Celebrating organic farming in Zimbabwe
It is celebration time for the 450 members of Makoni Organic Farmers Association (MOFA), residents of a rural community in Zimbabwe who are literally making waves globally after winning the coveted Equator Prize 2014. Supported by the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme (GEFSGP) of UNDP, the farmers are leading the way in environmental conservation and sustainable use of resources for livelihood improvement and poverty reduction.
“This award encourages us to have more strength and desire to go forward” relates the group’s chairperson, Mrs Sifelanani Zvigerenani. “We had never imagined that what we were doing would take us this far. This has been really a dream come true” explains the team leader.
Reflecting on this accomplishment, GEFSGP Programme Officer Mrs Tsitsi Watawunashe attributes the success to sustained technical and financial support as well as forging necessary linkages with government, NGOs, academia and the private sector.
“The critical element is achieving tangible results that can speak for themselves,” she says.
Established as a community development organization in 2007, the Makoni Organic Farmers Association, supported by Organic Network Forum (ONF), a local NGO, focussed on training and raising awareness on organic farming in Makoni area, located about 40 kilometres east of Harare. This entailed mobilisation of farmers and sensitisation in organic farming as an alternative to tobacco farming.
However, the turning point was a USD $ 50,000 funding from the GEFSGP in 2011 that the farmers used to scale up their activities in organic farming by establishing seven organic gardens and receiving more training on organic farming. The association complemented SGP funding through co-financing mainly in kind by providing locally available materials and labour.
This effort culminated in their certification as organic farmers in 2012 by Zimbabwe Organic Producers and Promoters Association (ZOPPA) which is a local agent for organic certification and compliance registered under the International Federation for Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM). It was one of the first groups in Zimbabwe to receive this organic certification. The certification is heralds a major breakthrough because it will enable the group to access regional and international markets.
Integrating principles of sustainable land management, gender mainstreaming and food security, MOFA has enhanced community resilience through diversified agricultural production. This ranges from organic dry land farming and organic horticulture production to nursery management, mushroom production, aquaculture, beekeeping and agro-forestry.
The Association has played a significant role in influencing policy in Zimbabwe. It worked closely with Organic Network Forum and ZOPPA that were involved in the formulation of the Zimbabwe Organic Standards that were approved by the Standards Association of Zimbabwe (SAZ) in 2012 and registered with the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO).
With the 2014 Equator Prize that comes with a cash award of USD$ 5000 and additional $ 15, 000 for those in the ‘special recognition’ category, MOFA intends to procure fencing materials to extend the 7 gardens from 0,4 hectares to 2 hectares so as to increase crop production. Other priorities include establishing a marketing centre complete with cooling facilities and ensuring regular water and electricity supply.
“We also need to procure a truck for the Association for transporting produce and improve water extraction methods in the gardens by having solar pumps,” says Mrs Sifelanani.
The Equator Prize “recognizes outstanding local sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities.” In 2014, the Initiative received a record-setting 1, 234 nominations from 121 countries around the world. However, only thirty-five winners shared the prestigious prize globally in the announcement made on 5 June, 2014 to coincide with the World Environment Day.