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Stories from the Field

In Gokwe North, It Starts With A Community of Determined Residents

Mackenzie G Author
By McKenzie Grimes on August 4, 2022

Meet Blyberg and Jacquelyne. Husband and wife, parents, farmers, program participants and community leaders are just a few of Blyberg’s and Jacquelyne’s roles in their community. The couple and their family live in the Kushinga community in Gokwe North, Zimbabwe — a drought-prone area located in between two wildlife game parks, causing it to be vulnerable to elephants that destroy crops and hyenas that prey on farmers’ livestock. Blyberg and Jacquelyne, along with many other community members, rely on farming to provide for their family but face many challenges due to lack of water and wildlife in their area. 

The community has faced other food security challenges for years. Many children were not attending school due to hunger and lack of food provided at the school, and many farmers relied on time-consuming manual labor to process their maize and small grains because there weren’t grain shellers and oil pressing machines available. 

Rise Against Hunger and partner ADRA International began working in Gokwe North in 2017, implementing the Southern Africa School Feeding Initiative to provide school meals to food-insecure children. In 2019, the initiative expanded into the Planting Seeds for Strong Communities project, which aims to support long-term food security and stimulate the local agricultural economy by establishing home-grown school feeding programs and training farmers in climate-smart agriculture and cultivation techniques and market skills. 

As participants of the project, Blyberg and Jacquelyne have received training in crops, livestock and Village Savings and Loan Association groups and became graduates of the Farmer Market school. Because of his hard work and dedication, Blyberg was selected to be a Village Agent to train other Farmer Market School and Village Savings and Loan association groups. He has established six Village Savings and Loan Association groups with 129 members collectively and helped established Farmer Market School groups with 124 total members. “I have gained respect in my community and confidence as a community facilitator… my favorite part of the day is doing trainings to my community,” he said. These trainings have also empowered Jacquelyne, and other women in her community, to save money and start their own small businesses.

As more parents earn incomes through the Village Savings and Loan Association groups and marketing of crops, they have been able to pay school fees for their children, causing school enrollment to increase within the community. With trainings in new agriculture techniques, a new garden was established near the river in response to the area’s water challenges that supports a homegrown school feeding initiative. “We used to have malnutrition in the community, but the feeding project has helped to reduce malnutrition,” Blyberg said. Along with the garden, schools received a sunflower oil pressing machine and maize sheller, which have enabled farmers to process and market their crops more quickly and easily. Profits from the crop processing have enabled the community to employ four teachers for the school. 

“My kids get meals at school; this helps to reduce the need to worry about meals during the day. My wife is happy to be free to earn her own money to help pay for other family needs, such as groceries and payment of school fees for our kids. We have been able to buy two other goats from our savings to add to the ones we had at home,” expressed Blyberg. 

The impact this project has had in this community is amazing. Both schoolchildren and farmers have been positively impacted, and the community is moving forward on its journey out of hunger. It truly starts with a community of dedicated people to create a lasting impact. 

Just as Blyberg and Jacquelyne have helped to build a strong, determined community, we have built our own amazing community of determined Hunger Champions. Let’s continue building hunger-free communities around the world together!