Women’s project brings hope to drought area

Lisa Masuku
TIRED of sitting on their laurels and complaining about the increased levels of poverty in their communities, a group of women in Gwanda have come up with a livestock rearing project they hope will alleviate poverty and empower them financially.

First mooted in November last year by a group of 60 like-minded women, the livestock rearing project specifically targets the rearing of goats in the Wilonki area of Gwanda in the Matabeleland South Province.

Matabeleland South was last year identified as one of the hardest hit by drought as the country experiences one of the most severe dry spells caused by the El Nino phenomenon which has also affected Zambia, South Africa and Malawi.

While the government has pledged to alleviate food shortages caused by the drought, 60 women from a small village in Gwanda decided to take the bull by its horns and empower themselves financially.

The women started off by contributing funds to purchase a herd of 30 goats and as the herd grows bigger over time so does their financial investment.

The group of women collectively known as the Wilonki Small Livestock Project are run by a five-member committee chaired by Musa Dube.

The committee reports back to the project members at the end of each month.

Dube explained the concept of the project: “The project is still in its infancy as we started last year in November.

However, we are very excited about it because it seeks to empower us as women. The idea is for us as women to be financially independent and not rely on our spouses for schools fees, school uniforms and other everyday expenses,” said Dube.

The manure collected from the livestock pens is used in vegetable gardens owned by the project members.

“As women we came together, realised that there is a need for us to do something for ourselves. We noted that we cannot continue sitting back, ever complaining of hunger and poverty when we can use our own hands to make a living,” she further explained.

A member of the small livestock project said they felt the initiative gave the women a sense of ownership.

“We now have something that we call ours and which we are proud of. As women it is important to prove to our spouses we are capable of assisting financially. I believe being financially independent also reduces cases of gender based violence against women,” said Siphilile Nyathi.

Agritex officer Ben Matshologwana commended the women for taking the initiative to better their lives.

“They are doing a commendable job. They are showing great determination in what they are doing and judging by the rate at which the project is growing it will be a resounding success story in a year’s time,” said Matshologwana.

The cost of a goat is around $50.

The project targets to sell at least 10 goats a month when the project gets into full swing.

Project treasurer Thandekile Sibanda said the success of the project was dependent on the rate at which the goats would breed.

“Goats are relatively easy to rear and we hope at the end of the year our herd will be bigger. We are in consultation with Agritex to facilitate the sale of our goats to abattoirs as well as individuals in and around Gwanda,” said Sibanda.

A challenges the project is facing is a shortage of tents to house the goats during the rainy season.

Project chairperson Dube appealed to government and the corporate world for assistance in acquiring tents.

“We are appealing for assistance in the form of tents from the government and members of the public. We need tents to shelter our goats during the rainy season,” she said.

Acting District Livestock Development Officer Geoffrey Hove said his office together with a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) called Practical Action were instrumental in setting up of the project.

“We advised the women to venture into small livestock project because goats are not easily affected by drought.

Matabeleland South is mostly affected by drought as well as dry conditions and we felt goats are ideal for this type of project,” said Hove.