way in addressing development priorities in the country. The PRIZE project is in line with the Government's Public Works Policy which focuses on productive asset creation and reducing communities' vulnerability to natural and economic shocks that undermine their livelihoods. "I am certain that communities where the PRIZE project has been implemented are no longer considered welfare cases needing food aid. If we see more of such projects which seek to uplift the welfare of communities then we have a lot to celebrate as a country, “he said. Mr. Mhishi said cooperation in development was key in improving the welfare of vulnerable households. "The improvement of key stakeholders in this project is the reason why we are celebrating this success today. NGO's partnering with Government departments, communities and local authorities to improve the welfare of vulnerable households is what development cooperation is all about. "I urge communities to take advantage of the assets they have developed and utilise the knowledge and skills they have acquired to build, maintain and enhance food security. Government departments, rural district councils and the local leadership have a duty to ensure the gains of this project are consolidated and sustained by supporting communities in the utilisation and maintenance of these assets, “he said.
Speaking at the same occasion, Matebeleland South Govenor, Angeline Masuku said communities in drought prone should fully utilise opportunities that were presented through irrigation farming. "What PRIZE has started today should not end just because they are leaving. I have heard that people have taken irrigation farming as a business. This business which has started in Moza should not collapse but instead grow." As communities, irrigation farming should be a source of livelihood that can develop our societies. Where there is irrigation farming we should not be concerned about food supply as you already have a food source, “she said.
Govenor Masuku said communities had to use income generated through irrigation farming to improve the state of schools. "Let us use the money that is realised from our farming to improve the state of our schools. This money can be used to build laboratories at rural schools in order to complement Government efforts to improve the quality of education. "Our children are failing to make it to tertiary institutions because they do not have Mathematics and Science subjects. The Gwanda University is enrolling students and as a province we should take advantage of this institution of higher education which is close to us, “she said.
USAID mission director, Melissa Williams said PRIZE recovery activities should be turned into development oriented results. "While the activities of PRIZE are coming to an end, USAID through the Office of Food for Peace will continue to support similar activities to address the underlying causes of food insecurity through agriculture, nutrition and disaster risk reduction activities.