Release date
January 01, 2007

Protecting Vulnerable Livelihoods

January 01, 2007, —

"I am an orphan and have disabilities. The Junior Farmer Field School program has changed my life. I can now farm, and, even if CRS had to leave this area, I feel I am well equipped to provide for myself."

— Emmanuel, a teenage

"I will ever be grateful to God for remembering me, a widow. I used to scratch for food but now I have enough for myself and I can now eat carrots like a rich person."

— Esther, age 65

Emmanuel beside his house

Thanks to CRS Zimbabwe and our partners, Emmanuel was able to produce and sell enough seed and chicken eggs over two seasons to build this home.

Esther and Emmanuel are two of the more than 60,000 Zimbabweans served by CRS' Protecting Vulnerable Livelihoods Program — Emmanuel participates in a Junior Farmer Field School, and Esther cultivates a community nutrition garden. In this program, CRS and our community-based partners help people obtain the food they need to live healthy and productive lives. CRS and our partners also help communities protect the livelihoods of vulnerable people who rely on agriculture to feed themselves and their families.

The program includes a range of activities that help rural communities address some of their most critical challenges, including seed shortages; lack of productive assets, such as livestock; climate prone to drought; and the fact that HIV-positive people are often too weak for the intense labor of traditional farming methods.

Seed and livestock fairs

Seed and livestock fairs give vulnerable households vouchers which they can use to "buy" the seeds and livestock of their choice. In addition to empowering these farmers and sustaining agricultural productivity, this program also provides local seed and livestock traders with a marketplace for their goods.

Farmer Field Schools and Junior Farmer Field Schools

Farmer Field Schools and Junior Farmer Field Schools serve as agricultural learning centers for youths and adults. Junior Farmer Field Schools play a particularly important role in transmitting agricultural knowledge to orphans and other vulnerable children, who may not otherwise receive this information due to the death of their parents or adult family members.

Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation works by accurately delivering precise amounts of water and nutrients directly to the plants' root zone. Not a drop is wasted. This technique is especially effective in areas of the country that do not receive much surface rainfall. Drip irrigation is most often used in community nutrition gardens, which grow a wide range of vegetables and herbs that are specially selected to help meet the nutritional needs of people living with HIV and AIDS.

Boys with sunflower oil.

Through a Junior Farmer Field School, these boys grew sunflowers and pressed the seeds to make this oil.

Conservation Farming

Conservation farming conserves moisture and soil by taking advantage of natural ecological processes. Conservation farming requires only simple hand hoes, making it ideal for poor households who lack equipment or livestock to help them cultivate. In addition, it is a form of low-labor agriculture, which means it is well-suited to communities affected by HIV and AIDS. Most importantly, farmers using this technique have consistently greater yields than farmers using other approaches.

In order to provide more holistic support to communities, in 2006, CRS also began activities that improve community members' income-generating opportunities and enhance their health and well-being through improved water and sanitation practices and expanded home-based care programs.

All together, CRS' work in this area helps provide a way for rural Zimbabweans to be self-sufficient and make a decent living, while increasing their access to healthy, nutritious foods.