Jan 10 (IPS) – It’s a typical story in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city. In the absence of services such as local council garbage collection, township residents dump garbage wherever they please, and over time landfills become “official.”
However, for 56-year-old Mariyti Mpala, a communal landfill on land belonging to the local municipality a stone’s throw from her hometown offered an opportunity to turn what had become an accepted eyesore into a thriving greening project.
She bought the land in 2006, and it is here on part of the former landfill where she has grown native wild fruit trees on the one acre plot of land and manages a thriving kitchen garden.
She alternately plants tomatoes, peas, cabbage, onions and lettuce, with aquaculture being the latest addition to her project.
“I fished three thousand bream fish,” Mpala said, explaining her long-term ambitions for the local community.
“I decided to apply for this piece of land because it was clear that no one thought the land would be of any use as it was being used as a landfill,” Mpala told IPS.
Although she may not be aware of it, Mpala’s project fits right into the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Green Cities initiative, which aims, among other things, to improve the urban environment, ensure access to a healthy environment and healthy food from sustainable agriculture. food systems, increasing availability of green spaces through urban and peri-urban forestry.”
“Urban agriculture is therefore an important part of the urban economy and contributes significantly to urban food and nutrition security, as the products are less subject to market fluctuations,” said Kevin Mazorodze, FAO spokesperson.
And as more and more people in the country need food aid, Mpala’s project comes as a relief to members of her community.
“I mainly take care of the elderly who have no source of income and cannot take care of themselves,” Mpala told IPS.
“I sell some of the products at a low cost to those older women who buy in bulk so they can sell at a higher price so they raise money for their own needs,” she said.
FAO’s Green Cities Initiative is trying to promote more such activities, Mazorodze said.
“Urban and peri-urban agriculture is one of the main pillars of the FAO initiative to promote sustainable and climate-resilient practices and technologies to improve local food production,” says Mazorodze.
Mpala has sunk a borehole powered by solar energy in a country where abundant sunlight is touted to promote clean energy.
Her work has not gone unappreciated by the local population.
“She is a hard worker and has always taken care of us old people,” says Agnes Nyoni, a grandmother in her 70s who lives not far from Mpala’s green project.
“I first knew her a few years ago when she collected our names to sign up for food packages containing cornmeal, cooking oil and beans,” Nyoni told IPS.
Mpala’s work has also reached city offices, with the city councilor praising her contribution to improving the lives of the poor and food insecurity.
“We actually need more such initiatives from Ms. Mpala as she elevates the lives of our people,” said Tinevimbo Maphosa, the city councilor.
“I understand she has also started a fisheries project which I see as a sign of her community building commitments. People need to be productive and stop complaining about the situation in the country, and Ms Mpala’s work is part of what we need to see it happening in our communities,” Maphosa told IPS.
The city already has numerous community gardens across the city, with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) supporting the municipality through the Green Cities Network.
The food she grows is organic, says Mpala, and local nutritionists believe that food will become more expensive over time, and where people are now eating what is available, consumers need healthier foods.
“Food grown in food gardens like Ms Mpala’s is encouraged because it comes fresh straight from the garden, and the elderly she cares for certainly need a healthier diet,” said Mavis Bhebhe, a government hospital nutritionist.
“What is needed is to encourage such initiatives to spread the variety of the food they grow so that consumers can get the most out of locally grown food,” Bhebhe told IPS.
These sentiments come at a time when humanitarian organizations have expressed concern about the level of malnutrition across Africa as some parts of the continent face acute food shortages.
In a country like Zimbabwe, where formal jobs are falling far in between, homegrown initiatives such as the Dingindawo Gardens offer hope for young people looking for opportunities to take their leisure time off their hands, Maphosa believes.
“There is too much crime and drug abuse here, and with more projects from individuals like Ms. Mpala, we can solve the community’s many problems,” Maphosa told IPS. IPS Report of the UN Office
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© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service