Mary is one of CAFOD’s gap year volunteers, and has been working with the Youth Ministry Team in the Diocese of Hexham & Newcastle. Here, she shares her story so far from her Zimbabwe visit:
Here in Zimbabwe we are learning more and more every day. The sun is always shining and hot and the people are so welcoming and friendly. This week we are staying in the rural area of Binga to visit the projects of CAFOD partner – Caritas Hwange.
Our visit yesterday was to a farm in Zuka – a two-and-a-half hour drive away from Binga over incredibly rocky roads, full of potholes as well as herds of goats and cows and the occasional baboon! It was fascinating to drive past traditional thatched roof huts of the rural villages, and see the women, men and children going to work and school.
The first farmer we visited was Mpofu Koniya and his family who work on a small scale farm beside their home. I first became interested in the food system at the IF rally in Hyde Park that I attended in 2013. It was this and CAFOD’s Hungry for Change campaign that highlighted to me the simple fact that currently there is enough food to feed everyone; it’s our food system that is unjust. It was amazing to actually meet a farmer like Mpofu and learn about how the training in “conservation agriculture” provided by Caritas Hwange enables him to grow high yielding crops that can not only feed his family well, but generate an income to enable his children to go to school.
The conservation method uses leaves from the trees as “mulch” in between the maize crops which prevents weeds – therefore improving crop growth, reducing the difficult labour of weeding and reducing the need for herbicides and fertilisers, saving money.
The “mulch” also keeps moisture in the soil which has been increasingly important as Mpofu notices changes in the climate here, and changes in the time and amount of rainfall. The success of Mpofu’s crops has also led to him teaching the method to other farmers in his community.
The project has encouraged Mpofu to grow a range of other crops – tomatoes, round nuts, beans and sesame seeds – which has improved the nutrition of his family’s diet. They can now sell the surplus, which further increases their income to support his children’s school fees.
I found it so interesting to learn more about how these simple improvements, using natural resources, can benefit a family and community in so many areas such as health, diet and education.
I have so much admiration for the farmers who work tirelessly in the fields exposed to so much sun and heat. I’m excited to learn more. It’s only day seven of the trip and we all already have so many stories to share when we get back to England!