By Ndaba Nhuku- Community empowerment is not always government led, neither does it need government involvement.
Although I have only passed by the town of Gwanda once, it struck me as a potential place where community empowerment can thrive. This does not require government initiative.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ABOUT GWANDA
On its website, Gwanda town describes itself as ‘the commercial and industrial hub of Matabeleland South Province. Its economic activities revolve around the mining of Gold at Vubachikwe Mine, Blanket Mine, Jessie Mine, Freda Mine and lime at Colleen Bawn.
There are also numerous other gold ore processing plants (Gold Stamp Mills) some of which lie within the municipal area of Gwanda town.’ That is its big structured economic description which indeed excludes the potentiality of all its resources being to develop and empower its communities and surrounding areas.
The town was founded in 1900 and was named after a nearby hill called Jahunda. In 2012 Gwanda town had an estimated population of 27 000 individuals. Gwanda town is strategically positioned, 126kilometres south-east of Bulawayo and 196 kilometres from Beitbridge and Musina (South Africa) border post, one of the busiest borders in Africa, with excellent road and rail links direct to South Africa.
Thus, as the provincial capital of Matabeleland South Province, the town has unlimited potential for economic growth and development servicing the commercial service centre, the surrounding mine settlements and the safari and farming communities in the province. Significantly, Gwanda serves a huge population as far as Beitbridge, Insiza and Matobo and Umzingwane districts.
Browsing through its website and published literature about Gwanda and surrounding areas are recognised as good for livestock production which makes it a great potential for agro-process investment.
Thus, one can positively assert that other than having a highly literate population ideal for quality workforce in any industry, Gwanda is undoubtably good for agro-processing, mineral processing, infrastructure development and manufacturing sector.
These are sectors that empower those who already have money, big investors. They can employ local people but as we all know, they tend to controversially seek employees further afield.
When discussing economc activities of a place like Gwanda, one has to be mindful of including its socio-economic structure.
As such, some areas around Gwanda are blessed with ‘higher rainfall, better soils, more commercial agriculture, higher population density and higher household incomes.’
However, other parts like ‘Mberengwa, Mwenezi and Beitbridge Districts and the southern parts of Mangwe, Gwanda and Matobo Districts, have lower rainfall, poor soils, more communal lands and ranchlands, lower population density and lower household incomes.’
However, they contribute towards making it very possible to empower the local people.
EMPOWERING LOCAL COMMUNITY
This part is the gist of this article. Gwanda is served by three higher institutions of learning, Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo Polytechnic, formerly Gwanda ZINTEC College and Gwanda State university with a combined student population of more that 12 000.
The two institutions are kilometres apart serviced by busy tarred road with public transport. Although the town periodically faces water and electricity shortages like the entire country, it is in a better position because, besides an abundance of gold mining by companies and gold panners, it is also home to Zimbabwe’s most sought-after worm delicacy, amacimbi/madora/mopani worms.
In addition, Gwanda is home to goat breeding and chicken rearing. There are several boarding and day secondary schools around the town and its surrounding areas.
POTENTIAL COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT INITIATIVES BEAR IN MIND THESE ARE MERE EXAMPLES, AND CAN APPLY TO ANY AREA AND NOT GWANDA ONLY
What can be done? Everything is possible in large numbers, what one can not do alone due to lack of financial muscle can do with others if they pool resources together. Council land is still reasonable cheap.
Nothing stops Gwanda folks from coming together as a group of 10, 20 or 50 even 00 individuals. If 20 individuals put together 500US each; that is 10000 and they buy a piece of land and build several simple students accommodation.
Even those without money can sell their cattle or goats to raise the cash. If not interested in student accommodation, same land can be bought to be used as a warehouse for storing amacimbi.
Owners would employ local folks for macimbi harvesting, or buying from harvesters to stock in the warehouse and consequently supply the rest of the country. With small amounts villagers can come together with sabhuku, combine resources to buy amathole / calnves and keep these for mature and sell.
This doesn’t need a lot of money. People take turns to look after them or if resources permit, proper grazing structures set up. With its lots of goats, even smaller amounts needed to start this project.
Same as rearing makhaya chicken. It takes only 3 or 5 individuals to do a very viable project of inkukhu. Gwanda like any other place has orphans, a piece of land worked on by villagers as a community garden rotating once a month can serve as its own Charity organisation. It also empowers the concerned children.
If no communal land available, a local person with huge land care offer for free or lease theirs to the group. You can rent from local school’s unused land.
The same principle can be used to come together, start a sewing club that approaches local schools and offer to supply uniforms affordable to the local community parents.
Everyone benefits. Locals can rent a shop and turn it into a viable Stationery shop for local schools. Gold panners can come together and buy land or mines, and do their mining or housing estates.
All these are possible if people come together in numbers. In small numbers and even as family siblings, most of these projects or ventures can be undertaken by pooling resources together and conducting business professionally.
In addition to all other income generating and empowerment projects, fishery is another viable project the community can venture in with good water supplies
BENEFITS TO COMMUNITY
Control of local resources by local people Enabling employment of local people Empowering local people and training in the income generating projects easily manageable Developing local area as desired by local people and to meet their needs.
Established businesses gradually work in partnership with local people and their empowerment groups Established businesses will see the value of giving buck to the community.
The community is able to easily identify local leadership that enables the development of the local areas. Strengthens the institutions, schools, colleges, churches of the local communities. Reduces poverty and dependency syndrome
NOTE: Always legally register your urban group and ensure your name is spelt as in your ID, whether you do it as family or in community groups. Always protect everyone’s interests by drawing up some consensus contract / constitution about contributions, meeting attendances and membership terminations
NOT EVERYONE IS FOR GROUP VENTURE
Some people are simply not cut for group activities. They thrive as individuals. They can advise on technicalities or with information. Always be resourceful and don’t pay for everything, there are some people who willing to give free advice.