Silveira House set out to provide a full complement of its programming in Mashonaland Central in an attempt to bring about holistic transformation. The intervention involved cultivating a culture of collaboration, co-responsibility and accountability among development agents in the district. In order to close the gaps in governance and leadership, Silveira House also issued a series of training programmes for traditional and elected leaders to build their capacities for coordinating community development activities. Last but not least, the welfare of the people was at the heart of the project carving out alternative sources of livelihoods for economically challenged members of the community. Consolidating these three objectives would, thus, yield Sustainable Livelihoods and Community Development, hence the title.
Technically, the 2 year project commenced in August 2016 with the implementation of an exit strategy in Muzarabani where a similar initiative had been attempted without much success. The breath of the scope and dependence of the project on the socio-political and economic environment cannot be understated. Its implementation in the midst of a highly polarized intra-party politics in the pre-election period in a district that capitals the Mashonaland Province, home to some of the most prominent politicians, and characterized by strong political opinions and politicization of social interventions meant competing for political space and time. Interests were at stake and any opportunity to gain political mileage caught the attention of the gatekeepers. Our understanding of these dynamics did not deter but rather inspired the excitement of taking up a mission to the frontiers.
We had a late start to initiating the project proper. The selection of beneficiaries for the first phase of the livelihoods projects took place in February 2017. Some councilors of wards that had initially been allocated us expressed their concerns with working with non-governmental organizations and opted out such that we remained in wards 5 and 9 alone. This proved advantageous in the long run as the special differences between the two wards provided an opportunity for understanding the dynamics in resettled and communal rural areas, ward 5 and 9 respectively. A mixed population of former farm workers and urban to rural settlers on temporary chunks of land comprised the former, while a coherent and stable people comprised the later. Both wards are relatively situated near town and ward 9 even closer to the outgrowth of the Greater Harare city. These factors presented opportunities that only required an injection of capital and knowledge to setup income generating projects.
After the selection of beneficiaries, a series of workshops followed that resulted in the formulation of business plans and operational strategies (including constitutions and executive committees) for 10 enterprise groups of 15 members on average. All six groups in in ward 9 elected poultry projects while one group in ward 5 opted for animal husbandry (goats) in contrast to the rest. A total of 165 men and women including youth were enrolled under the programme. The other workshops took up various themes such as business management, practical skills training, self-reliance and conflict management at the outset to equip the beneficiaries with the right mindset and motivation for business.
During week long breathers between trainings, the groups carried out local resource mobilization as laid out in the fundraising plan and task schedules. They brought together small amounts of between $5 to $10 (USD) cash to subscribe membership to their groups as agreed in their separate meetings, and bags of maize which provided some form of equity/collateral. Together they built, as per specified standards, poultry shelters from bricks they molded and used top soil from anthills as motor for bricklaying up to the roof level. In the background of all this work, Silveira House procured cement, used roofing materials and plastic curtains needed to finish off the shelters. These we only availed at the pace at which each group was completing each phase of the project. To make the project even more exciting, we brought in a trainer to impart fence making skill to the members of the same groups. What they produced during the training became the mesh wire for fencing their poultry shelters. A very healthy competition grew among the groups which facilitated our work. Lagging behind was the animal husbandry project which was capital and labor intensive. Other dynamics mostly internal to the group but characteristic of a resettled population as notable in the other ward 5 groups also contributed to the delays.
On completion, we provided each group with a startup package of 250 day old chicks, a complete set of feeds, medicines and equipment such as drinkers and feeders together and spot training by experts from our suppliers. The project took off with great excitement and competitive spirit. Success rates for the first batches ranged between 65% and 92% and improved with each batch that followed. All the poultry groups upgraded their capacity to over 1500 birds per batch within a space of eight months. Initially they had difficulties finding markets for their products but with the help of their councilors and legislators who developed keen interests in the projects, they got access to big markets such as OK Bindura, TM and Chicken Mart. They have had to work together to maintain consistent supplies to the market. Despite other challenges such as timely delivery of day old chick as a result of the nationwide shortage, overall, the poultry projects have been a success.
Just to mention a few outcomes of our efforts to improve collaboration among development partners, the meetings held in September 2016 and March 2017 yielded a communication platform where information could easily be shared among the partners. Noticing the minimal level of dialogue in this platform that never went beyond announcements from the Rural District Council and a few responses, we organized end of year field monitoring visits in collaboration with the coordinating agent, the RDC, and rest of the partners which occupied the whole of October 2017. Unfortunately, the visits did not receive the expected level of participation by non-governmental organizations. Nonetheless, the unexpected results were even more encouraging.
The information collected from the various projects we visited that includes schools, clinics and Community Share Ownership Trusts produced a powerful report. By demand, the draft report was presented to the full council that took the issues raised within with serious concern and made a number of resolutions for the 2018 district plan. The document became a tool for advocacy for us and a reference for the rest of the district development partners in the dialogue meeting that took place in April 2018. Key advocacy outcome ensuing from the report include the status of Tarlington and Chirikadzi Clinics. The disputes around their citing and construction as council project was ascertained, developments which paved way for progress. The impact of training local leaders is tremendous. The level of articulation of their roles and responsibilities, and the execution of their mandates is visible in all levels of debate at council, ward and village meetings. The same programme will be needed for the newly elected leaders to ensure continuity, a task which we remain committed to undertake in the coming year.