Fadzai Chinyanyu Maramba is one of the several community agents working with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe ( ELCZ) Malaria Project. Her journey to economic independence began in 2015 when she partnered with ELCZ. When the project introduced saving and lending schemes, she was one of the first few people to join though she was sceptical about the benefits of the scheme. Fadzai said that they were sceptical about the Lutheran Church because unlike other organisations, it was not distributing any handouts. She however joined nine other women to try the concept of saving and lending.
By June 2016, Fadzai’s group which was saving $30 per month managed to buy a kitchen unit or a wardrobe for each member. Fadzai opted for a kitchen unit since she did not have one. The next half of 2016 they bought a heifer for each member. Fadzai said that the heifer has brought her four more cattle with two heifers among them. “ By the end of 2020, I expect 2 more calves to bring the total of my cattle to 6. I stand tall, my status in the community has changed. I have been empowered economically. Before, I did not have livestock except for just 2 goats.” Fadzai said.
In pursuit of a better life, Fadzai bought household utensils in 2017. At the end of the year, the group shared their savings. With that money in her pocket, Fadzai started doing buying and selling business. This boosted her personal savings and she decided to do a facelift of her homestead. By mid 2018, she managed to raise sufficient money to buid herself a kitchen. In Africa, every woman prides herself in her kitchen. That is why some go to the extent of using different materials to decorate it. Fadzai said “My husband has been very supportive of my work but after I managed to raise enough material for the whole room, his level of recpect increased. I now believe all things are very possible through hard work”
Figure 1: Fadzai Chinyanyu from Gokwe North community
Figure 2: The inside and outside of Fadzai’s kitchen
Just like any life’s journey, Fadzai’s journey was not spared from challenges. She faced a lot of challeges mainly from drought and the economy. She came to a time when money was fast loosing its value and the group did not know what to do. Some group members decided to stop saving since even raising money was also becoming a big challenge. With the few that had remained in the group, Fadzai continued to save.The group however decided that every amount saved was to be converted into forex, either Rand or US dollar. By this she mantained the value of her money. With a smile on her face, Fadzai explained how she used the money she saved in 2018, “ As a woman who had a goal to start a reliable business, the money that we shared at the end of 2018, I bought a freezit making machine. I am using the machine to generate more money as I am the only local producer at our business centre. Hey I am now a business woman through savings and lending schemes. I produce as many a 12-20 cartons of freezits per day depending with demand.”
Even though the Zimbawean currency continues to lose value, Fadzai has learnt from the project the need to invest in assets. She appreciates a learning visit which was conducted in 2019. The learning visit helped her to appreciate the need to have generational businesses. She and a few other community members visited a cooperative which has been in operation since 1963. This motivated Fadzai to mobilise her community to start an agricultural cooperative.She formed a group of eighteen people to start on the agricultural venture.
In the 2019 agricultural season, Fadzai’s group, put 2 hectares of land under groundnut production. Though the rains were not enough, the group harvested 140 x 20 litre buckets of ground nuts that are unshelled. They intend to sell some as raw nuts and the bulk of it will be used to produce peanut butter. Fadzai is confident that marketing and branding their peanut butter will not be a challenge as the ELCZ Malaria project has taught them how to do it.
Figure 3: Part of the groundnuts Fadzai harvested from the cooperative field
“This is my journey with Lutheran, from no cattle to a proud owner of 4 cattle, an owner of a nice homestead, a business woman, a seasoned farmer” beamed Fadzai. Her journey did not result only in economic independence but in food security, improved quality of life and woman empowerment.