REVIVAL OF THE ZUNDE RAMAMBO TRADITIONAL FARMING PRACTICE

 

Mangwende Orphan Care Trust is a movement for uplifting communities; it is an overall vision that collectively brings together community empowerment concepts from a broad base of players, partners and solutions into a movement platform that can be replicated across most of Africa.

OUR VISION:

Is to facilitate the socio-economic transformation of Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole, by educating, assisting and advocating for widows’, orphans, the elderly, vulnerable and the underprivileged.

OUR MISSION:

We hope to restore the family unity, through a paradigm shift from the begging bowl mentality to one of civic engagement, by raising a generation of socially responsible leaders grounded in stewardship service and entrepreneurial self-sufficiency.

THE PROBLEM:

In Zimbabwe today there are more than 1.8 million orphans and vulnerable children and many communities are vulnerable to drought and, hence, experience hunger and malnutrition from time to time.

(This scenario raises many questions about what went wrong with the agricultural revolution technologies such as the use of fertiliser, improved seed, irrigation schemes from the government and donor investments in agricultural research.)

OUR RESPONSE:

REVIVAL OF THE ZUNDE RAMAMBO TRADITIONAL FARMING PRACTICE –
Using Permaculture Design Principles

 

“In Africa there is a concept known as ‘UBUNTU’ – the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this life it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of others.”:
~NELSON MANDELA~

Zunde is a social security system providing protection against food shortages to vulnerable families and is coordinated by the chiefs. Although the concept is as old as the Zimbabwean culture, it had been abandoned as communities became urbanised.

Mambos are communal leaders or Chiefs and Zunde is the chief’s granary or chiefs land. Traditional custom requires the chief in any given locality to designate land for growing food crops/ staple cereals as protection against food insecurity in the community. Members of the community take turns to participate in the entire production process from ploughing and sowing to weeding and harvesting voluntarily. The harvest is stored in granaries at the chief’s or village headman’s homestead as food reserves, which will be distributed to chief’s subjects in the event of food shortages or during normal times. Priority is given to older persons, orphans, widows, vulnerable and persons with disabilities.

This voluntary participation helps to sharpen the community’s sense of belonging and identity.

Mangwende orphan care trust is the organisation working with communities promoting Zunde raMambo using Permaculture Design Principles.

For the volunteers, fulfilment comes from meeting the food requirements of orphans, widows and older persons in the community. They know that one day they will also be old and will thus rely on the community for support. They are also mindful of the fact that they may die leaving their children without care and support, and in this context participating in Zunde raMambo is akin to purchasing a pension annuity. The Zunde Practice is consistent with many communities in Zimbabwe. It has withstood the test of time and is not outdated regardless of the socio-economic and cultural changes that Zimbabwe has undergone. It has been handed down from one generation to another through oral communication.

WHY ZUNDE WAS ABANDONED

Zunde was abandoned because of:

  • Poor storage facilities and management significantly reduced the yield from the harvest.
  • Heavy losses incurred due to insects and rodents.
  • Lack of inputs (fertilisers seeds and land) and community mobilisation.
  • Corrupt elders using the harvested grain for their personal benefit.
  • Poor methods of farming.
  • Poor harvests leading people to lose faith in participating in the communally owned plots.

The Zunde Practice is being revived at 3 levels:

1) ECO-VILLAGE/ PERMACULTURE ACADEMY – monitored by the chief

2) ZUNDE AT VILLAGE LEVEL – monitored by village heads

3) ZUNDE AT HOUSEHOLD LEVEL

 

1) ECO-VILLAGE/ PERMACULTURE ACADEMY – (connecting the community)

WHY AN ECOVILLAGE/ PERMACULTURE ACADEMY

Mangwende Orphan Care Trust is a permaculture farm featuring an education and demonstration centre.

With this planet’s abundance of natural resources, boundless fertility, and innumerable life forms, human beings should be living pretty well.
Unfortunately, our race has forgotten how to coexist with our ecosystem.

The village serves to be the main point of contact, information, and everyday activities. This is going to be the project headquarters and administration hub. A permanent team will be on site whilst events, training, trials, projects and support activities will take place regularly for community groups, volunteers, supporters and sponsors. It serves to boost and benefit individuals, the community and local economy whilst at the same time creating community independence, global participation and sustainability.
The Centre will be supported by solar power and a revolutionary information and communication technology centre.

WHY PERMACULTURE

We will start as a permaculture farmer field school which will be slowly developed into an academy.

Permaculture principles(5) teaches us to turn problems into solutions:
“You don’t have a snail problem, you have a duck deficiency“.
We will turn Zunde problems into solutions.

Permaculture gives us a way of redesigning our cities, communities, farms and habitats in a way that enhances nature, our local economies, and a healthy lifestyle.
If applied correctly, Permaculture design can be used to solve many, if not all, of our planets and species current problems.
It will enable us to help many desperate communities rebuild themselves, costing very little money.
Strategy is more important than money.
Rebuilding a community and eradicating poverty can only be done sustainably when the people involved form a partnership with nature and restore their ecosystem.

TRAINING TRAINERS

A good sustainability specialist will help a community grow its way out of poverty. During training of the TOTs (trainer of trainers) the students will build working models of food production systems, water management systems, soil management systems, regenerative, organic, natural farming demonstration plots and other appropriate technologies in the community centre, and these models are proof that the training works and can also be copied and replicated in other areas.
Students will help in developing a working model farm that will show case new ideas and techniques to help change lives of the underprivileged communities.

The following is planned to take place at the community centre;

  • Sustainable and environmentally friendly models in organic farming and other regenerative forms of farming
  • Skills development
  • IT and communication hub
  • Produce collection and distribution (construction of silos)
  • Horticulture and hydroponics
  • Food forest and tree plantations
  • Aquaculture and animal husbandry

FOSTER CARE HOMES

This is where love in action is demonstrated to the needy in the community.
The village approved by the department of social welfare, will present a culturally mandated social welfare framework to meet immediate physical needs but then also provide psychological, spiritual and emotional healing.
The model can help break the cycle of poverty by teaching, empowering and inspiring individuals to overcome their circumstances, be integrated into the society and become change makers themselves.

The children’s village will include:

  • Widow and orphan rescue home
  • Extraction
  • Rehabilitation
  • Feeding programme
  • Christian education and counselling

 

2) ZUNDE AT VILLAGE LEVEL:

Trained trainers will go back to their villages and train others on Zunde plots set aside in the village by the village headman and the Chief.
The Zunde initiative will provide a platform for interaction among farmers, local leaders, and service providers.
The Zunde plots will be used as permaculture farmer field schools within the community and to reduce the distance local farmers have to travel to acquire knowledge, thereby contributing to project sustainability.
We are hoping that by the end of each season, the Zunde field will be declared a big learning centre exposing participants to improved permaculture technologies and promoting information and knowledge sharing.
Planning and implementation is undertaken using local structures, processes and procedures under the chief’s guidance, thereby ensuring high community participation and organisation, thus feeding into programme efficiency.
The social security concept leads people to believe in what village elders, headmen and Chiefs regard as a tradition and hence people buy into the programme creating a sense of ownership by the community.
Produce from the Zunde fields is used to supplement the feeding of infants, the disabled and old members of the villages and also used to support the bereaved (at both the village level and the ecovillge).
The programme is also used as a form of insurance or food bank as occasionally villagers who ran out of food, borrow grain from the Zunde granary, to be replaced after the next harvest.
Thus, communities can work as partners with joint ownership.

 

3) HOUSEHOLD LEVEL

All households will be trained at Permaculture farmer field schools (Zunde Plot) in their villages or at the Zunde ecovillage.
They will receive intense theoretical and practical training in sustainable farming methods in exchange for their labour (Some can even donate open pollinated seeds). Farmers are fully equipped to return to their homeland and train their community in permaculture design system.


What Needs to Be Put into Place:

1) COMMUNITY SEED BANKS

Community seed banks are collections of seeds that are maintained and administered by the communities themselves (open pollinated non-hybrid seeds).
Seeds can be stored either in large quantity to ensure that planting material is available, or in small samples to ensure that genetic material is available should varieties become endangered.
With climate change on the increase, many crops are in danger of being extinct and this will undoubtedly cause a global food crisis.
Seed banks provide conditions necessary for the longevity, of seeds.
Seeds are stored under low temperatures that keep seeds dormant till they are needed for replanting.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SEED BANKS:

  1. Preservation of Crop Diversity
  2. Protection from Climate Change

Crop extinction is inevitable with such extreme and radical climate changes.
If seeds are stored in seed banks, the danger of total elimination of certain species of crops is eliminated.

  1. Protection from Natural Disasters
  2. Disease Resistance

Crop diseases are highly contagious and very deadly to plants.
A serious breakout could completely eliminate crops.
Where diseases have ravaged crops and left no traces that farmers could start on, seed banks can intervene and provide them with seeds that will enable them on a clean slate.

       5. Preserve from Man-made Disasters

Man-made disasters such as war and oil spills could lead to the annihilation of crops.
Community seed banks are one of the important methods used to provide seed security and conserve agro biodiversity and associated traditional knowledge, providing options for adapting to climate change, as well as can contribute to the realisation of farmers rights.
Seed banks enable rural tribal villages to become less dependent on engineered high-yield varieties and expensive inputs such as fertilisers.

Exchanging seeds and other planting material formally and informally, is how societies have adding new food, fibres and medicines to their cultures over centuries.

Locally managed community seed banks are close to and will be run by farmers.
The common principle of these local seed banks is that they are more concerned with the circulation of the seeds and their free availability, than their conservation per se.
They are more a clearing house than a static gene bank.

These farmer-based systems of producing and swapping seeds are valuable because they are in a state of dynamic change leading to plant improvements, accepting influxes of genes and adapting to climate change.
Where farmers are also breeders, varieties are adapted to a specific natural environment with less external inputs.

 


2) COMMUNITY NURSERY/ FRUIT TREE AND MEDICINAL HERB NURSERIES

In response to the demand of rural Zimbabwean communities for fruit trees and their need to transition from subsistence to modern agriculture, the project will plant 250 000 organic fruit trees and 50 000 medicinal plants in 5 nurseries in the 5 traditional wards in Mrewa District.
Villagers request these trees because they do not require pesticides, have a high market value and local people who do not possess vital skills for maintaining the trees and marketing their fruit will be trained by TOTs (trainer of trainers) in their respective villages.

CHALLENGE:

90% of rural households in Zimbabwe earn less than the national average.
Population growth and the low market value of traditional staple crops (maize, sorghum and millet), from which most households derive their income, have made subsistence agriculture unsustainable, compelling farmers to transition to plant cash-crops, most commonly tobacco and fruit trees to generate significantly greater income.
However, the high demand for young trees has made them too expensive for many families.

SOLUTION:

This project will build community-managed organic fruit tree and medicinal plant nurseries, giving the community access to a sustainable source of income.

Mangwende Orphan Care Trust will train Permaculturalists, especially women and youth members, on organic farming certification, methods of growing, grafting, budding trees and plants and monitoring & registering carbon offsets.

We are aiming to plant 1 million trees during the first phase with farming families, sequestering carbon, preventing very serious erosion and generating income.

LONG-TERM IMPACT:

The project integrates solutions to socio-economic and environmental challenges, and will:

  1. After 6 years increase the income of involved households from fruit sales, benefiting all those involved;
  2. Diversify the livelihoods and empower women and youth;
  3. Prevent soil erosion and sequester carbon;
  4. Develop technical skills in women and youth in maintaining and replenishing the organic nurseries and;
  5. Diversify household diets with fruit consumption.

 


3) VALUE ADDITION TO AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS

Value addition is the key to raise farm incomes.
Value addition to agricultural products is the process of increasing the economic value and consumer appeal of an agricultural commodity.
Value adding technologies such as processing and preservation techniques, dehydration and drying technology, freezing technology, packing and labelling can be used to add value.
Value addition creates jobs, which is critically needed at this time when employment has been shrinking due to the economic crisis.

In Zimbabwe and many developing countries here in Africa, we produce a wide variety of agricultural products, but have not yet optimised the economic benefits we can derive from them. This is due in part to inadequate knowledge of appropriate value adding technologies coupled with poor infrastructure facilities and the absence of coherent policies to support such an undertaking, especially in rural areas.

People need training to broaden their understanding of the importance of value adding activities as well as enhancing their knowledge and skills in using various value adding approaches and technologies (construction of pack houses, silos, movable milling containers and a cold storage facilities).

GRAIN SILOS:
Are important for communities that want to become self-reliant and sell their crops at the highest price.
When communities have limited storage facilities, they tend to sell their food, to buy food, eliminating the risk of spoilage in storage.
Unfortunately, this leaves the community little choice in choosing the best time to sell and more often than not they sell for the lowest price or are forced to pre-sell their crops in the dry season when their money is scarce.

A grain silo can store produce like:

Maize, rice, pigeon pea, beans, sorghum, sesame seeds, millet, dry cassava, pumpkins, yams, sweet potatoes, carrots, sunflower seeds, ground nuts, cow peas, rice and melons.

Some of these crops can be stored long-term and others short term depending on the spoilage rate.
The silo provides a temperature-stable, vermin-free storage facility for the community’s farmers. Here they have safe storage until they can arrange a buyer for their produce.

The silo can also support other village-based industry such as:

  • A grain mill and bagging plant
  • Animal feed production
  • Cassava chips or flour
  • Bakery
  • Cooking oil press


 

4) BRANDING AGRICULTURAL COMMODITIES

  • Will raise the value of commodities and can do much to reduce poverty.
    Value added products need a distinct identity – they need a brand.
    Branding is one of the most important factors influencing an items success or failure.
    A brand is a combination of name, words, symbols or design that identifies the product and its company and differentiates it from competition.
    It offers instant product recognition and identification.

    Branding is beneficial for:

  • Differentiation
  • Conveys value – consumers perceive brand name products as high quality, more reliable and a better value than non-branded products

 

CONCLUSION:

The Zunde raMambo concept takes a holistic regenerative approach.
The “pillars” upon which it based are the provision of energy-positive homes, doorstep high-yield organic food production, mixed renewable energy and storage, water and waste recycling, and empowerment of local communities.

Zunde itself stands for “regenerative,” which reference the intention to use the outputs of one system as the inputs of another system.

The aim of sustainable development is to create communities that are economically and environmentally sustainable indefinitely.

Families in these communities can become self-sufficient and produce more than they need using their own resources.

This is an organic process that begins with basic sustainability education.
As people master the strategies and techniques of sustainability, their communities begin to prosper.

Step by step, a new culture of conservation and self-reliance develops and the positive changes flow on to future generations.
This culture becomes permanent because they are fully sustainable,
a true PermaCulture.