“If it had not been for the Lean Season Assistance Programme (LSA), I do not know what I would have done up to this day,” says Plaxedes Chitsa (45) who is married to Daniel (56). Plaxedes lives in Gande Village in Ward 4, Nyanga District in Manicaland Province. Ward 4 is one of the places in Nyanga that falls under agro-ecological rainfall region 4. The region experiences little rainfall and high temperatures which are not very good climatic conditions for the staple maize hence the need for food assistance.
The LSA programme is being implemented by ActionAid Zimbabwe in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP). In Nyanga 1943 households from a target of 2025 households people have been reached by the current phase while in Makoni 13979 people have been supported with cash in form of ECOCASH and SCOPE technologies respectively. The ECOCASH is a mobile phone money transfer system where electronic cash is sent via a code in a text message to the recipients’ mobile phones. They then take the code to a local money agent to redeem the cash and buy food. Under the SCOPE technology people assisted are registered using a SCOPE registration mobile phone application and recipients of the cash are provided with what are called SCOPE cards which are like swipe cards. Currently a household received US$10 per month per person depending on the number of people in the household.
Recalling her story before the introduction of the LSA in her community, Plaxedes said, sometimes community meetings would be called by the village head not for any other purpose but to seek help for me and my family from the well-wishers in the community. “This is because whenever I could not afford a meal I would go to ask for help from the village head, who would call for a community meeting to solicit help for me. Some would give a plate of maize meal, some a plate of maize and some would even contribute cooked meals. That was my story,” said Plaxedes.
“I am thankful for all the community donations but they were not enough to sustain my family of seven. I also survived by doing casual labour. I would gather firewood and sell to business women who cook meals at a growth point near our home. One bundle of firewood would give me $1.50 and I would have walked more than three kilometres to get it. One meal per day was one of my survival skills because I could not afford to provide two or more meals per day. My maize crop failed because of the dry spell that occurred in January 2018. I am not expecting any harvest because the crop was affected,” said Plaxedes.
Plaxedes said the LSA programme had made it possible for her family to have food on the table. “The $70 we are receiving monthly has helped us to purchase four buckets of maize at $7 per bucket per month. I also buy sugar, rice and cooking oil. My skin texture has even changed because I am now eating well,” said Plaxedes.
We are now having 2 meals per day; one at midmorning and the second one in the evening. I am no longer walking long distances to gather firewood and I have stopped begging from the community through the village head. This programme has restored my self-esteem, she said