Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
THE vegetable amaranthus (imbuya in IsiNdebele or Bboonko in Tonga) is an edible weed that grows in the fields, around kraals or fertile dumpsites.
Few people if any, ever knew that the plant can be commercially grown for nutritional and income generating purposes.
The plant is highly nutritious with vitamins, iron and calcium and is known to be a remedy for various kinds of health conditions.
A local organisation, Ntengwe For Community Development which operates in Binga, Hwange and Lupane districts in Matabeleland North has piloted a project known as “Building resilience to climate change through adoption of grain and vegetable Amaranthus in Binga” where it is training farmers to grow the plant to improve community resilience.
About 50 farmers in Sikalenge and Manjolo wards were trained last year during the project’s first year with about US$16 000 being invested.
Binga is one of the driest and drought prone districts in the country with most families facing the burden of hunger and significant malnutrition especially among kids.
The climate and soil type generally restricts Binga people to small grains production and for many years the district has experienced droughts resulting in most families relying on food handouts.
Ntengwe hopes to enhance food security and improve livelihoods through growing of vegetable amaranthus.
Ntengwe programmes coordinator Mr Innocent Isaac said the first phase of the project implemented between January and December last year, was a success as the community showed enthusiasm to grow amaranthus.
“The ‘Building resilience to climate change through adoption of grain and vegetable Amaranth in Binga’ is a pilot project which was implemented by Ntengwe in partnership with Christian Aid Zimbabwe, Tugwi- Mukosi Multidisciplinary Research Institute of Midlands State University, Ministry of Health and Child Care’s department of nutrition and Agritex with funding from New Zealand High Commission Fund in Pretoria, South Africa.
“The project is aimed at addressing food insecurity in the district through community resilience and multi-stakeholder participation aimed at improving local capacity to positively respond, absorb and adapt to potential shocks emanating from climate change,” said Mr Isaacs.
He said Binga community is adversely affected by climate change with women and children the worst affected.
A baseline study by Ntengwe and its partners established that women however have a better understanding of crop varieties than men but are disadvantaged by lack of resources.
“This is why this intervention sought to popularise consumption of vegetable amaranth and grain.
The aim was to introduce grain and vegetable amaranth to Binga with the aim of improving access to vegetables, markets and creation of value addition. About 90 percent of those who showed interest in adoption of agro-ecological farming were women,” said Mr Isaacs.
Participants were given plots where they planted and grew amaranthus which they either consumed or sold both locally and to other districts.
The outbreak of Covid-19, drying water sources and slow response by the market posed a challenge to the project and Ntengwe developed a digital application for market linkages.
Mr Isaacs said Ntengwe appreciates help of partners and funding from New Zealand High Commission.
Chairperson of the project, Ms Thabitha Sikabele said the community is grateful for the project.
“This plant is common everywhere but we didn’t know it can be grown as a crop. We are happy that we can improve our livelihoods,” she said. — @ncubeleon