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Tshanyaugwe Study Circle Nutrition Garden

In November we featured the presentation of a solar water pump to this study circle in a far corner of Gwanda South. A recent visit to the group showed what they have been able to achieve since receiving the pump.

At the beginning of March they harvested their green maize crop and sold the cobs within the community, raising $1,500. This was distributed to the members, each receiving $60. They each then returned $15 for future expenditures.

A member of the group shows her tomatoes, soon to ripen

The group purchased hybrid tomato seedlings; these now have tomatoes growing, which will be harvested beginning in May. This variety of tomato can continue producing for 6 to 8 months, hence the group have calculated that they may each receive over $1000 if the crop does well. This output will move them to a new level of commercial production which will require them to transport their crop to Gwanda town, nearly 150 kilometres away, and develop a good market for them.

There are also a large number of beds of sugar beans, a popular local food, as well as another maize crop and green vegetables known as choumoellier. They are rehabilitating about a dozen orange trees which were planted years ago but were in poor condition due to lack of water. For the first time in their nearly 12 years, the group is not experiencing problems with water. As long as the sun is shining, they can pump water into their tank all day.

The crop of sugar beans

The women (and one man) in the group organize themselves for production. Each member has two beds of green vegetables for the use of their own family. For the commercial crops, each has their own beds which they work on; they take turns to sell to local buyers from their beds, but all the money goes into a common pot and is shared equally. From each distribution of funds, something goes back into the pot for on-going inputs and development. Currently they are planning to purchase diamond mesh fencing to erect a more secure fence around the entire garden. There is a high rate of theft in the area, and now they take turns sleeping in the garden to protect the crops when they are ready for harvest.

The group is holding a reporting and planning meeting under the shade of the solar panels

This group is being carefully watched to determine whether they provide a useful model for moving small scale producers from subsistence level, entailing permanent poverty, to commercialization which holds the possibility of permanently raising the standard of living. Their current levels of production already allow them to have sufficient funds to pay school fees for their children and grandchildren that they are supporting, as well as buy uniforms and necessary supplies. They also have a constant supply of vegetables and are able to pay for other food items such as tea and sugar.

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