BUHERA (Pungwe News-New Ziana) - Engagement between citizens and community leadership is critical in spurring development in marginalized communities, the Self Help Development Foundation (SHDF) Executive Director has said.
Wadzanayi Vere said this while addressing a SHDF Community Engagement meeting which was held at Maneta Primary School; Ward 32 Chiurwi under Chief Nyashanu on Friday last week.
SHDF is currently running some sustainable livelihoods projects in six wards in Buhera Central, having started operating in 10 wards of Buhera district in 2013. This was in response to perennial droughts over the years leaving the populace especially women in a desperate situation.
Buhera survives largely on subsistence farming but climate change has not spared the district, with rainfall patterns deteriorating every year and yields becoming lower.
Buhera has a population of 245 878, 90 percent of which is unemployed.
To mitigate the effects of droughts and climate change, SHDF moved and equipped local villagers with self-reliance skills.
Besides solely depending on farming as a survival strategy, SHDF also trained villagers to run small enterprises.
To amply the voices of the communities, Vera said SHDF was also running community engagement platforms in areas they are operating.
The platform brings together political leadership, critical stakeholders and communities together to engage and share ideas.
The platform also gives leadership and stakeholders operating in the area such as Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), government ministries, parastatals and the private sector an opportunity to give feedback to their respective to local communities.
Vere said by improving communication in marginalized communities through engagement meetings, SHDF was transmitting social and cultural values.
“Community engagement exercises are very important in developing communities everywhere in the world. It seeks to bring people together and help advance national development.
“Research shows that communities that constantly engage with its leadership and stakeholders develop faster than those in isolation. As SHDF, we have seen it fit to bring political leadership, stakeholders and communities together to discuss developmental issues through this platform.
“We want to push development agenda in our communities. Such platforms ensure that our elected leaders are held accountable and also ensure they fulfill pledges they made during elections campaigns,” said Vere.
She said the engagement platforms helps local communities to be aware about and develop a consensus upon important national and international development issues.
“We want communities to believe that these high offices are accessible and can be approached. We are trying to dispel myths that these leaders are too far and not reachable by bring government and leadership to the community so that they meet and engage.
“We hope they will continue to meet in their own spaces. We want to continue to challenge women and youths to be confident and speak up and be able to raise their issues,” she said.
Villagers raised concerns about a poor road network and lack of electricity, making it hard to start projects such as bakeries.
They also pointed at the lack of markets for their produce and poor service delivery at local authority level.
Buhera North legislator, Dr Matthew Nyashanu said community engagement meetings were necessary to stimulate development in rural constituencies.
He encouraged locals to channel their energy towards ensuring the income-generating projects being implemented by government and its development partners succeed.
“I would like to thank SHDF for coming up with such an initiative which brings us together as a community to discuss pertinent issues that matters in our daily lives,” said Nyashanu.
He said government was in the process of reviving the rehabilitation of Murambinda-Birchough of road which is in a sorry state.
“We are pushing hard so that the road is rehabilitated. We have engaged President ED Mnangagwa together with Chief Nyashanu over the matter and we got assurance that the project will be resuscitated.
“As you can see there is progress in terms of rehabilitation and equipment is now on site,” said the legislator.
He also said government was assisting villagers with food aid to cushion them against drought induced hunger while waiting for the next farming season.
“We are happy that affected households are receiving assistance every month from government and other aid agencies operating in the area,” said Nyashanu.
He urged communities to embrace the issue of self-sustenance, saying “locals should wean themselves from donor dependency syndrome.
“Donor dependency has taken away creativity from human beings and mostly from Africans. It has taken away our Ubuntu as people. We need to work hard as leadership to ensure that people embark on self-sustaining activities,” said the legislator.
Villagers interviewed applauded SHDF for coming up with such an initiative, saying it will help bring them closer to their community leaders.
“I would like to thank SHDF for coming up with such an initiative. This is my first time to engage with my legislator and I am delighted that he spoke of critical matters that are affecting our community. We need more interactions of this nurture as they help to clear air about certain issues,” said Michael Hanyire, a Ward 19 resident.