Sithokozile Matafini

Sithokozile Matafini

Age at interview: 50

Nezvuhwi, Zimbabwe

A woman emerges from the central hut in a fenced-off compound with three buildings. She wears a fitted blue-and-gray Ankara[1] dress and a matching head scarf. The earth in this compound is bare and a deep red. The sun blazes down, but Sithokozile smiles widely and seems unfazed as she walks toward the gate to meet us. Next to the gate sits a pile of granite rocks built to mimic the stonewall structures of the Great Zimbabwe and appearing to display the household’s connection to the cultural and spiritual history tied to those ruins.[2] In the distance beyond the compound lies a large open field with millet. The central hut where we speak with Sithokozile resembles what one imagines a museum replica of a traditional Zimbabwean kitchen would look like. A large part of the wall consists of shiny, black, built-in mud shelves lined with different traditional pottery, small baskets, wooden plates, and spoons.

My name is Sithokozile Matafini, although I am most known as Ambuya vaVongai, which means “Vongai’s grandmother.” I was born in 1968 in Gokwe, in Chief Jiri’s area, although my parents are originally from Chivi in Masvingo Province. I now live in Mayo, which is in the Nezvihwi region. I have seven children and five grandchildren.

The eldest is Talent, who was born in 1989. He lives in Harare, and he is a medical doctor. The second was born in 1990; her name is Shawline. She is married with two children. She works in South Africa, but her husband and children are here in Zimbabwe. I used to live with her children, but now, because of school, they are living with their father, because they can go to school more easily from there.

Vongai, the eldest of Shawline’s children, is my first grandchild, and she is a hard worker. Her father says it was because she was raised by me. He often jokes that he wants to send the younger child, Vimbiso, back to live with me so that she has the same training.

In January 1991 I had Tatenda, and in December 1991 I had Behaviour. If you see these two, you’d think that they are twins. In 1994 I had Tapiwanashe, in 1996 I had Takunda, and finally in 1997 I had Praywell. My husband and I live here with Praywell and sometimes our two grandchildren from Shawline.

I had such a terrible time growing up that I always advise my children to not break up with their spouses, because in many cases it is the children who are adversely affected by the separation of parents. I made a resolution to send all my children to school, because I did not get to do that and I know the effects of not having gone to school.

At one point I had to polish soapstone sculpture pieces as a way to gain more income so that my son’s, the doctor, school fees would still be covered when my husband could not get enough from the work he did.

Two births in one year

The situation with the two births in 1991 was really difficult. When my baby, Tatenda, was two months old, my husband came back from the city where he used to work to visit us here in Mayo village. In those days I used to sleep in the same room with my mother-in-law, but during that visit, my husband asked for me to sleep in our room with him. And so I did. A little while later I started to feel pain in my uterus and wondered what it was.

I went to the hospital to get checked and they told me that I was three weeks pregnant. I was so devastated. After giving me the news, the nurses even asked me if I wanted the child. This is a question you never expect to be asked because abortion is taboo, but the nurses felt sorry for me. There was nothing I could do so they just advised me to keep breastfeeding Tatenda. In my culture, breastfeeding while pregnant is also considered taboo, so they told me not to tell people I was pregnant. I did not tell anyone, not even my mother.

I just kept breastfeeding and towards the time of delivery, I took Tatenda to my mother, a common practice when weaning a baby. I think that the breastfeeding prevented my tummy from growing large, so when I dropped Tatenda off with my mother, she did not realise I was pregnant. A week after I left Tatenda at my mother’s, Behaviour was born.

When my mother found out, she was horrified, but there was nothing she could do except be supportive. Behaviour grew fast, faster than Tatenda even, probably because he breastfed longer than Tatenda, who was only breastfed for less than a year due to my unexpected pregnancy. Even though it was difficult, I somehow managed.

Her harshness prepared me

I grew up not knowing my mother. The reason my mother went away was because of a dispute about dowry. My maternal grandfather came to my father demanding dowry, and my father said he had none. So my grandfather took my mother away, as was customary during those days.

As a child, though, no one told me this. Instead I was told that she had passed away during the liberation war. As a result, I grew up under the care of my stepmother. Growing up I had so many chores that I was made to do. I thought it was unfair, and I was unhappy, which is not like me, since I am generally a very happy person.

As I grew up and eventually got married, I sort of started appreciating what I went through with my stepmother. In some ways her harshness prepared me for the realities of life. I am not afraid of hard work because … that part of my childhood prepared me well.

Farming as a way of life was my fate

When we eventually moved to this piece of land, it was all easy for me. I did all the land clearing using my own hands. I learnt a lot of things when I was young, like learning how to harness the oxen. This I learnt while my father hovered over me and threatened me with his whip. I can even train a new ox to pull the plough, which is not an easy feat. My father’s reasoning for this type of training was that there was a likelihood that we could get married to men who would be absent from the home for various reasons, and if we did not acquire those essential skills, then we would risk starving our own families because there would be no one to do it for us.

I often wondered whether if [my biological parents] had both been around I could have gone further with my education. At the same time, I cannot help feeling that farming as a way of life was my fate, whether I had grown up differently or not.

My mother was still alive!

One day in 1980, when I was 12 years old, my stepmother was having a chat with a woman she went to church with, when I overheard them talking about me. The woman was asking how my stepmother could have a child my age? My stepmother explained that I was not her child but her husband’s. The woman then asked where my mother was, and my stepmother said that my mother was at Panganai and that she was the daughter of Headman Svina.[3] That was the first time I heard that my mother was still alive. I committed the name “Headman Svina” to memory.

Shortly after overhearing this news, I tried to run away to find my mother, but my father caught me as I was about to cross a river that was several kilometres away from home. I was running away on foot, and someone who saw me told my father. And so he followed and caught up to me. It is quite a long distance that I had travelled before I was caught. I had put my clothes in a cardboard box and was determined to go. When he caught up with me, he asked me where I was going, but I did not answer him. He then commanded me to go back home, and when we got home, he gave me a thorough beating.

For a while after this incident, I gave up the idea of finding my mother. Until one day my stepmother asked me if I knew that she was not my real mother. I lied and said that I did not know. She then told me that my mother had died. I later found out that what prompted her to have this discussion with me on that day was that a man who used to work with my father had come down from Hippo Valley and had told my stepmother that my mother was alive in Zaka, which is about 80 kilometres from where we were living. My stepmother thought that I had heard what the man had said, but I had not. She told me not to tell my father about the discussion that we had.

As I got older I began to ask her if my late mother had any known relatives. She told me that my father would give me the appropriate answer for that question. I never got this answer from anyone.

Stolen from my mother

How I got to know that my mother was still alive and eventually meet with her was by pure luck! One day I overheard my stepmother talking to a neighbour, and she mentioned the name of the place that my mother was from and her family name. Soon after I was at a church conference, and while there, I got into a conversation with this woman I did not know because I had heard her mentioning names that were similar to those of my mother’s people. I asked her if she knew my mom’s family name, and before answering, she asked me who I was. I told her my name, and then she said that she had been with my mother’s younger sister that very day in the morning! The woman I was conversing with turned out to be married to my mother’s brother. She looked at me and we started to cry. She told me that my father had gone and stolen me from my mother at a very young age, and so that is why I grew up without her.

My mother had four children with my father, but I was the only one that my father managed to steal away from my mother. Perhaps this was because I was the eldest and would be easier to care for than my younger siblings — I’m not sure. The other three grew up with my mother.

They thought he would bring me back

When I finally met my mother in 1990, when I was already married and pregnant with my third child, she explained what happened to me. She says that a short while after she moved back to her parents’ home in 1970 with her children, my father went to my mother’s family homestead. When he arrived, my father found that my mother’s young sister Ruramai was the only one at home with me because my mom had left to go to church. My father sent Ruramai to the shops to buy some treats for me. She went to the shop, leaving me with my father, and when she came back, my father had left with me.

They say he carried me on his back and boarded a bus not too far from the home. When my mother came back, she was shocked to find me gone. They asked around and someone told them that he had seen my father carrying his child on his back. They thought he would bring me back, but it turned out that he had taken me for good. My mother says she tried to look for me everywhere but without success. At the time that my father took me, he was working at Hippo Valley Estates[4] in Chiredzi-Triangle, which was a completely different city from the one my father had lived in before. So it makes sense that she couldn’t find him.

I had no more tears

The day I met my mother for what felt like the first time, she cried a lot, but I did not cry. I had cried for her my whole life, so I had no more tears. My mother is a member of the Zion Christian Church, the same church as me. She told me that she had joined that church with the intention of asking the prophets within the church if she was ever going to be able to find me. They told her that the child was alive and that she was going to find me, but only after a very long time. It was ironic that it was at a church gathering within this church that I met the aunt who reunited me with my mother. Even my maternal grandmother was very happy. She also cried a lot when she saw me.

In search of fertile lands

I got married to Chikuni in 1989 in Mberengwa. After getting married, my husband and I had a small piece of land within the family’s homestead in Mberengwa given to us by my husband’s father. My husband’s father had three daughters-in-law, and he shared the land equally amongst us. That meant we each didn’t get much land relative to the size of our growing families but that was all the land that was available.

After 12 years we moved here to Mayo in search of fertile lands, so that we could have enough to take care of our family.[5] We have now been living here for the past 18 years. My husband is now elderly and he suffers from ulcers. It helps that the food that is recommended for people with his condition is what we grow in our fields.

When we heard about an impending land reform process at the end of 1999, we took heed and went to survey the land in Mayo and eventually occupied the land. We had disputes with the white farmer who owned this land at that time. At one point he wanted to shoot us with his gun. My husband decided to go and face him. Before he did, he instructed us to run away in the event that the white farmer ended up shooting him.

At that time we had our two sons, Tatenda and Behaviour, and another man that we employed with us. The white farmer did not shoot my husband, so we carried on preparing our land, because, though the farmer owned the land, it was not being tilled. He used this land just to keep his cattle, even though the amount of land he was using far exceeded the amount of cattle he had.

We were here to stay

All the land between Nezvihwi, the area where we are now, and Mashava, which is the nearest small town, was owned by three white farmers. If you look at that same land mass now, you’ll find that that there are over 3,000 families living on the same area. At the time that the three white farmers were here, all this land was just forest that was not being tilled. In 2001 the government divided and pegged the land by marking the boundaries of land allocated to each of the people who had been occupying this land and gave us certificates to show we had been allocated that land.

In the beginning we were just building temporary structures covered by plastics. We later on started building pole and mud huts. As for food, if one needed to buy food, one had to walk all the way to Masvingo town or Mashava, which is about a 70 kilometre return journey. Since it was so far, you had to buy enough food to last you a whole month, so you had to plan carefully. I was a bit fortunate, because I had a motor vehicle that I could use.

Some who hadn’t built temporary shelters were using the farmhouse at Dot Farm, which was one of the three farms owned by the white farmer that was here before the occupation. They later built their own houses and moved out. The white farmer [with whom] we had disputes eventually left because when the then governor of Masvingo, Josiah Hungwe, heard about the threats of gun violence made by the white farmer to my husband … he sent people to help beef up the security and to show the farmer that we were here to stay.

We haven’t left this land to this day.

My whole body would be aching

It was quite a tough time for me when we first moved here, and what made it particularly difficult was that I did not have cattle or even a donkey during that period. I cut down the trees, and after that I would need to pull the trees out of the fields. I couldn’t hire cattle because you had to pay for the entire day, even though they may not be working the whole time. By the time I would go to bed, my whole body would be aching from all the work. I would feel as if I had gone through a beating of my whole body. Now we are happy because we are enjoying the fruits of our labour.

My husband worked as a truck driver for 40 years. He finally retired in 2011. We were able to pay for most of our children’s’ school fees with his salary, but after the school fees, there was not a lot of money left for us to do other things. I quickly realised that I needed to do something so that I could also earn money and contribute towards the family’s needs. Getting into farming got me the extra money that I needed, and in this way, we managed to avoid unnecessary quarrels that usually arise in families when they are on tight budgets.

At that time I had the help of my children, Talent, Tapiwa, Tatenda, and Behaviour. My eldest was at school. I also used to hire labour, especially during weeding time, paying the hired labourers with some of my grain. It helped that for draught power, we used donkeys. Even during times that I had fewer hands to help, I could just work with one child controlling the plough, and I would follow behind, dropping the seeds in the furrows created. The school fees era was quite hard for me, but because of the crops I was able to grow and sell, I managed to help pay for my children’s school supplies.

I feel happiest when I’m in my fields. I got so much from the soil.

There is always a risk

When you grow food, there is always a risk, because sometimes all goes well and other times there are challenges. Sometimes crops germinate then pests or diseases attack them, and at other times the seeds don’t germinate at all.

Last year we had a problem with armyworm. The worms destroyed our maize crop so badly that you would have thought it had been eaten and trampled by cattle. Some people tried to use the pesticides from the shops to control the armyworms, but it was of no help. We used ashes from burnt shelled mealie cobs and burnt marula tree bark mixed with some sand, and then we applied the mixture onto the shoots of the maize stalks. They say that the worms do not like the taste of the ashes and the abrasion from the sand gives them discomfort. This is how we managed to minimise the damage to our crop.

Those who used the stalk-borer pesticides suffered the most, because it was as if they had used something that attracted even more worms into their fields rather than repelling them. And so their crops were worse off. The infestation was so bad that initially I even considered using pesticides. I did not use them — not because I did not want to, but because I did not have the money to buy any.

Last year was a tough year, and we had to use our money wisely. I could not afford to spare money for the chemicals and still be left with enough to feed the family. It turned out that I was fortunate that I did not have the money and that somebody advised me to use the ashes method, because in the end I was able to achieve a decent harvest.

I can’t help but smile

I am very proud that I managed to get my son through medical school because of my farming yields year after year. Now he is in a position to take very good care of his family. I am happy that he is now an independent being whom I raised from birth. Sometimes, when I think about how far he has gone in life, I can’t help but smile to myself.

Last year I was able to harvest enough to buy cattle to replace the ones that died during the drought in 2015/16. That was a moment of pride for me.

My other kids are also independent and can also take care of their families. I was able to give each one of them a chance to go as far as they could with their education, due to my farming.

I am lucky enough to be able to say I have had more joy than disappointment in farming.

I grow a full plate

I like growing different kinds of food, but my favourite is gardening [horticulture]. I grow what we call “a full plate,” which simply means growing many different crops and vegetables so that when I crave for say, sweet potatoes, I will just go into my storage and get sweet potatoes. Instead of being forced to eat a few foods because they are all you have, I have a wide variety of nutritious farm products at my disposal at most times. I do not need to waste money buying things that I can grow.

I know that with horticulture, I will not go broke, especially when I have access to water for irrigation. I can produce tomatoes, onions, broad-leaf vegetables, and much more for people to buy.

In terms of traditional vegetables, I grow munyevhi [Cleome gynandra, African Spider Flower], muboora [pumpkin leaves], minyemba [cowpea leaves], and many others. All these fill my full plate. One of my favourite things to make is vundu, a peanut-butter-like paste that is made from ground sesame seeds. I just add salt to the paste and then eat it with sadza.[6] I also grow millets like mhunga [bulrush millet], rapoko [finger millet], sorghum, and cowpeas. We get most of our seeds from the crops that we grow, and so I don’t have to worry about buying seed.

I have got a 29-hectare field, but I do not grow crops on the whole area, because I also use my field as the grazing land for my livestock. I also rear chickens here and have goats, so whenever I want eggs, chicken, or goat meat, I have access to them all. At the moment I only have two goats here, but I would like to go and get my other 12 goats in Mberengwa. When we left Mberengwa to come here to occupy the land, we did not know what to expect, so I left most of my cattle there.

Now we are wiser

Inadequate amounts of rain or erratic water supplies are some of the main challenges we are faced with in this region. If we have adequate water supplies for our fields, we would be able to feed a lot of people.

In the old days we would just watch as the water just flowed away. After the rains, the ground would quickly dry up, limiting the amount of moisture that the crops would get. Now we are wiser, because we are using new farming methods like the contour ridge method. You see, when the rain is falling, these contour ridges reduce the surface runoff, because the ridges trap the water. When one contour is full, the water will spill into the next contour and so on. The contours help to trap the moisture and nutrients for longer periods, resulting in healthier plants. This in turn means bigger yields and more money for us.

If we get adequate water for our crops, we can produce a lot. During the economic crisis of 2008 that happened in Zimbabwe, we complained along with other Zimbabweans about the hardships facing Zimbabweans. But it was not because we lacked. We had plenty of food in our house. I had kept some rapoko grain that I had grown in 2002. I took that grain to the grinding mill and made brown sadza for my family from it. So none of us went hungry. My grandkids at first could not stand it, because of its brown colour, but over time they started to enjoy it. Now every time Vongai and Vimbiso come to visit, they mill around the kitchen in the mornings, hoping that I am making rapoko porridge.

Last year I grew a lot of sorghum and rapoko because we had adequate rainfall. I did not apply any artificial fertilisers; I just used organic manure. Organic manure is good, and it does not burn our crops like the artificial fertilisers do. And it is also not harmful to our bodies. I yielded seven tons of sorghum and two tons of rapoko, so I was able to sell some.

I hope that I shall be able to pass this knowledge to the future generations. I have already started to do that with my granddaughter Vongai.

Our traditional foods were nutrient dense

Apart from knowledge that I acquired growing up whilst farming with my parents, I have also expanded my knowledge through membership with an organisation called Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers' Forum [ZIMSOFF].[7] In particular I have received a lot of information from Nelson Mudzingwa and Elizabeth Mpofu.[8] Initially Mrs. Mpofu came to us and encouraged us to form cooperatives.

When the women in my village formed the cooperative project, ZIMSOFF began to offer trainings. I remember Nelson Mudzingwa during one training saying that it was important for us to learn how to harness and conserve water. He explained that we go to church to ask for rain from God. However, when we get the rain, we did not know how to store it for longer usage. Prior to the training, our practice was to dig ditches that would move water out of the fields, but he taught us how to make ditches and holes that trapped water in the fields. He gave us specific measurements and spacing for the holes that we have to dig in order to trap the water in the contours.

My maternal grandfather and uncles used to encourage me to grow traditional crops, especially resilient rapoko, with which you do not worry about droughts. You can use rapoko for many things. Apart from food, you can use it as an ingredient for most ritual processes, you can brew beer with it, and people who fall sick can quickly recover after eating rapoko.

At ZIMSOFF I was learning about the importance of these crops to our diet, and I began to understand why some people were not bothering to grow maize. The trainings made it clear how much more nutrient dense our traditional foods were. Our elders who used to eat a lot of these grains are much stronger when compared to those of us now who eat a lot of processed foods. My mother-in-law was here the other day, and she still looks like a young girl, as opposed to me, who is looking old already.

Growing our traditional crops

Growing these crops is quite labourious. For example, when growing rapoko, you have to dig into the dry land and sow before the rains come, which is usually between the 21st of September and the 15th of October. You should not sow it after the rains have come, so this means working on hard, dry land in the hot sun. Those in the mountainous areas broadcast[9] the seed, while those in the flatlands will make lines and ridges, drop the seed into the ridges, and then cover the hole with soil. When the rain comes, the crop will germinate and then you need to thin and cultivate the crop.

It is a very difficult crop to cultivate, but it is also very delicious. I have grown a lot of that crop recently, and my husband and I developed a new method to ease the cultivation process. After germination I had asked my husband to go in with a disc harrow, but he suggested that we wait for some time because the crop was still too short. After waiting for some time, he then[went in with the disc harrow by first going along the ridges, then across them. As he did this, he managed to thin the crop in the process.

More and more I am seeing that people are going back to growing our traditional crops. So it is really a matter of laziness and a lack of innovation that scares other people from growing a crop like rapoko. Once the crop is thinned, you still need to harvest the crop and separate the grain from the chaff, which are both also labour-intensive processes. We have been fortunate in this area, because people now seem to want to use the old ways of humwe.[10] At some point we had gotten to a place where if you made a call for people to help, they would ignore that call. The cooperative projects by ZIMSOFF has helped to bring back this communal practice.

Our super desire for the white man’s culture

The other thing is that people were no longer performing rituals for the spirits. People were no longer brewing mitoro.[11] My father-in-law was a nyusa, a person considered or claiming to have psychic powers — a medium, I guess. He would go to Matopos[12] to ask for rains. By the time those that went to perform the ritual came back, the rain would be falling. But now, even if a mutoro[13] is brewed and the ritual performed, there are times that the rain doesn’t come.

This is mostly because people either don’t really believe in our rituals, discrediting it by calling it witchcraft or magic, or because the ritual is not done in the right way. Some people now use maize to brew mutoro instead of using the traditional mhunga and rapoko or mapfunde. Our super desire for the white man’s culture played a big role in the destruction of our own. People had adopted the attitude that our culture was no longer relevant in their lives.

When I went to school I was reading books by Zimbabwean authors such as Pesvu Namago and Akanyangira Yaona, among others. However, our children did not read those books because of the changes in the school syllabi. Learning used to happen in the classroom, in the home, and during play. When we were young, we were taught how to use our hands in order to sow, to knit, cook, and build. When our parents were harvesting crops in the fields, they would leave little bits of the crops behind so that we could go and harvest these leftovers as practice. Our parents would then let us go and play mahumbwe.[14]

I am having problems with my own children, because they do not know these things. It is my wish that such valuable life lessons of using or developing our hand skills be taught in our schools. Our elders lived well because they relied on their traditional practices, which had been handed down to them by those who went before them.

Not good for our soil or our bodies

I have never used chemicals and fertilisers in my fields. Every cent I had went to paying my children’s school fees, so I couldn’t spare money to buy fertilisers. You can see that I have not built a fancy home yet. This was all due to financial constraints. In 2001, after the land reform process, we got a donation of fertiliser from President Mugabe, and somebody helped themselves to my allocation. I did not mind, because when it came to harvest time, I had the biggest yield, bigger than that of those who had used fertiliser. I was so happy, and that is when I realised that this chemical fertiliser that we wanted so much was actually not good for our soil or our bodies.

In 2015, through ZIMSOFF, I started learning about agroecology — that is, farming without using fertilisers but just using material from your surroundings. I then realised that I had been on the right path after all.

In the season that just passed, the 2017 season, I planted mapfunde using 10 kilograms of seed and organic manure. I managed to achieve a yield of seven tons from the 10 kilograms of seed. I also grew maize by planting an open-pollinated variety of maize [OPV 521] with organic manure, and when it came to harvest time, we got six tons of maize.[15] I took two tons to the Grain Marketing Board, and I sent another two tons to an aunt who lives in Chivi. I have kept the remaining two tons here for personal use.

As I’ve learnt and seen artificial fertilisers are notorious for burning crops, especially in the hot conditions here, … I am quite certain that I would not have achieved these high yields if I had used them.

Using our own seeds

I was lucky because I got to attend a workshop run by Fambidzanai Permaculture Center[16] in Harare, where I learnt about seed production from specialists and how to breed our own seeds. They encouraged us to be seed producers. When I heard this, I was amazed and drawn by what they were teaching me.

When I came back, I told my husband that we could produce our own seeds from our traditional crops. He was a bit sceptical, and so for a while, he insisted that he still go buy seed from the seed companies. He eventually realised we didn’t need to do that and is now a staunch believer in using our own seeds.

My eyes were opened at the workshop, and I acquired the ability to select my seeds and choose the ones that have high chances of germinating and producing a good yield. I now do not buy seed like most people. The seed that I get straight from the field and recycle is very good, so we do not have to contend with a lot of diseases or pests.

It may take a bit longer to reach harvest time with our seeds, but they are stronger than hybrid seeds. The crop from the hybrid seed may look big and healthy because of the genetic modification, but it usually does not pass a stress test. If the hybrid seed is denied moisture for a little bit, it wilts quickly and the cobs lose weight. The GMO [genetically modified organism] elements in these hybrid seeds are responsible for a lot of illnesses that are plaguing us. [17]

I have also learnt not to rely on seed breeders. Sometimes they cheat us, telling us that our seed is not good enough, only to then sell the exact same seed back to us, claiming to have produced it. Now I am wise enough and I cannot be fooled just by packaging or the colour they put on the seeds. These are the benefits of the trainings that I have been able to be a part of and the work I am doing as part of the cooperative in my community.

The green show

One of my hobbies is taking part in seed and crop exhibitions and competitions. At the moment I am busy selecting the best of my seeds for exhibition at the Harare Agricultural Showground. As part of this process, I put together a selection of grains like maize, millet, and sorghum. I select the best from my harvest and set aside small portions of each for the agricultural exhibition. I participate in at least three agricultural exhibition shows a year.

One of the ones I usually participate in is the farmers’ show, where I compete against farmers who, unlike me, use chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Each farmer is judged based on a variety of factors. For instance, when judging maize, the judges look mainly at the size of the individual grain, the amount of grain on each cob, and the general health of the cob and its grain.

Sometimes at these agricultural shows, we have what we call “the green show,” which is when we take our fresh crops and vegetables to display them. I am usually top in this category, because when I take my green crops, they remain green and firm for up to a week because of the natural inputs that I use.

I feel very happy when I participate in these shows. My husband was laughing at me the other day because I am always preparing for these shows. It has become part of my life routine for me to constantly think and prepare for these shows. They keep me working to improve my crops and methods of farming.

We would not have anyone go hungry

I encourage other smallholder farmers to have more confidence in our own traditional seeds. We should farm using resources that are found in our environment. If we do this, we will reduce our production costs, unlike those who bring in inputs from faraway areas.

I wish that as a community we could agree on a vision and a common goal. Imagine if everybody in this community had produced good harvests like I did; we would not have anyone go hungry in this country. We would be able to give food to those who would not have had good rains. I was able to rescue my sister-in-law in Chivi, where there was drought, because I managed to send two tons of maize there.

If everybody pulled their weight together like this, we would not need government to allocate money to social welfare for people to be able to buy food. That money could be diverted to other sectors, such as the health sector, where it is very needed. I hope that those who hear my story will be inspired and that all of our projects shall continue to grow.

  1. Ankara is a fabric printed with African designs.
  2. “Built 900 years ago, the massive stone structures of the Great Zimbabwe create a breathtaking view that often leaves visitors wondering about historical events that transpired many centuries ago. Great Zimbabwe comprises several stone walls, monuments, and buildings built mainly of granite. The structures were created using a method called dry stonewalling, which requires a high level of masonry expertise. The internal structure contains many passageways and enclosures. It spans almost 1,800 acres of southeastern Zimbabwe.” For more see: (accessed November 5, 2018).
  3. “Headman” refers to the leader of a tribe in a village.
  4. Hippo Valley Estates Ltd. is a large private company engaged in growing and milling sugar cane and other farming operations in Zimbabwe.
  5. Mberengwa is a district in Midlands Province in Zimbabwe. The indigenous languages spoken in Mberengwa are mainly Karanga and Ndebele.
  6. Sadza is Zimbabwe's staple dish, traditionally made with white maize meal (white cornmeal).
  7. Formed in 2003, ZIMSOFF envisions improved livelihoods of organised and empowered smallholder farmers practising agroecology.
  8. Nelson Mudzingwa is the national coordinator of ZIMSOFF, and Elizabeth Mpofu is the chair of ZIMSOFF.
  9. In agriculture, gardening, and forestry, broadcast seeding involves scattering seed, by hand or mechanically, over a relatively large area.
  10. Humwe refers to combining the labour force to work on one field and then working on the fields of the other neighbours, in turns. It is a way of combining efforts to plant or harvest large areas of land.
  11. Mitoro refers to traditional alcohol brewed for rainmaking ceremonies.
  12. The Matobo Hills cover an area of about 3,100 square kilometres, of which 440 square kilometres is a national park (the rest is communal land or commercial farmland). The Matopos Hills have an average height of 1,500 metres, and together they cover an area of about 3,100 square kilometres, extending across 80 kilometres east to west. The hills were considered sacred, and tribal rainmakers used to climb the mountains to ask the ancestors for rain.
  13. Singular form of mitoro.
  14. Mahumbwe is played by young children. The basic idea is to set up a family and play out what happens in a family. It is very similar to “playing house,” another family role-playing game played by children.
  15. “Open-pollinated” is a horticultural term meaning that the plant will produce seeds naturally. When these seeds are planted, they will reliably reproduce the same plant as the parent.
  16. One of the oldest permaculture centres in Africa, Fambidzanai came into being in 1988. It has been at the forefront of development organisations promoting food security through sustainable land use management (permaculture) in Zimbabwe.
  17. A genetically modified organism is any organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.