Our vision for Chisumbanje, Middle Sabi and the greater Chipinge District
Chisumbanje and Middle Sabi are areas in the Province of Manicaland, Zimbabwe, situated within the Chipinge District. The Chipinge District has historically been considered one of the least developed in Zimbabwe, nicknamed ‘Mugowa’ (semi-desert), with extremely low incomes and difficult dry land farming fuelling migration into South Africa. Middle Sabi and Chisumbanje are situated between Regions 4 and 5, meaning that both areas receive low annual rainfall and are subject to seasonal droughts. Region 5 is classified as the driest region in Zimbabwe, with rainfall being less than 650mm/year and highly erratic.
Although both regions 4 and 5 are too dry for crop production, households on the communal lands in these regions grow grain crops (maize and millet) for their food security and some cash crops such as cotton. Crop yields are extremely low and the risk of crop failure is high in one out of three years (Rukuni and Eicher, 1994).
However, with the introduction of the Ethanol Project came massive job creation in the area and, as a result, over $2 million is now injected into the local community each month in the form of salaries, rent, transport and procurement.
Banks and cell phone towers have opened in Checheche – a growth point neighbouring Chisumbanje that has since been granted town status due to the ethanol project. Local businesses are thriving and social services such as healthcare facilities, roads, churches and schools are being refurbished and revived by Green Fuel.
The company has also introduced an extensive Corporate Social Responsibility blueprint, setting out a number of community projects centred around sustainable development.
Green Fuel’s Corporate Social Responsibility Program
Green Fuel’s social responsibility program has been coined ‘Vimbo – Hope for a better future’ in recognition of the need to inspire hope in the community of Chisumbanje and the surrounding villages. Through Vimbo, a portfolio of community projects has been identified, all of which have been constructed around the principle of sustainable development through irrigation farming, entrepreneurial projects, education and social service infrastructure rehabilitation. These broad issues have been broken down into the following long-term objectives:
- To transform the living standards and infrastructural landscape of Chipinge South through irrigation development and establishing community based cottage industries, the viability of which will hinge on supplying the procurement needs of the ethanol project
- To provide a better learning environment for children through the rehabilitation of existing schools
- To improve on health facilities within the community through repair works on clinics and hospitals and to ensure the consistent supply of medicine
- To be responsive to community emergencies through a community assistance fund
- To better the living standards of our community through employment
- To facilitate programs aimed at creating awareness around environmental preservation
Our current, active projects include the following:
- Irrigation Schemes and Outgrowers
- Sewing Workshop – Manna Creative Fashions
- Technology Centre
- Chisumbanje Broiler Project
- Reusable Sanitary Pads
- Training workshops
- Indigenous Tree Project
- Road Rehabilitation
- Community Market Places
- Bee Project
- Notice boards
A priority within the ethanol investment blue print is to ensure that the local community has a buy-in towards the project. Chipinge district is in climatic region 5 and this renders dry land farming futile. The communities in this area have been enduring close to zero yields as a result of drought culminating in hunger and poverty. This observation forms the basis for which a decision was made to anchor all social responsibility interventions on giving the rural farmers access to water from the Save river for year-round farming.
The irrigation schemes are the hallmark of our social responsibility program and, in light of the erratic and inadequate rainfall in the area as mentioned above, are aimed at giving small-scale farmers access to irrigation farming. In this regard, the Company has undertaken to develop 10% of all land under sugarcane for the community in the form of irrigated plots.
In Chisumbanje, approximately 1,200 hectares of land have been developed for the community to date, at a cost of approximately $11 million to the company. Of this, over 450 hectares of irrigated plots have been developed for 900 small-scale farmers, ensuring consistent availability of water. The water is pumped year round at the cost of the company (approximately $530,000.00 per annum) and, as a result, each farmer can produce up to three crops per year.
At project completion the number of farmers on irrigated land will peak at 8000 plot holders.
A further 250 hectares have been developed for war veteran farmers and 410 hectares for settler farmers, all of whom are now out-growers for the company and, as such, receive consistent support and assistance.
In addition, at the commencement of the ethanol project, a massive infrastructure rehabilitation program was undertaken to revive the water works at Middle Sabi and 78 A2 and 48 A1 farmers came on line to draw water along the canal.
The Company also rehabilitated 18 existing small scale irrigation schemes, stretching 1,700 hectares from Mutema and Tawona to Chibuwe, and catering for approximately 2,300 farmers. The rehabilitation work centred on repairing and replacing water pumps, drilling additional boreholes to augment water supplies and the reconstruction of water conveyance systems. A community irrigation schemes water engineering department run and financed by Green Fuel continues to see to the day to day needs of the schemes in terms of water conveyance.
A number of farmers have taken up contract farming in bananas for Matanuska and are doing extremely well.
The idea for a Sewing Workshop was born out a number of requests from women’s groups within the community to assist with the supply of overalls, worskuits and uniforms to the company.
There are 4,500 employees between Green Fuel and Ratings Investments, all of whom require some form of worksuit, overall or uniform. Our rationalization was therefore to plough the money that would have been spent procuring these from outside sources straight back into the community through the sewing workshop. The benefits of the project are therefore two-fold in that overalls, worksuits and uniforms will be made locally, prioritizing community development in the area and ensuring that there is a consistent market and supply. In addition, with the community eventually running the workshop themselves, the project will significantly facilitate sustainable development in the area.
To demonstrate this broad policy direction, a work suit manufacturing unit has been set up at Chisumbanje and is being run on a pioneer principle by beneficiaries from the community who underwent an intensive selection and training program. The members of the workshop have aptly named their new business Manna Creative Fashions and are slowly taking ownership of the project.
Manna Creative Fashions was officially opened on the 1st of September 2014 by the Minister of Small to Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development, Honourable Mrs S Nyoni, and has been successfully producing garments ever since.
A Library and Technology Centre has been opened by Green Fuel in partnership with Old Mutual Zimbabwe.
The idea for the Technology Centre was born out of concern for the lack of technology available to local students. There are currently 17 primary and 10 secondary schools in the immediate villages surrounding Chisumbanje, none of which have access to computers or the Internet. This means that approximately 750 children per year are leaving school and entering the employment world with absolutely no computer literacy, significantly lowering their ability to find gainful employment and placing them at a severe disadvantage compared to their peers living in less remote areas. In order to address this pressing issue, the Centre is available to students from local schools in the area and a librarian and computer teacher conducts weekly lessons.
The Centre also incorporates a library and study area for all students and the general public to utilize. There is currently no community or council library in the area and so the students’ access to information and research materials is limited to the resources that their particular school is able to provide. The introduction of the library will therefore help students and the community to improve their reading skills and increase their knowledge base.
We are currently supporting a group of 60 ladies from 4 villages in the Chisumbanje area in a start-up broiler project. Each group, which is composed of 15 local ladies under the four different Village heads, have been provided with initial capital of chicks, feed and other supplies and constant support is provided by our CSR team.
There is overwhelming evidence that the majority of young girls are forced to miss up to 18% of their schooling per year due to a lack of sanitary wear, placing them at a significant disadvantage when compared to their male counterparts.
Green Fuel regularly donates resusable sanitary pads to high school students and recently conducted a training program in order to teach 22 women how to make the pads themselves at home.
Although the subject matter is often a very sensitive topic, the project has been well received thus far.
We are dedicated to supporting education in the community and we have therefore made a commitment to assist the schools under Chief Garawa as a starting point.
Thus far, the following has been achieved:
- A block of toilets was constructed for Vheneka Secondary school to avoid its closure due to lack of ablution facilities
- Labour and building materials worth USD5000.00 were donated to Chisumbanje Primary school to repair the roof on a block of classrooms that was severely storm-damaged
- Playground equipment has been donated to a number of schools surrounding the estate
- Vimbo often sponsors prizes for the best performing students in the local primary and secondary schools in an attempt to encourage students to excel
- Trees have been donated to all the schools in the area and we have been encouraging the students to start their own nurseries and orchards
Currently three health centres in the area are receiving rehabilitative attention with the aim of transforming them into institutions that can meet the health needs of the community. These are the Middle Sabi Clinic, St Peters Hospital and Takwirira Clinic in Chisumbanje. Once we are satisfied with the state of these institutions, we intend to assist with other clinics in the area.
We have been assisting St Peters Hospital since September 2014 and the relationship is consistently improving. Our workshop services their vehicles at the cost of the Company and we provide 200lt of diesel per month for the Hospital ambulance and generator.
We have also been supplying St Peters with E-pap, a fortified pre-cooked porridge, to assist with feeding malnourished children admitted to the hospital.
Construction and maintenance work is slowly progressing on the Takwirira Clinic and we supply the clinic with up to $500 worth of medical supplies each month to assist with their constant drug shortages.
This is a pre-cooked porridge containing essential micro-nutrients and, at present, is being sold in 15 African countries. We are currently supplying it to St Peter’s Hospital, primarily for malnourished and sick children. It has been proven to significantly assist in the nourishment of children in poverty-stricken areas and its benefits have been well documented.
We have set up a large indigenous tree nursery on site in Chisumbanje with a view to educating the community about the importance of reforestation in the area.
The nursery had a lot of activity in 2014 with Vimbo partnering with the Forestry Commission (Chipinge) Office and Tetrad Tree Foundation (Harare) on a replanting program and donating over 3,000 trees.
Schools, Hospital, Clinics and Traditional leaders meetings have been platforms that we have used to encourage people to plant trees within their communities with the support of the plant nursery.
A new nursery site has been identified and plans are underway to move the nursery to enable interested members of the community to be trained in tree-planting and maintenance. Thereafter, we intend to assist the community in setting up their own nurseries from which Vimbo will purchase trees to plant in the community.
The roads in the area are in desperate need of rehabilitation and we are committed to assisting whenever our resources are available.
We continually assist with the grading of the Chinyamukwakwa Road and have built a bridge to join the villages of Matikwa and Chinyamukwakwa.
There is need for a number of bridges to be built in the area, especially along the main routes to the village schools. We offer continuous assistance in the form of grading and maintenance when resources are available and hope to set up a fund specifically for this purpose.
Access to water is a huge issue in the community and we are doing our best to address this.
To date, five boreholes have been drilled by Vimbo in Matikwa, Munepasi, Chinyamukwakwa and Chief Garahwa’s homestead and a further three existing boreholes have been rehabilitated. In rehabilitating the existing boreholes, we have focused on assisting and training members in the community on how to maintain the boreholes themselves and provide continuous support and maintenance when required.
We have also designed and engineered an apron that drains directly into a cattle trough to ensure that there is minimal wastage of water. This has been trialed on three of the boreholes and will soon be implemented on the others.
We recently donated materials in order to assist the Chinyamukwakwa small scale farmers in building two blair toilets and a market place in which to sell their produce.
The community embraced the challenge and mobilised their members to complete the market and blair toilets themselves, with Vimbo providing support where required.
Support is now needed to encourage the community to utilise the market place and we are looking into starting a program along these lines.
We now intend to do the same in the neighbouring areas.
- Carpentry Workshop
- Community-run Bakery
- Cattle Feed Lot
- Energy Briquettes
- Ethanol Stoves
- Community Market Places
- Rehabilitation of the Roads Surrounding and Beyond the Estate
This project is intended to address the need for sustainable development in the area, with Vimbo providing the initial investment and training in order for the community to ultimately take over the project.
The project will be based on the same principles as the sewing workshop and we hope to have it finalised and opened by mid 2015. Once completed, the first undertaking of the workshop will be for the provision of furniture to the local schools, in the form of desks, chairs and cabinets.
As with the carpentry workshop mentioned above, Vimbo will provide the initial investment and then assist the community to run the bakery and eventually take it over completely.
Bagasse, a by-product of ethanol production, can be utilised in cattle feed. We therefore hope to make use of this and set up a cattle feed lot which will be available to the community for maintenance of their cattle during the dry months and/or to ensure that their cattle are viable for sale.
A suitable site has been identified and work will commence when funding is available.
Bagasse can also be used to make fire/energy briquettes which we hope will ultimately replace wood in both rural and urban homes. Research is currently being conducted into the viability of the project in terms of cost, marketing and distribution.
We, along with ZERA, are currently investigating the possibility of replacing paraffin appliances with safer, more efficient ethanol alternatives. The stoves are already being produced and sold in many countries in Africa and there is a general consensus that ethanol is the household fuel of the future.
As with Budiriro Market Place, Vimbo has committed to assisting the small-scale farmers in the Chisumbanje and Chinyamukwakwa schemes to set up a market place for their produce.
Sites have been identified and, once funding is available, the project will be implemented.
There is a significant need for the rehabilitation of the roads in the area and so Vimbo has committed to assisting the community in this regard.