19 August 2021

Institute for Sustainable Food collaborates with community food projects in Zimbabwe

A project led by academics at the University’s Institute for Sustainable Food is helping communities in Zimbabwe by offering online media skills workshops.

Members from the Jairos Jiri Association, a non-governmental organisation promoting the rights of people with disabilities in Zimbabwe
Members from the Jairos Jiri Association, a non-governmental organisation promoting the rights of people with disabilities in Zimbabwe.

The ‘Make It Grow’ project works to equip marginalised communities in Zimbabwe with the skills needed to create their own video proposals for ideas aimed to alleviate food and nutritional insecurity.

These video proposals can then be used as a fundraising tool, helping people to access the start-up funds needed to implement community-based, sustainable food projects and lessen poverty.

The Make It Grow project, a Knowledge Exchange Programme at the University of Sheffield’s Institute for Sustainable Food, is led by Dr Pamela Richardson-Ngwenya, a Research Fellow from the University’s Department for Geography.

Dr Richardson-Ngwenya, who is also a member of the Institute for Sustainable Food, said: “We had planned to carry out the workshops in person, in Zimbabwe, but due to the pandemic, we had to re-think the methods of training and engagement. Since October 2020, we have been hosting the workshops remotely from Sheffield.

“As the workshops are practical and highly interactive this has been a real challenge, yet the participant response has been brilliant and we have seen some fantastic video proposals created by communities.”

The Make It Grow video workshop series is designed firstly to support participants to learn how to create and use video effectively, and then to support them in using it as a powerful tool to communicate, learn, document and gain support for community-based food projects.

Professor Peter Jackson, Co-Director of the Institute for Sustainable Food, said: “The Make It Grow project is a fantastic example of the Institute's support for knowledge exchange and community participation, using new technologies such as participatory video-making to empower local communities in Zimbabwe to secure funding for a series of food-related sustainability projects.”

Decent Gaura, who attended the workshops on behalf of the Jairos Jiri Association, a non-governmental organisation promoting the rights of people with disabilities in Zimbabwe, said: “The workshops were full of learning, challenges and fun. They have the potential to change the world, especially for remote communities. I found the approach so engaging and beneficial.”

With help from the workshops, Decent co-created a video proposal to raise funds to purchase a solar vegetable drier for 57 families with persons of disabilities in Zimbabwe’s Chivi District, ensuring food security for some of its society’s most vulnerable.

Since being taught from Sheffield, the Make It Grow project team has facilitated over 125 hours of workshops, certified over 40 participants, and has supported the creation of 15 participatory video proposals.

Another participating organisation was SCOPE Zimbabwe, which implements permaculture projects with schools and educational facilities in Zimbabwe.

Its National Coordinator, Linda Kabaira, said: “The whole learning process taught me that it is actually possible to get the voices of those we represent amplified and out there."

SCOPE Zimbabwe are fundraising to buy a 1000-capacity egg incubator in a Zimbabwean school, where the majority of pupils are from low-income families and often go without food. 

The funds would support a school dinner programme by developing an innovative school-based hatchery service. This would increase the number of chickens produced each month, which could be sold or used to feed pupils.

Dr Richardson-Ngwenya said: “These projects can make a huge long-term difference to local food security, as well as supporting vulnerable groups, such as women, youth, and households with disabilities, to build new skills and capacities through their sustainable food microenterprise projects.

Find out more about the Make It Grow project partners in Zimbabwe