MEANDERING through the different wards in Shurugwi district, 32km to the south of Gweru, one cannot help, but notice the drying crops, which have borne the brunt of hot weather patterns being experienced in some parts of the country.

Shurugwi, which is in natural region four, is characterised by poor rains and is perennially prone to droughts, resulting in most people in the area being hinged to the poverty trap.

The situation is, however, about to change, thanks to a local organisation, Hand in Hand Zimbabwe (HHZ), which has trained and equipped approximately 11% of villagers in the district with entrepreneurial skills that will potentially shift their focus from surviving on agriculture alone. This intervention is meant to improve the lives of vulnerable people in the district and has transformed people into successful entrepreneurs.

Through its jobs creation programme (JCP), HHZ has taught people in the rural community modern ways of saving money and starting enterprises.

In an interview with NewsDay Weekender, Shurugwi Agritex supervisor David Barnabas said although the region was clearly heading for major food shortages due to drought, most villagers should be sustained by business skills they had received from Hand in Hand Zimbabwe.

“The situation is bad, there is going to be a serious drought here, However, I commend HHZ for the work they are doing as villagers can now generate their own income and will not depend on agricultural produce,” he said.

The business trainings and mentoring would eliminate the donor syndrome disease and enable villagers to be self-dependent.

Ward 24 councillor Norman Sibindi encouraged villagers to join Hand in Hand Zimbabwe programmes, especially during drought periods.

“We want to see people who are doing well and have something to live for as things are now hard in the nation. We want to see women and youths who do not depend on men,” he said.

The HHZ’s jobs creation programme targets at least 80% women in support of Millennium Development Goal three, which aims at promoting gender equality and empower women.

Youth entrepreneurship and skills trainings Shurugwi supervisor Elijah Mutero said HHZ had contributed up to 20% of youth employment since 2015 and had improved the livelihoods of many.

“Nutritional value in the district has improved due to the work Hand in Hand is doing here. The organisation is sustaining life through various projects and we hope that in a few years’ time our district would be poverty-free,” Mutero says.

“At the moment, we are witnessing a significant reduction in delinquencies as most young people are kept busy and are eking out a decent living.”

Mutero added that the projects had helped in shifting youth attention from illicit drugs, gambling and other toxic behaviours.

HHZ director of programmes Emmanuel Makiwa said the organisation would continue training and supporting the poor and marginalised people in rural Zimbabwe.

Graceful Shumba, a villager who benefited from HHZ programmes, said the organisation had empowered many entrepreneurs in Shurugwi through trainings.

“In 2013, I was known as the feeble-looking tailor who sat behind a shop at Chachacha doing her daily sewing routine. However, six years later, I’m now a proud owner of a vibrant shop – the one I used to sit behind,” she said.

“Like many women in Shurugwi, I worked hard to make ends meet in the drought and hunger-prone district, but without the right knowledge and skills, it was an uphill task. As fate would have it, my life dramatically changed when I met HHZ in 2015, where I received business development and financial literacy training,” she said.

HHZ is a non-profit making organisation that helps resource limited and marginalised people in rural communities, particularly women, to create better livelihoods for themselves and their families through its flagship series, the JCP, which aims at alleviating poverty through jobs creation.

JCP also encompasses a self-help approach that is premised on a four-pillar development model, involving social mobilisation into self-help groups, training in entrepreneurship and economic development, facilitating access to micro-loans and facilitating market linkages and value-addition.

The organisation was registered as a non-profit making organisation in July 2015 and is presently supporting communities in seven districts, which include Bulilima, Chikomba, Chirumanzu, Gwanda, Lupane, Nkayi and Shurugwi

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