By Byron Mutingwende
The Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund (ZRBF) is increasing the capacities of communities to protect development gains and achieve improved well-being outcomes in the face of shocks and stresses enabling them to contribute to the economic growth of Zimbabwe.
Speaking during the signing ceremony of the £21.5m contribution by the United Kingdom (UK) Department of International Development (DFID) held on Friday 09 February 2018, Solomon Mutambara, team leader of ZRBF Enhancing Community Resilience and Sustainability (ECRAS) revealed that with the financial support, households had begun to adopt practices that enable them to protect their ways making a living by diversifying their sources of income and changing their livelihood strategies.
“The communities in Mwenezi District were trained in disaster risk management and protection. The ZRBF is participatory. The farmers are trained on how to prepare for the next seasons, advised on where to find seeds and encouraged to participate in village savings and lending schemes so as to challenge their dependence syndrome. This has improved financial inclusion promoted the growth of small businesses,” Mutambara said.
He said the communities are taking up integrated crops and livestock projects and also linked to the markets. The farmers are now producing fodder to deal with chronic shortages which are rampant during the dry spells and used to kill their cattle due to hunger.
In partnership with private companies like the National Organic Produce and the Met Bank, there was a commercial production of chickens that has seen sales of up to $222 000 to date. They have also engaged Montana Carswell Meats and cattle sales have amounted $400 000 from 123 000 participating farmers.
Veronica Muchechetere, an official with Agritex said the ZRBF partnership with government ministries and departments was pivotal in the success of the projects. The ZRBF committee has been institutionalised into the ZRBF committees and there is a pooling of expertise.
“This multi-sectoral approach guarantees the sustainability of the project way after the exit of ECRAS and ZRBF. The ministry and Agritex officials train the farmers and are in direct contact with them. Resilience is spreading to wards outside the ZRBF. The quarterly meetings with the farmers and extension workers ensures harmonisation of activities and peer review,” Muchechetere said.
Annabel Gerry, the Head of DFID in Zimbabwe said, “Climate change is already evident here – this year we’ve been experiencing hotter days and higher frequency of dry spells during the rainy season. Without adapting – poverty, food insecurity, malnutrition, and environmental degradation will continue to be serious challenges in Zimbabwe, particularly in rural areas – adding to the existing difficulties of the estimated one million Zimbabweans who are currently chronically food insecure.” “Over 120,000 people have been supported to cope with the effect of climate change through various interventions and ZRBF gives us a unique opportunity to push forward the resilience building agenda in Zimbabwe, which as the break between rains this season has reminded us, remains a huge challenge but also an opportunity for the country”.
The ZRBF is a five-year multi-donor fund managed by UNDP in close collaboration with the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, and Rural Settlement, as well as other national players such as Ministries of Environment; Water and Climate; Public Services and Labour and Social Welfare; Local Government, Public Works and National Housing; as well as the Food and Nutrition Council.
Mr. Bishow Parajuli, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative thanked DFID for the generous contribution noting it will enable ZRBF to reach communities living in extreme poverty and high levels of food insecurity because of negative effects of climate change and stressed on the great value for investments. “Through the ZRBF, some 830,000 labour endowed vulnerable people in 18 rural districts are targeted with climate-smart agriculture; nutrition and livelihoods; productive asset creation; access to finance and value chain development; and community-based natural resources management interventions,” said Mr. Parajuli.
Zimbabwe has for the last fifteen years, experienced a social and economic crisis due to effects of climate change or extreme weather conditions and poor economic development leading to the high levels of poverty. According to the Government’s Poverty Income Consumption and Expenditure Survey report, the national poverty rate stands at 62.6% while the rural poverty rate is at 76%, with 30.4% of the rural population living in extreme poverty and 33% of under-5 children stunted.
Resilience building of labour-endowed vulnerable people has emerged as a useful framework among humanitarian and development actors and the Government as a longer-term cost-effective poverty reduction strategy. Officially launched in May 2016 with generous financial and technical support from European Union (EU), DFID, Sweden and UNDP, the ZRBF prioritizes 18 vulnerable districts targeting over 830,000 people with a total budget of USD 75 million over the life of the programme.
The programme is implemented by consortia of international and local non-governmental organisations, community based organizations, academia and private sector partners. The overall objective of the ZRBF is to contribute to increased capacities of at-risk communities to protect development gains and achieve improved well-being outcomes in the face of shocks and stresses.
This will be achieved through three interlinked components of creating a body of evidence and building capacity for increased application of evidence-based policy making; improving the absorptive, adaptive and transformative capacities of at-risk communities; and setting up a crisis modifier mechanism which will provide appropriate, predictable, coordinated and timely response to risk and shocks from a resilience perspective.
Under the 2016-2020 Zimbabwe United Nations Development Assistance Framework (ZUNDAF), the UN in Zimbabwe is supporting efforts to improve disaster risk reduction in all its dimensions of exposure, vulnerability; strengthening of disaster risk governance; preparedness to “Build Back Better”; and strengthening of partnerships. This initiative is in line with the outcome document of the fourth UN Disaster Risk Reduction Summit held in Cancun, Mexico in the second half of 2017.
Expressing gratitude to DFID for the financial support to the ZRBF, Mr. Ringson Chitsiko, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement said “The ZRBF is consistent with the Government of Zimbabwe’s climate change response policies and strategies and national development priorities.”
Noting the convergence of ZRBF’s focus on climate resilient infrastructure, linking of smallholder farmers to markets, and DFID’s Economic Development Strategy, Ms Gerry said, “The ZRBF specifically targets women and aims to tackle gender inequality. Of the 830,000 beneficiaries targeted, at least 25% of the direct beneficiaries are from female-headed households. DFID helps marginalised groups, including people with disabilities with strategic sectors such as water and energy through promotion of good solar technologies for pumping water for agriculture production and domestic use.”
DFID is working to support the poorest Zimbabweans as well as at the same time helping lay the foundations for a more prosperous, peaceful and democratic Zimbabwe, driving growth and poverty reduction. DFID’s key priorities in Zimbabwe are: i) Strengthening peace, democracy, and good governance ii) Promoting economic reform and prosperity iii) Strengthening resilience and responding to crises and iv) Supporting basic services for the poorest and most vulnerable.
The agreement was signed in the presence of representatives from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, and Rural Settlement; other sister Line Ministries; UK; EU; Sweden; UNDP; the Media and the grant recipients.