Agric4She transforms lives Minister of State and Devolution for Manicaland Nokuthula Matsikenyere picks eggs at Ms Jane Ndoro’s homestead in a Livestock4SHE project being spearheaded by First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa Agric4She project in Mutasa yesterday

Samuel Kadungure Senior Reporter

AGRIC4SHE, a multi-faceted programme championed by the First Lady, Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa has become an integral part of farming in Manicaland, scaling up sustainable food and nutritional security, income, opportunities for value addition and development of agro-business value chains in rural areas.

Rural women in Manicaland have embraced it to promote livelihoods and transform their lives, thereby reducing the income gap between them and their urban counterparts.

The initiative dovetails well with Vision 2030, in which an increase in agriculture production and productivity, especially by smallholders to ensure food and nutrition security and enhanced income, is crucial.

The success of AGRIC4SHE was unveiled at Gogo Jane Ndoro’s (81) homestead at Watsomba in Mutasa yesterday.

She is into poultry, piggery, cattle fattening and horticulture, and in all the four facets has met with success unexpectedly.

Her homestead, apart from its unique and trendy modern outlook, is a hub of excellence where women and men now receive agronomic and veterinary knowledge for cropping and livestock production by extension officers from Agriculture Advisory and Rural Development Services (AARDS).

The First Lady was represented at the eye-opening event by the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Nokhutula Matsikenyere.

Minister of State and Devolution for Manicaland Nokuthula Matsikenyere who was representing Agric4SHE patron First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa hands over roadrunner chicks to Ms Jane Ndoro in Mutasa yesterday. – Pictures: Tinai Nyadzayo

In her remarks, the First Lady implored women to venture into agriculture since they constitute the majority of citizens in the country at 52 percent, according to the recent National Population and Housing Census.

“It is critical that women play a leading role in agriculture. No woman should be left behind in this initiative, and women in rural areas are known to play a key role in helping the country in agriculture.

“By their nature, women are industrious, but require the requisite support and ingredients so that they are not left behind. Women are the backbone in terms of food productivity and availability,” said Dr Mnangagwa.

The First Lady said for the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy, under the National Development Strategy (NDS1), to come to fruition, women must be at the forefront.

The Agric4SHE programme includes Pfumvudza4She, Livestock4She, Fisheries4She, Horticulture4She, Mechanisation4She and NEAPS4She.

It has helped 17 500 disadvantaged and marginalised women, of which 3 500 are from Manicaland.

They received seed maize, fertilisers, vegetable combos, sunflower seed and chemicals from the First Lady.

Beneficiaries include widows, chronically ill, elderly, orphans and those living with disabilities that had failed to access inputs under the Presidential Inputs Scheme.

“Last year, 17 519 women received fertiliser, seed and chemicals under the Pfumvudza4She. These are vulnerable groups that had failed to access the inputs under the Presidential Inputs Scheme.

“This year we intend to work with the agriculture ministry under the theme – Going for Growth. The agriculture ministry has coined the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy in August 2020 that seeks to enhance farming methods to end challenges confronting the country. This should include having women grow crops and rear animals,” she said.

The Minister of State and Devolution for Manicaland Nokuthula Matsikenyere tours Ms Jane Ndoro’s piggery project at her homestead in Mutasa yesterday

Livestock now plays a key food security role in Manicaland and critical step towards halving extreme poverty in drought-prone and marginalised communities.

In this vein, the First Lady said Government is distributing 600 000 she-goats and 35 000 genetically engineered he-goats to produce high quality meat and milk.

Dr Mnangagwa also challenged women to take up piggery and apiculture to sustain their lives.

Government is also distributing chickens as part of the climate smart intervention to improve household nutrition and income.

Poultry, together with goat production, have been identified as key climate-proofed livestock production system for farmer resilience during climatic shocks as enunciated in the Livestock Growth Plan.

The first phase will see the distribution of 32 000 chicks across the province, coupled with requisite technical skills in animal health, feeding and management to make it a resounding success.

It has become the main source of income in districts whose greatest challenge to crop cultivation has been the scarcity of water.

Animals play multiple functions, producing important food products and manure. They are a source of income, provide draught power, and fulfil banking and insurance functions.

Small livestock have an advantage in that they require minimal investment on the part of poor livestock keeper. They can also be kept in the vicinity of the house and fed with “residue” from agricultural production.

Income from livestock and their many products – milk, eggs, meat, wool, leather – can allow poor families to put food on the table, improve their nutrition, send their children to school and buy medicine for themselves and their animals.

Gogo Ndoro said she has been conscientising communal women on the need to cross-breed their animals with genetically engineered breeds to improve their herds.

She applauded the First Lady for broadening the programme to assist vulnerable groups on the importance of small livestock production and equipping them start-up kits and skills to confront constraints to sustainable production. Fifty women were given 10 chickens each, while an additional 100 were given 10 fruit trees each.

Studies reveal that improved nutrition and food preference are known to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, bring health and nutrition behaviour change, and have a positive effect on adolescent health.

Gogo Ndoro employs workers from the community – spread across the poultry feed mill, cleaning, feeding, collecting, grading, packing and distribution of eggs.

“There are 1 600 birds of which 700 are now laying eggs. The facility can hold up to 3 000 birds. We are picking 20 crates of eggs daily, but I am still struggling to meet demand. We have 700 layers that are already laying and 900 pullets nearing the point of lay.

“We are left with 80 pigs after selling 70 in December 2022. I have 30 cattle that we pen-fatten and sell the meat at a family butchery at Watsomba at US$4 per kg. In the horticulture garden we have fruit trees, potatoes, carrots, cabbages, vegetables, peas, beans and cow peas, among other crops,” she said.

She added: “If at 81 I can do this, how about young women and men? I am encouraging women around to emulate and implement the First Lady’s vision and projects at their homes and desist from gossiping and entirely relying on their husbands for everything.

“The First Lady’s empowerment programmes are amazing and can make a difference in the lives of those who implement. She is encouraging women to work hard, and rightly so, because even the bible abhors laziness”.

Chief Mutasa said the First Lady’s initiative has greatly improved the livelihoods of the communal population.

“What we have witnessed here is unbelievable considering that an 81-year-old widow is behind it. She has layers, cattle, pigs and a variety of vegetables in the garden. People have been ignorant about both small and big livestock farming. The First Lady has opened our eyes, and those who can learn should emulate it to build resilience among rural farmers,” he said.

Agric4SHE national coordinator, Mrs Chipo Zishiri said if done properly, poultry production is a viable farming option that can enhance food security, nutrition and poverty elimination through income generation.

“We need to diversify our livelihoods to spread and minimise the risk. We should not be blinkered to think crop farming is the only means to sustain ourselves, it has been letting us down as our region is drought prone.

“We thank the First Lady for transforming our mind that we realise animal breeding can be the social aspirin that the doctor has prescribed for dry prone regions. Poultry and small livestock production can bring positive change in our lives and rural women can produce chickens, pigs and goats at commercial scale and eliminate hunger and rural poverty,” she said.

Mrs Musodzi Masangwi said women can emulate what Gogo Ndoro was doing.

“The First Lady is open to helping every woman, and young women of Mutasa can do it because already they have a successful role model that is receptive and willing to teach us to become productive,” she said.

Mrs Primrose Nyabadza said Gogo Ndoro has challenged her to venture into fruit tree budding and grafting, which is turning out to be lucrative.

Mrs Florence Sadomba said those with ears have heard the First Lady’s empowerment gospel.

“Those who take heed will be smiling all the way to the bank. Women, the First lady has opened you eyes, and we should feel challenged by Gogo Ndoro. I will put what I have learned here to practice and soon my life would be transformed,” she said.

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