By Elizabeth Ndhlovu-Dumbreni
Project participants pose for a photograph after a hard day’s work at the nutrition garden
Felix Garden is an Irish Aid-funded project that was initiated by the villagers of ward 10 in Bubi District, Matabeleland North. Felix is a fairly young resettlement area comprising families that are fighting for a common goal – to help eradicate the scourge of HIV and gender-based violence (GBV).
HIV and GBV are a major concern, not only in Zimbabwe, but in the region and around the globe. Realising that they had no means of fighting the burden of HIV individually, the villagers of Felix farm came together a decade ago and formed support groups to help care for orphans and patients suffering from HIV-related opportunistic infections. This was done with the strong support of a local community-based organisation, Bekezela Home Based Care.
The community had long faced challenges of a lack of vegetables and water shortages. They would walk a good 14km to the nearest main road (that leads to Queens Mine) to buy vegetables, but by the time they got back home, some of the vegetables would have gone bad. The villagers then came up with the idea of a community garden. Bekezela stepped in with the necessary inputs and provided the financial assistance to buy a water tank and pipes.
Today, the Felix villagers stand proud. They have established a nutrition garden, where each family takes part in tilling the land and growing various vegetables both for resale and for their own consumption. The main aim is to ensure that women and girls benefit from the project in one way or the other.
One villager – Peter Tshuma – who grows onions and tomatoes, says he has been able to send his two grandchildren to school, as a result of the proceeds from the vegetables.
“Since I started taking part in this project, I have been able to pay school fees for my two granddaughters, Mthembeni and Unathi. I do not depend on anyone for food or clothes any more. I use my own hands to work,” said the 77 year-old villager.
Felix garden, where project members grow an array of vegetables from king onions, rape, covo and tomatoes to butternuts