As I write this, my country Zimbabwe is facing severe drought caused by El Niño. People’s crops and livestock have been devastated. And 2.5 million people are estimated to be in need of emergency food. But child sponsorship is making a difference. By teaching women here to cope with the effects of climate change, we're helping them continue to grow food, earn a living and support their children.
One of our child sponsorship projects is in Chiendembuya, an area of Makoni District in east Zimbabwe. ActionAid has set up 18 women’s groups that offer women opportunities to develop their farming skills and widen the range of crops they grow, to build their reslience to climate change.
This training is more important than ever at the moment, as it is really helping families continue to grow food during the terrible drought. One of the women who is benefitting from her local group is Tambudzai, who lives with her husband and their three children. I have had the privilege of meeting Tambudzai a number of times. Not only has it been amazing to witness the success of her projects to improve the food she grows, but also the change in Tambudzai herself, and what this has meant for her daughter.
Life was tough for Tambudzai
Life for Tambudzai and her family has been extremely tough the last few years. “When my husband had to give up work due to ill health, it became my responsibility to produce food for my family," Tambudzai explains. "I had no agricultural skills or employment opportunities."
"The only option I had was to borrow money from friends and neighbours," she continues. "We didn’t have enough to cover our needs and my children were often sent home from school because we hadn't been able to pay their school fees. My children also went to bed hungry. This was a great concern to me and I worried that they would become sick."
My children went to bed hungry. This was a great concern to me and I worried that they would become sick.
Not being able to provide for her kids was very upsetting for Tambudzai. "In my community, a woman is supposed to ensure that her children are well fed and attend school," she explains. "I couldn’t do either of these things and so I was viewed as a lazy woman. My husband lost respect for me and I lost all my self-confidence."
Using her new skills
When Tambudzai joined the ActionAid women’s group set up in her community, everything changed. ActionAid trained the group in climate-resilience and sustainable agriculture, livestock rearing, and business management. After the training, ActionAid also gave women seeds and livestock, including chickens, to help them get started.
Tambudzai was really excited about applying everything she learned. “I adopted the techniques I had learnt at the training sessions straightaway," she says. “For example, as well as growing maize, I also planted the groundnuts ActionAid had given me. This means that if my maize crop fails, I still have an alternative crop to feed my children with. For me, this is the most important thing."
"I adopted the techniques I had learnt at the training sessions straightaway."
Tambudzai is also earning an income from her crops now. She explains: "I can sell some of my groundnuts to other families too and with the money I make, buy other foods for my children. ActionAid also gave me some chickens. By selling their eggs, I am now able to pay my children’s school fees. It brings me so much pleasure to see my sons and daughter each morning dressed in their school uniforms."
A new sense of self-confidence and being respected
For Tambudzai, as with so many women, learning these skills and setting up her own initiatives to make money has transformed the way she feels, and improved her relationship with her husband. "I am now maintaining a record book for all my projects," she says, "which helps me to manage my income and expenses more effectively. As a result, my husband respects me and, for the first time, he consults me when making decisions about our household income. This has really restored my confidence."
It is wonderful to see such a big change in Tambudzai's life, from one of uncertainty and embarrassment to one of self-confidence and security where she can look after her children.
My husband respects me and, for the first time, he consults me when making decisions about our household income.
"Above all, I can now provide food for my children. This means so much to me. My children are a joy to me and to see them do so well in school is a blessing. My youngest, Tanatswa, came first in her grade three exams. This gives me huge pleasure. I now hope to expand each of my projects in order to increase my income further. Thank you ActionAid!"
Tanatswa says: "I am so happy when my mum goes to the ActionAid trainings. I like it because whenever she goes to a meeting, she always brings something good for me. I now attend school every day and I am really happy!"
It's all thanks to child sponsorship
Projects like Tambudzai’s have never been more crucial than they are now, as communities in Zimbabwe continue to tackle the effects of El Niño. None of the work that ActionAid is doing with these communities would be possible without the support of our child sponsors.
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If you haven't sponsored a child before but have been inspired by our work in Zimbabwe then please consider sponsoring a child with ActionAid, and helping us support more women like Tambudzai.
Photos: ActionAid Zimbabwe