I was hungry…I was thirsty: Growing crops in Central Zimbabwe

The Diocese of Central Zimbabwe is literally that – it is in the middle of the vast country and is in the Province of Midlands: which rather sums up where it is!

It touches the boundaries of three of the other four Dioceses, just missing touching Masvingo the fifth and newest of the Dioceses.

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Bishop Christopher, the Dean, the Archdeacon of Southwark and I travelled to Central Zimbabwe, having first visited the Diocese of Matabeleland, arriving there on the afternoon of Sunday 5 February.

I had been immediately struck upon arriving in Zimbabwe by how green it all was and this was no less true in Central Zimbabwe than it had been in Matabeleland Diocese.  Everywhere was lush and full of promise of growth and plenty.   But nothing is ever as simple as it seems and it was soon clear that here, as elsewhere in the country, the rain had brought hardship as well as promise.

Once again we stayed at the Mpumalanga Lodge and here too the dampness was immediately evident as we were told that they were having problems making sure that there were enough dry towels because of the dampness in the air and the rain.   This was not a problem that I had ever encountered in Zimbabwe before and says a great deal about the way in which the rain had fallen and the amount that had fallen in such a short time.   The land had been so dry that it had not been able to cope.

Having settled at our Lodge we went to St Cuthbert’s Cathedral where we were greeted by clergy, their wives and Mother’s Union members from around the Diocese.  One of the things that we had asked to do whilst in the different Dioceses in Zimbabwe was to meet with those who had travelled to the Link Groups study course in Jerusalem in November 2016 and this gathering provided the first opportunity for the Dean and me, as we had both been in Jerusalem, to say hello to them.   It was great to see them once again but this time on their ‘home territory’.

No matter how difficult the food situation is anywhere in Zimbabwe one thing that can always be guaranteed is that there will be plenty of food for us as guests and those who have been invited to join with us and this occasion was no exception.   Each of us from Southwark was invited to sit on a table without anyone else from Southwark and I was delighted to be with Caleb Nyereyegona and his wife.  I had met Caleb on my last visit with Bishop Christopher when we had been warmly welcomed to his church St Matthew, Gweru.  It is St Matthew’s church which you can see surrounded by water in the Ash Wednesday post on this blog.

Here Caleb and his wife in their Mother’s Union clothes are pictured with the Jane Steen, the Archdeacon of Southwark.  Like Jane Caleb is an Archdeacon in Central Zimbabwe Diocese.

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Following the reception and a good night’s rest at the Mpumalanga Lodge it was off for a very busy day visiting projects and churches in the Diocese.

It was really good to be able to say Morning Prayer together at the Lodge looking out on the beautiful green land and to be able to give thanks to God for the rain and for all that we were able to see in Zimbabwe and to learn from our friends there.

The first visit was to the Harben Park Plot.   I have visited this plot a number of times now and there is always something new to see and to think about.  It is not far from Gweru the Cathedral town in Central Zimbabwe Diocese but the countryside is so vast that this plot of land has been growing and growing as the Diocese has expanded the amount of land that it is cultivating.

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Here they are eagerly working on ‘Farming God’s Way’ which is a natural way that involves not ploughing the land and allowing the crops to grow alongside the weeds, which are dealt with by hand.  It sounds as if it should be very a labour intensive way of farming but the Mother’s Union, who now look after the Harben Park Plot, seem to be able to produce many crops with only one full time worker.   There were two workers there when we visited as there was so much to do as a result of the rain.

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The plot is now about 2 acres and is in desperate need of a new bore hole.  The old bore hole is in need of renewal and creating a new one which is deep enough to reach the water table is likely to cost around $5000 as it costs $2700 to drill the first 40 feet and then 450 for each subsequent one and in addition the equipment costs $2300 to hire.

Getting the water to the right place is an expensive business but the plans which the Mothers’ Union and the Diocese have for the Plot make them well worth while.

The crop of squash is extraordinary and here you can see a squash growing amongst the weeds.  I have to say that it shows how much of a towny I am when I say that I had no idea that it grew in this way!

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The maize is growing too.  It isn’t as high as some of the crops that we have seen but it was planted later because of the rains.  You can see on the right hand side of the picture the irrigation pipes ready for irrigation lines to be fitted.  These won’t be necessary this year – or at least not just yet!

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Throughout the Diocese the Bishop and his project worker, Darlington Musekiwa, work with the parishes and people to ensure that they have the necessary skills and materials to begin to grow food to feed themselves and perhaps even have a little to sell.

Please pray for them as they work through the effects of the drought and the rain and pray that there will be enough food for all to be satisfied.