Young people have hailed the Freedom of Information Act for giving them free access to information and education especially on the Green House projects that they are partaking in at institutions like the Utano Community Centre in Zengeza, Chitungwiza. The projects are helping in improving their livelihoods and are being supported by the Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored, and Safe (DREAMS) and other projects. These include Foundation for Farming in Glen Forest, Fambidzanani Permaculture Centre and Kufunda Project in Goromonzi.
Last week, a group of young people supported by Hivos and UNICEF visited these Youth Food Action Projects with the agenda to learn and appreciate.
“Access to information is key for every development and we are happy as young people that we have been availed with this opportunity to visit several agricultural project sites to learn. We are going to implement all the information that we got here because the information is power,” Courage Shumba (22) of Chitungwiza said.
He said, through the knowledge and skills that he got from DREAMS, he ventured into onion farming – a very lucrative business.
“The people in my community have nicknamed me to ‘Mr Onion’ just because I am now a prominent onion farmer. I sell my onions at home and Chikwanha Musika where other vendors buy in bulk for resale. I am no longer a burden to my parents because I now supplement their income. Information is key. When utilized properly, one cannot just wait to get employed. We were empowered to start businesses and be own employer and to employ others as well. This actually helps in bridging the high unemployment gap in the country,” he said.
Stephen Kudiwauripo said Covid-19 has affected the lives of the youths. Most of them ended up dropping out of school, engaging in drug abuse, theft, and prostitution among other social ills.
He hailed the fact that he managed to get life empowering skills from media, Google and other online platforms for his own good.
“Through the two-day visits to various agricultural sites, we managed to learn about beekeeping, tomato farming, organic farming, and vegetable farming. We were also taught value addition like how to extract juices from masawu and baobab seed among others. Agriculture is really a profit-making business. However, the high costs of data bundles have become a setback in terms of acquiring information online,” he said.
Mrs Tariro Chikwanha the Director for Dreams HIV and AIDS Youth Network said she works with young people from vulnerable and marginalized communities empowering them with various skills in order to reduce the dependency syndrome.
“We are working with over 400 youths some of whom are living with HIV, child-headed families, children with both parents but from poverty-stricken families among others.
“I tested for HIV in 1997 meaning to say it’s now 20 years of living positively. I grow traditional foods such as rapoko, millets, and groundnuts, herbs among others because they keep me healthy. If we grow our own crops, it reduces the economic costs and burden of buying products from other countries. Jobs are also created through farming,” she said.
Honourable Leerory Ndambi the Junior MP for Zengeza West Constituency said the projects are giving self-sustenance to the youths.
“Young people have lots of energy, if they are left idle they end up engaging in drug abuse hence through these projects they have somewhere to lean on for their own betterment,” he said.
Mrs Memory Kanyati, the Provincial Manager for the Zimbabwe Youth Council said if productive information and operational tools are availed to young people, they will prosper.
“For the youths to venture into any project they need support in terms of information like where they can acquire land, at what costs, how to start farming and how they can work with agricultural extension officers for knowledge and implementation of the projects and the inputs that are required to kick start the projects,” she said.
Some youths who attended the programme include students from Sharon Cohen Special School, Vana Vedu Trust and Chitungwiza Youth Hub among others.