Farasia Shona doesn’t have to delve too far back to remember what it was like to go hungry.
‘I used to struggle to put food in my mouth,’ she recalls. ‘I would go for months on end without having meat. I couldn’t afford to buy the most basic of things like soap, cooking oil, and salt.’
Like many in rural Zimbabwe, Farasia was struggling to live off the land. She worked hard to produce a maize crop but 1.3 metric tonnes annually from half a hectare was a poverty-inducing grim return.
Today, Farasia has a different story to tell. Her maize crop has trebled in size and she’s able to sell the excess to buy goods she previously could only dream about.
Tearfund and the local church have enabled one woman and her whole community to change their story from one of seemingly endless struggle to a new chapter of progress and hope.
‘For instance I was able to buy new clothes for myself. I hadn’t bought clothes for myself in a long time. I’m also able to buy implements for farming. These are things I had long forgotten I would ever be able to do.’
I owe my success to following the FFF principles and hard work. I am committed to seeing myself succeed in life and if it calls for hard work then that should be the case.Farasia, Zimbabwe
The transformation started when Farasia’s pastor introduced her to a programme called Foundations For Farming (FFF), run by Tearfund partner River of Life.
Grounded in biblical principles, FFF challenges traditional farming and land preparation methods, such as burning, ploughing and using expensive fertilisers, and emphasises protecting the soil and preserving rainfall.
Growers are taught about the value of mulch cover, how to maintain soil structure, effective weeding, compost creation and how to plant to maximise yields.
Kudakwashe Derera, from Mashonaland West, has also seen the impact of FFF.
‘We used to farm using hired out tractors and or ox-drawn ploughs depending on budgets in that given year,’ said Kudakwashe. ‘We also used to spend money on fertilisers that were applied indiscriminately.’
But no longer: ‘We initially thought FFF was laborious yet when it came to doing it, we actually found it was simpler.
‘My message to people is that FFF is very good. It makes life easier as it reduces dependency. You use what is available to you. Any size field can yield significant returns so long as you adhere to the principles.’ Kudakwshe is so taken with what she’s learnt that she’s passed it on to her family and friends.
Farasia, meanwhile, admits it was difficult to follow initially but she now appreciates what she’s learnt about farming. The fertility of her soil has increased and so has her crop production, but she’s ready to give whatever it takes to make a success of her crops, and her life:
‘I owe my success to following the FFF principles and hard work. I am committed to seeing myself succeed in life and if it calls for hard work then that should be the case.
*figures represent Tearfund's work in Zimbabwe since April 2012
Tearfund has worked in Zimbabwe for more than three decades: empowering churches to save and change lives through sustainable agriculture, HIV prevention and care, the safeguarding of vulnerable children. Here are some examples of this work:
ACET (Aids Care Education Training)
CAT (Christian Aids Taskforce)
Ebenezer Agricultural Training Centre
EFZ (Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe)
FACT (Family AIDS Caring Trust)
OTC (Operation Trumpet Call)
River of Life
Transforming communities through the local church is central to our Christian partner's work in Zimbabwe. Tearfund partner helps around 60,000 orphans and vulnerable children through local church volunteers. Churches fulfil the biblical mandate to care for deprived children, and communities benefit from skills training, food aid and livelihood assistance.
A further partner is equipping congregations to meet the needs of HIV-affected households and improve the quality of care provided. Several partners are engaged in challenging negative beliefs about gender in the church that marginalise and oppress women.
Meanwhile, one of our Zimbabwean partners is training farmers to make better use of their land and overcome obstacles of drought, infertile land, lack of access to markets and finance.
Zimbabwe is a country facing many challenges today. UN statistics state the average life expectancy for a Zimbabwean is 53. If you’re living in poverty, life can be very hard. HIV is a huge and persistent problem across the country, particularly impacting on the working age population, affecting productivity and livelihoods, and resulting in the highest rate of orphans per capita anywhere in the world.
Years of erratic rainfall have lead to both droughts and floods, hampering food production, damaging homes and property. Meanwhile, major economic problems - massive hyper-inflation and now deflation - have discouraged investment; industry has crumbled – making the problem of poverty worse.
Our partners in Zimbabwe, and all over the world, are doing everything they can to follow Jesus to the places of greatest need. But we need your help.