Going the Extra Mile: CNFA Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Supports the Expansion of Community Garden in Gwanda, Zimbabwe

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Ngwenyama Garden farmers in front of their new water tank (Photo credit: Georgina Hove)

The Ngwenyama Garden, located in Zimbabwe’s Gwanda District — a drought-prone region that relies on seasonal rains, was formed by 27 residents in 2015 to increase incomes, improve food security and enhance access to healthy, locally grown foods. Today, the garden provides members with vegetables such as kale, spinach, sugar (common) beans, maize, butternut squash and tomatoes, and is a vital source of nutritious foods in their community.

But this wasn’t always the case.

At its inception, the group only had 0.1 hectare of land, which was fenced in with brushwood and irrigated with water fetched by bucket from the nearby Ngwenyama Dam. Members also faced challenges with productivity due to poor climate, soil, water and other obstacles.

To scale-up and produce successful harvests, members needed to expand their fields and improve their cultivation practices. In 2021 after partnering with BIC-CDS, a local NGO working in Gwanda District, members received funding to install fencing, a solar irrigation pump and a 5,000-liter water tank at the garden, which helped them expand their plot from 0.1 ha to 0.8 ha. Despite these improvements, the Garden’s irrigation system and fields required further upgrades to be able to grow to the group’s desired size of 1.5 ha.

In August 2022, USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program volunteer, Sarah Smith — an urban agriculture specialist with experience designing and implementing a Farm-to-School program that reached over 400 school children in Columbus, Georgia — trained 27 farmers in sustainable vegetable production, of which 20 were women and six were youth. Smith’s assignment focused on training the garden’s members in good agricultural practices related to soil fertility, water management, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), composting, planting time and spacing, climate-resilient crops, value addition and marketing.

During her assignment, she saw the hard work and determination of her host organization pay off but noticed that challenges to their growth still remained due to limitations in their irrigation and farm size. Feeling motivated by the community’s passion, Smith decided to go beyond the F2F training and set up a fundraiser with her friends, family and colleagues to provide members with the tools and infrastructure needed to sustainably increase their vegetable production once and for all.

Smith quickly raised $1,000, which she used to purchase a second 5,000-liter water tank for the Garden. This new tank enabled members to introduce several new crops and expand the garden by an additional 0.7 ha. By the end of her assignment, the expansion was well underway and the group was one step closer to their goal of growing the garden to 1.5 ha.

Ngwenyama Garden farmers installing their new water tank (Photo credit: Georgina Hove)

“It is a great feeling to assist people who work so hard to feed their families,” said Smith on the day the 5000-liter water tank arrived.

When asked how the group benefited from Smith’s training, the Garden’s secretary, Zwelitsha Sibanda, said, “We learned a great deal during our time with Sarah, especially around composting and water and pest management. We are also grateful for the efforts she made in sourcing funds to install our second water tank, which will enable the group to irrigate new areas. Sarah, we all thank you.”

Since Smith’s F2F assignment, members of the Ngwenyama Garden have finished clearing the plots where drip irrigation from their new water tanks will be laid. According to their calendar, they are also on track to plant crops in line with the improved cultivation techniques introduced by Smith, such as integrating crop rotation and enhanced disease control methods. While farmers have experienced some setbacks in installing irrigation on their new fields, they plan to recover and start planting in the coming weeks, highlighting the group’s resilience, ingenuity and passion for feeding their community.

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CNFA (Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture)

We stimulate economic growth and improve livelihoods by cultivating entrepreneurship.