Presidential programme transforms rural lives

Manzini VBU farmers working on the tomatoes

THE Manzini Village Business Unit (VBU) in Shurugwi District, set up under President Mnangagwa’s Presidential Rural Development Programme has transformed the lives of rural communities.

VBUs are registered rural development enterprises equipped with one-hectare plots equipped with irrigation systems, greenhouses and other agricultural infrastructure to produce products, which are sold in ready markets.

By 2025, up to 1,8 million households are expected to benefit from the programme.

The programme has drilled over 2 200 boreholes to uplift the livelihoods of rural communities.

The VBUs programme was launched by President Mnangagwa at Jinjika village in Mangwe District in December 2021. Cabinet then directed that 10 000 VBUs be established by November 2022 as part of the Rural Development 8.0 initiative to economically empower the less privileged, particularly women and youth.

Ms Rhodina Tava (28) is one of the 20 beneficiary households. She has put her one-hectare plot under tomatoes, green mealies, butternuts and vegetables.

“Government has provided us with a drip irrigation system, which is commendable. We run this plot as a business, selling our produce in markets in Shurugwi and Chachacha,” she said.

“This has changed our livelihoods because with constant water supply, we can plant different types of crops all year round meaning we always have something to sell and make some money.”

Another beneficiary Ms Netsai Mpohlo commended the Government for drilling solarised boreholes, saying their lives have changed for the better through selling their produce to generate income.

“We have also been trained on farming as a business model and through farming we are being empowered as individuals and the community at large. We are all excited to be doing this because at the end of the day we get income, which is transforming our livelihoods,” she said.

Shurugwi district agricultural extension officer, Mrs Musa Gozho, said the VBU model is changing the lives of farmers who have been taught sustainable agriculture.

“VBUs have changed the lives of farmers in that area in terms of food availability. Their nutrition has improved, finances have improved and clean water is now available,” she said.

Mrs Gozho said the VBUs have been a game changer to farmers and the community.

“They are producing tomatoes, butternuts, onion, maize and green beans, which they sell locally and in Chachacha. There are 20 beneficiaries comprising four males and six females,” she said.

“They are now creating employment for the local youths. Plans are underway to have solar dryers to add value to the produce. They are now able to pay fees for their school-going children.”

Mrs Gozho said Agritex is providing them with the technical expertise, so that they can grow the right crops at the right time.

Manzini VBU farmers working on the tomatoes

The Government is implementing the programme through the Zinwa, AFC Bank, Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda), Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA), Agritex and the Department of Irrigation.

Under the Presidential Rural Development Programme, Zinwa is set to establish 35 000 village business units, whose components include a solar-powered borehole, a one-hectare drip irrigated horticulture project, water storage reservoirs, fish ponds, communal water points and where possible orchards and poultry projects.

An investment conference on irrigation financing will be hosted this year to attract both internal and external investors to provide the necessary impetus to accelerate irrigation rehabilitation and the development of VBUs programmes.

Chronicle

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