Report - Mid Year 2011
On the ground ... with our partners in Zimbabwe
With the assistance of our network of volunteer on the ground, Zimbabwe Victims Support Fund has established two key areas of work in the remote north of the country. In Siabuwa in the Zambezi Valley we are supporting a cooperative gardening project overseen by retired Methodist Minister, Simon Tshabangu, and in the Lupane region (not far from the road to the Victoria Falls) we are operating a programme for free school meals through another volunteer partner.
From Siabuwa Simon Tshabangu reports that an unusual pattern of rainfall has reduced the crop yield drastically this season. Through November-December last year the rains were so heavy that the newly planted seedlings became waterlogged. Then from early this year the rain tapered off, leaving the ground parched and the already damaged crops wilting in the fields. The result has been catastrophic for the staple maize and sorghum crops.
By June acute food shortages had seen many hungry people drifting towards the forests in search of wild berries and edible roots - notwithstanding the dangers posed by wild life. Stocks of cattle and goats were heavily depleted in 2008 during the widespread violence that accompanied the last elections, and they have not recovered yet. Consequently the people have no reserves to fall back on in a time of desperate need.
The regime, which cares little for the wellbeing of the people, has severely restricted the operations of the big charities and NGOs in the field of humanitarian aid. Small projects like this gardening cooperative are therefore all the more valuable as a means of survival. In addition to the supply of fresh vegetables from the communal gardens, which benefits the whole community, we are funding, under Simon's supervision, a feeding programme for between 600 and 800 of the most vulnerable - mostly small children and frail elderly.