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Hungry for success, Zimbabweans start to build community workspace

Photo: AFSC

Once Farai Gonzo and Jennifer Kazingo, participants of AFSC’s livelihoods project, learned how to construct bed and door frames from steel, the two women realized there was “no time to sit back”—their new skills could help them rebuild their lives and the lives of their neighbors.

Many people in Hatcliffe Extension, Zimbabwe, would be grateful for the opportunity to purchase these products at a low cost; after having been displaced to the area by a destructive government policy, most lacked even the most basic needs, including infrastructure for their houses.

Other participants in AFSC’s program have established small businesses that provide goods and services desperately needed in their community. Nearly 45 wooden doors have been installed in local homes, thanks to the work of those trained in basic carpentry. “The community appreciates the quality of the products and hence the continued purchase of these products,” says participant Mrs. Chabvunyika.

Members of the leatherworks group have learned how to produce school backpacks for their children and have been selling sandals and satchels for members of their community. Milka Nhira started her own shoe repair business and has been mending shoes for local school children. Invigorated by the opportunity to use these new skills to improve their livelihoods, participants are thinking of innovative ways of providing for themselves and their families.

Maria Mahari joined the sewing group and has since started raising chickens using proceeds from her sewing income, which helps feed her family.

Watch this short video of Maria’s story:

What began as a basic training program has invigorated a community to think creatively about economic and social development. For many, however, these skills will only get them so far—what they need now is new equipment, as well as a place to work close to their homes.

Mrs. Masaraure, a member of the sewing group, says if they could procure advanced equipment for creating embroidery, “we will do more wonders with our current knowledge and skills and we will see more people fighting for our products.” Other participants note that acquiring new equipment will be vital for sustaining their business and penetrating new markets.

The businesses also need space to produce their goods. Participants are working to expand their operations in a new “factory shell,” a community structure with space for each group to make and sell its products. Residents have started lobbying the local government for funds to build such a center, while learning the construction skills to erect it themselves.

Watch this video about the "factory shell":

Realizing that running water and a sewer system will be an essential component of the space, members of the community received training to install their own plumbing, and they have already dug a 100 meter (about 328 feet) trench where pipes can run. This Hatcliffe Extension plumbing cluster has successfully installed both the water and sewer pipes to service the entire community. They’re committed to finishing the project, but have had severe setbacks, including a lack of basic materials.

If the structure is completed, these workers will be able to provide essential products to members of their community, greatly improving the lives of those living in Hatcliffe Extension, while redefining their own dignity as Zimbabwean citizens.

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