Tendai Rupapa-Senior Reporter
WOMEN from Mashonaland East province on Thursday came out in droves to witness Agric4She patron First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa launch the life-changing empowerment programme in the area and plant over 400 trees at Warikandwa Primary School to mitigate the effects of climate change.
This makes Mashonaland East the third province to witness the emphatic launch after Harare and the Midlands.
The First Lady, who has a passion for the economic empowerment of women and marginalised communities, led the planting of fruit trees in the school orchard, including oranges, guavas and lemons trees.
A hands-on person, the First Lady, together with women from the surrounding communities, planted sorghum, sunflower and maize in the Pfumvudza demonstration plots.
Amai Mnangagwa thanked the women for turning up in their numbers for the launch of the historic programme tailored to enhance their participation in agricultural production, empower them and remove the temptation of engaging in vices like prostitution to earn money.
The programme also ensures women augment their husbands’ earnings and participate fully in raising their families.
“I am happy to be with you today as we plant trees and launch the Agric4She programme. I wish to thank Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Aplonia Munzverengwi and those who made this day possible. This year’s tree planting programme will be officially launched by President Mnangagwa on December 3.
“The programme reminds us that trees are important and cannot be separated from our lives. Let us protect our trees. I want to thank the Ministry of Environment and other relevant stakeholders, including the Forestry Commission.
“As patron of the environment, I saw it important to be with you and take back our environment to where it was long back. Long back the cutting down of trees was not widespread.
“I will go around the country as I have always been doing, planting trees so that you continue planting trees in a big way. We are leaving no one and no place behind in planting trees. This reminds us that trees helps transform lives. Planting trees beautifies our country.
“We have many animals in our country and if we preserve trees and forests we protect the animals and attract tourists. God bequeathed our country with many endowments and we should protect them.
“If we keep preserving trees and animals, even generations to come will grow up knowing and learning about things around us as well as mitigate the effects of climate change,” she said.
Dr Mnangagwa also highlighted the importance of indigenous dishes.
“There is a 105-year-old woman in Mutare. To reach that age, she said she consumes traditional foods. Even her skin is glowing because she eats healthy food. Today, we dump traditional foods and embrace fast foods. Let us always examine what we eat. Let us preserve trees and lead healthy lives. We say no to those who cut trees.
“The tree of the year this year is mukute. Let me challenge you to plant trees that help in many respects. There are trees that attract bees and they give us honey, some trees provide shade, some give us food and fruits. I want to thank you heartily for planting trees today,” she said.
Dr Mnangagwa encouraged the villagers to plant trees at their homesteads to enjoy the numerous benefits of trees.
She emphasised the importance of her Agric4she programme.
“This programme will be launched in all provinces with the aim of uplifting women through farming. It was brought about by the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Development, which invited me to be the patron, leading women in farming.
“We say no to laziness and encourage you to work hard. It’s a first of its kind programme and we have been remembered and shown that we are important as women.
“We have been respected and given dignity. I want women to harvest more than the previous years because we are hard workers. You had no resources to produce, but now I have brought them alongside the Ministry of Agriculture.
“We say no to those that sell inputs and if you see someone doing so report to the police.
“We get these things free of charge to transform our production, sustain families and the communities. Let us encourage each other to work hard. This will eliminate the bad names we are known with madzimai. Which are these bad deeds?” she asked.
In response, Gogo Rudo Muronda pointed at promiscuity.
“With your empowerment programme Amai, you have come to end prostitution which has broken homes. Laziness, gossip and begging,” she said to applause.
This dovetailed with the views of Gogo Tsungai Mufudzi who said: “You have come to end jealousy which spawns witchcraft as some people hate those who work hard.”
Gogo Shayn Chikerema thanked the First Lady for the all-encompassing project.
“Thank you for the project you have brought which will make our children learn to work and stay away from mischief,” she said.
Gogo Mutape said the project would end challenges of looking down upon one another as everyone now had access to inputs and high yields.
Gogo Tariro Chadzuda said the project had given women something to do as they now no longer spend the day sitting idly in what she referred to as (ZRP) zuva rese pamba (The whole day at home).
Dr Mnangagwa implored women to build granaries in anticipation of good harvests as a result of the programme.
“Let us build granaries to store our crops. One other challenge is that children between 8 and 9-years-old are getting pregnant. I went to Matabeleland recently and saw a pregnant nine-year-old girl and later gave birth and in Bindura there is another minor who is pregnant.
“As mothers, we are pained by our children who are being spoiled at tender ages. We are thankful for the laws of the land that arrest those who commit such crimes. Let us have time to discuss with our children vana amai.
“Some children refuse to be counselled and hide behind the issue of rights. We want dignified children who value education and we award them scholarships as Angel of Hope Foundation,” she said.
Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Deputy Minister Barbara Rwodzi thanked the First Lady for her initiatives.
“We really want to thank our mother Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa who is the patron of environment and tourism. We are enthusiastic that Amai is teaching the whole country about tree planting as the rains are upon us. Each time, Amai is always planting trees.
“Today at Warikandwa school she taught children and their parents the importance of planting trees. It’s not only about eating the fruits and selling them to raise income, but Amai is talking about climate change. We are fresh from COP 27 where it was said the planting of trees is good for the climate.
“The First Lady is always in remote areas, at schools and in homes urging people to plant trees. By doing so, she will be serving the whole world, not Zimbabwe alone so that the climate is fixed. We are happy that the issue of climate change is being attended to through the children,” she said.
Mrs Loveness Tendengo could not hide her joy after receiving inputs.
“On behalf of all the women, I thank you heartily for the Agric4She farming programme. We thank you Amai for teaching us to farm like you did. We were not organised and going about gossiping, but from now we will be concentrating on farming and taking our produce to the Grain Marketing Board. This will give us money and enable us to pay for our needs and ensure the orphans we have in the homes will attend school,” she said.
The sentiments were shared by Mrs Juliana Gwaze.
“Amai, we welcome you, we love you and thank you for the farming project you have brought to women. We had a challenge of moving about with sacks in our armpits begging for food.
“Today, we thank you for coming up with this programme of ensuring women spend time farming. We are grateful for what you have done for us. With these sunflowers we are going to make our own cooking oil,” she said.
The First Lady said the programme had to be taken seriously.
“This programme we have brought for women to take to the fields is not one to look down upon. We are many women in our country. Imagine if we all plant, how plentiful of food supplies we will get.
“We will sell and help our peers. You know climate change. It may rain here and not in the other areas but we will be in the same country. We want the affected communities to survive through us,” she said.
Ms Lauren York from WildAid, who came to support the First Lady in her environment campaign and took part in the activities, said: “We are thankful Amai. Climate change is a global concern but as you are demonstrating, conservation starts at home. Today we planted 400 trees in this school and the programme continues.”
Amai Mnangagwa is the WildAid global ambassador.