Rains turn open spaces into hive of activity

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Harare (New Ziana) –Most open spaces in the capital have become a hive of activity following the rains that have been falling recently, as residents race to finish preparing land and planting crops for subsistence.

Many urban residents own pieces of land on open spaces along roadsides, streams and river banks on the outskirts of residential areas where they grow different crops to feed their families and supplement their meagre incomes.

Urban agriculture has over the years sustained many residents as they are able to grow different crops including the staple maize, which they would ordinarily buy from the markets and shops.

Other common crops grown in the open spaces include sweet potatoes, sugar cane, bananas, cassava, okra and cucumbers.

Since the summer season started setting in this year, families have been preparing their pieces of land for planting, with some tilling whole portions while others just dug holes and have been waiting for the rains to start planting.

The rains that have been falling in the country over the past few days have triggered a flurry of activities as those that had not prepared their fields have sprung into action while those who had done so have started planting, together with those who dug holes for conservation farming.

A survey by New Ziana on Wednesday morning around the capital found that many residents were either tilling the soil or digging holes to plant different crops.

While a few men could be spotted and in most cases these appeared to be mostly hired hands, women, particularly the elderly, and girls, assumedly those out of school, were busy in the fields.

Those who had already dug holes were sowing and applying fertilisers in anticipation of continued precipitation.

Urban and especially peri-urban agriculture has a long pedigree in Zimbabwe with the colonial governments allowing Africans in townships to grow food crops in their backyards.

The townships and high-density suburbs were supposed to be temporary residences for the Africans who were expected to return home to their ‘reserves’.

This restrictive approach continued after independence with urban agriculture being seen in terms of the supply of ‘relish’ rather than a key source of food security.

While uncontrolled urban agriculture remains illegal according to planning laws, over the last decades – out of necessity – there has been much more accommodation of the practice.

Starting with the retrenchments of the structural adjustment era from 1991, the level of urban food insecurity has grown, making urban agriculture essential for survival.

The practice has grown over the past two decades, as the illegal sanctions that some Western countries imposed on Zimbabwe brought real hardships to urban residents across the country.

Previously, local authorities would enforce environmental regulations such as around stream bank cultivation, and municipal police would destroy crops on undesignated places, but in recent years there has been a decline in regulatory capacity and enforcement, and sometimes bribes are paid to allow farming to continue.

With the passage of time, the government recognised the importance of urban agriculture to food security and has since embraced in the various inputs facilities including the ongoing Pfumvudza/Intwasa.

New Ziana

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