In Makoni District, Manicaland Province, Zimbabwe, residents of 10 villages formed the Tikwiri Landscape Management and Documentation team. The team leads the communities landscape regeneration process. Their area stretches over 20km2 and is in the Rusape river catchment area below the Rusape dam which forms part of the larger Save river catchment area. It is located in Zimbabwe agro-climatic regions 2 and 3. There annual rainfall is between 700 and 1 050 mm and sandy soil poor in organic matter is the norm. The land is almost flat with a gently undulating interfluve with an altitude of between 1 215m in the south west and 1 300 meters above sea level in the northern eastern portions.
The area includes the Chiduku irrigation scheme which is about 330ha in size and used by around 2,400 people. The presence of the irrigation scheme means that there are both irrigated and dryland areas, which have different sets of problems. Farming is mixed with some tobacco and horticulture products produced for commercial purposes.
The local leadership is the Tribal Authority under Chief Chiduku, and headmen Dzvairo and Mupambawatye also support the project.
Ukuvuna, a South African based organisation run by John Nzira, is working with FEET (Food, Environment Enterprise Trust), a local organisation to facilitate community processes, training and governance systems for the successful implementation of this landscape regeneration project. This is John’s home area, so he has a deep interest in supporting the area to flourish.
The community of Tikwiri recognise that poor land use practices exacerbate biodiversity loss in the area and negatively impact soil and water quality. These poor practices contribute to climate change and do not help the community to mitigate against climate change’s worst effects. In combination with climate change, poor land use practices have become the most immediate threat to sustainable farming and food and nutrition security. In the irrigated area the soil has become very acidic as a result of the overuse of fertilisers.
It is critically important to stem the loss of biodiversity, as bio-diverse ecosystems, especially bio-diverse agricultural systems, provide food, fresh water, and a balanced composition of insects, microorganisms and other living organisms. They also help regulate climate and air quality; and pollinate crops. The poor in particular depend on biodiversity in their environment for their food, health, medicine and socio-cultural survival. In addition, the growing number of unemployed youths is creating a pressing demand for employment in the country at present and well into the future. The question this community is grappling with is: ‘Where shall employment come from when biodiversity is lost, how shall we create sustainable interventions with limited resources at hand?’
As this area is located within the Rusape river catchment, local landscape practices impact the ability of the river system to support many other communities and ecosystems downstream.
The community’s vision is to improve soil health; better manage water and its infiltration; proliferate agroforestry and silviculture systems; and improve biodiversity. The hope is that in the long term these landscape changes will increase the viability of the area to produce agriculture crops which in turn will improve employment opportunities and livelihoods.
A further aim is to develop a plan for the way forward based on local knowledge systems but supported by science and technology where appropriate. They are also actively facilitating the leadership of women and youth in all aspects of the project.
Socially inclusive community dialogues and participatory community mapping processes were used to ensure collective understanding of the challenges faced within the community. Participatory Action Research (PAR) training was also conducted. This involved all social groups in developing a work-plan to address the environmental challenges identified in the area. A socially diverse landscape management committee was established to coordinate the regeneration work. Central to the success of the PAR process was the forming of a Documentation team comprising of youth. This documentation team is responsible for collecting data, processing it and reporting back findings to the rest of the community for purposes of improving decision making. The team received further training to be able to fulfill this responsibility.
Once the vision and action plan were developed through participatory processes, the community and FEET actively put it into action. They consulted with scientists to do soil and water analysis in the area. They then were able to make recommendations for managing the soils under irrigation and for improving soils in the dryland areas.
Training workshops on afforestation, water and soil conservation and other agroecology practices were organised which included youth and women. Those trained are now spreading the work on their own.
Several nurseries were established. Gabions, micro dams as well as swales were built to stop erosion and conserve water. Tree and grass planting projects were initiated. By February 2022 over 600 trees, a mixture of macadamias, dragon fruit and indigenous trees and over 5000 splits of Vetiver grass were planted.
Young leaders have been groomed to take the lead in landscape management. FEET put together a booklet with information in the local language which farmers can use to teaching one another about AE Landscape management. They are also working with schools to encourage good land management and tree planting. Traditional leaders and healers are in the process of developing a booklet on bylaws that guide the management of natural resources and the commons.
The Tikwiri Management team have realised that they can influence policy by collaborating closely with government, including the Department of Soil and Water management, Community Development and Extension Services Agritex. Politicians sometimes try to take advantage of people’s efforts for their own political gain, but when they are empowered communities recognise this phenomenon and can better hold it in check.
Once communities and youth are trained and have the right information, they can drive the programme themselves as they have the tools to do their own analysis and to identify appropriate solutions. In addition, People involved are developing confidence from creating a positive impact in their own community.
An emerging challenge is that the work is spreading fast and FEET does not have the resources to document and share it fast enough.