Community, Community Development, Conservation, Conservation Agriculture, Great Limpopo TFCA, Mozambique, Partnerships, Uncategorised, Water security, Zinave National Park

The Hunger Project: Feeding communities and championing gender equality in Zinave

The fruits of community labours - mango juice produced in one of the five villages benefiting from The Hunger Project and Peace Parks Foundation's partnership in Zinave.

In the area bordering Mozambique’s Zinave National Park, global non-profit The Hunger Project and Peace Parks Foundation are addressing community resilience and hunger, through a series of life-changing developments with a view on long-term impact.

Hunger in Africa

Having enough to eat is one of the fundamental basic human needs. In Africa, it is an immense challenge on a continent-wide scale due to the impact of climate change, poverty and food insecurity. The UN has set a global target as part of the Sustainable Development Goals to “end hunger by 2030“. While the world has progressed in past decades, we are far from reaching this target. By global standards, rates of hunger are highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, at 19.1%.

The Hunger Project has been operational in Mozambique since 2006, where those living with food scarcity need access to the education and tools which are essential to end hunger for good. The organisation is working to change unjust systems causing hunger, by motivating and equipping people to take lasting action. “The Hunger Project has a different working model than many,” says Ismael Arouca, The Hunger Project Mozambique’s Head of Programme. “When implementing projects, we always think about the self-sustainability of communities, and how positive change can have a ripple effect to other villages in the area.”

A community mobilisation meeting underway in one of the villages. Here, The Hunger Project team provides guidance around challenges and solutions, and empowers people to make decisions and take ownership of activities. In addition to these fully inclusive meetings, women- and men-only workshops respectfully encourage shifts in gender roles.

Five villages bordering Zinave National Park are currently involved in this pioneering programme. The ultimate goal is for communities to be empowered to make their own decisions and be self-sufficient. The focus is on building skills and resilience, and encouraging environmental sustainability and gender equality.

The Power of Partnerships

In 2022, The Hunger Project-Mozambique signed a formal agreement with the Government of Mozambique, outlining joint commitments to a five-year programme that focuses on community development in areas where hunger threatens wellbeing and livelihoods. Since then, they have been working on the ground with the Government and Peace Parks Foundation to implement projects that empower local people through education and food production. “Individual and community ownership of local development is critical, and actions are most successful if decisions are made close to the people,” Ismael says. “Government working in partnership with communities is essential.”

At the epicentres, seeds are distributed, agricultural techniques shared, and land set aside for cultivation. Sweet potatoes are amongst a number of crops being produced by farmers, the income from which goes directly to the communities.

The programme develops ‘epicentres’ which are community training and activity hubs that become the beating heart of the village. Here, The Hunger Project and Peace Parks provide vital resources to boost learning and productivity. Crucially, communities guide decision-making and families share benefits. “It is not top-down, authority-based leadership, but leading ‘with’ people rather than ‘over’ people that awakens them to their own power and resilience,” Ismael says.

Empowering Women, Informing Men

Traditionally, men have often held the majority of the power in these communities. This project is equipping and encouraging women to re-shape cultural norms around their position in the household. Women-only workshops have been key to this shift, empowering them to play a more prominent part in the leadership of the epicentres, and to apply new knowledge that they can use in their daily lives.

A women’s group gathers at the village epicentre for a breastfeeding workshop. These hubs are a focal point for the community to learn new skills, share knowledge, recieve nurtritional support and practice conservation-friendly agriculture techniques. Women are benefiting immensely from projects which empower them in the community.

To balance this approach, The Hunger Project has introduced the Men Champion Gender project. This offers men-only workshops aimed at shifting their perceptions of gender roles, and accepting change that can uplift women. Talking with men encourages them to be involved in, and supportive of, this transformation.

From the beginning of the project in Zinave, we started to change gender-role mindsets, but always with a respect for local culture and dignity. Now men are agreeing to share decision-making and responsibilities with women, both in the hubs and the households.

Ismael Arouca

Structure for Success

Infrastructure is key to supporting livelihoods and creating a learning environment. As part of the project, a health centre is planned for 2024, where nutritional supplements will be provided. New classrooms, which are boosting student numbers and improving access to education, are currently being built.

New classrooms are increasing learning opportunities for the villages’ students. The Hunger Project equips schoolchildren with stationery, with bonus learning materials awarded to the top five pupils in the class as an incentive to others. Before the classrooms were constructed, children were having to study outside.

Boreholes and wells, along with seeds and dedicated spaces for vegetable cultivation, bring water and food security. These resources also help communities to generate income from selling produce. The Hunger Project has so far distributed livestock to 54 families – each one gifted with 2 goats on a pay-it-forward basis. When the goats breed, the family keeps the kids and offers the adult goats to another family. Older goats that are no longer bred from go to the epicentres, where they are sold for meat – with the money returning to the communities.

Peace Parks Foundation is excited to see this programme already contributing to improving the quality of people’s lives and livelihoods. This is a learning opportunity for all of us, and together we are seeing how the empowerment of women can uplift the entire community, and grow productivity. Bringing gender equality into community projects is vitally important; it is the foundation of a fair and sustainable way of life. We hope to expand our work with The Hunger Project throughout southern Africa in the future.

Helena Atkinson, Peace Parks Foundation’s Community Development Programme Manager

These developments are improving lives across Zinave’s landscape. More resilient and better equipped communities are enabled to support themselves, independently and in the long term, and women are empowered to contribute equally. As epicentres multiply and benefits spread from the heart of these villages outwards, a wave of change is happening.

The programme is being supported thanks to generous funding from Global Changemakers and the Terry Foundation.

Food and water security go hand-in-hand. Communities are able to access drinking water more easily, and produces healthier crops, as The Hunger Project installs more boreholes and wells close to the villages.

Herding for Health connects community farmers with markets


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