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Hit by COVID-19 and Drought, Residents Turn to Smart Farming to Fight Hunger

Hwange residents have resorted to hydroponic farming as a way of coping with food insecurity. Image by The Citizen Bulletin

BY LETHOKUHLE NKOMO | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | NOV 1, 2022

A combination of COVID-19 and drought left Railton in danger of acute hunger but thanks to smart farming introduced by World Vision, residents are now able to feed their families.

HWANGE (The Citizen Bulletin) — The emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic worsened living conditions for urban dwellers and forced a majority to migrate to rural areas to cut rising costs of living.

Measures imposed by the central government to contain the spread of COVID-19 such as lockdowns exacerbated the situation by worsening the levels of poverty and food insecurities in urban settlements.

National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) owned high density suburb, Railton in Hwange, is one of the communities which had to bear the brunt of COVID-19 effects, a situation which saw residents turning to hydroponic farming as a way of coping with food insecurity.

Railton is known for water scarcity. Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the suburb had endured 12 years without running water. Without a reliable water source, residents, including young women, found it difficult to make amidst COVID -19.

“Without water and electricity, we did not have any other way of bringing food to the table for our families, I had a hard time. We wanted to do gardening. But, because of water scarcity, there was no starting point,” says Loveness Maphosa, a Railton resident.

“I had lost my job in the hospitality industry, I did not have another way of providing for my family, rather I was just waiting for a miracle to happen,” she adds.

The Railton suburb is known for not having running water from the taps. Image by The Citizen Bulletin

According to the 2021 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVac) report coordinated by the Food and Nutrition Council, 2.4 million people are stalked by hunger as they struggle to meet the basic food needs.

The report further says in 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 83 percent of urban households struggled to buy food compared to 76.8 in 2019.

Fidelis Chima the Coordinator of Greater Hwange Residents Trust says Railton urban area was hit particularly hard by the socio-economic effects of COVID-19 compared to other urban areas in Hwange town.

“Already Railton suburbs had a number of problems on their plate, the coming of COVID-19 was like being stabbed by a double edged sword for residents. But thanks to hydroponic farming which was introduced by World Vision International,” he says.

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Hydroponics farming is a type of smart farming which involves growing crops without soil and also by using water-based mineral nutrient solutions in aqueous solvents.

World Vision Disaster Risk Reduction and Food Assistant Manager coordinating Zimbabwe, Luckson Ncube says the Railton community was put under the Urban Resilience Programme which sought to assist the beneficiaries to start up livelihood projects as groups.

“There were a number of COVID-19 related impacts. Different resilience building activities were identified in a participatory process where the beneficiaries identified what activities they would like to be supported on and these included poultry, detergent making and hydroponic farming. The Railton community chose Hydroponic farming.”
Luckson Ncube, World Vision Disaster Risk Reduction and Food Assistant Manager

Hydroponic uses low amounts of water, it saves water by about 80% compared to normal soil based farming, crops grow faster and increase the cycles of income.

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