TUCKED in the undulating terrain of Chimanimani is an organisation determined to change the economic fortunes of the district. Tsuro DzeChimanimani Trust is working towards attaining sustainable environmental development and conflict transformation in Zimbabwe.
The organisation is now also a leading figure in the fight against mental health issues brought about by the devastating Cyclone Idai and the Covid-19 pandemic. Having started with just two members in 1999 in Chikukwa Village, the Trust now has more than 4 000 members.
Our News Editor, Cletus Mushanawani (CM) recently caught up with Tsuro DzeChimanimani board of directors’ chairman, Engineer Archibald Dzingire (AD), to trace the organisation’s journey over the past two decades.
CM: When was Tsuro DzeChimanimani formed?
AD: Tsuro DzeChimanimani was formed in 1999 in Chikukwa and has been growing from strength to strength.
CM: In the rich Shona language, the word ‘tsuro’ has a double meaning, either someone who is clever and cunning or someone who is poor. Why did the organisation settle for that name?
AD: Interesting question, Tsuro is an abbreviation for Towards Sustainable Use of Resources Organisation. It is a private and voluntary organisation registered as a Trust under the Deeds of Trust with the Registrar of Deeds and it is a Zimbabwean organisation. It encourages people to use locally available resources to develop themselves, hence its name Towards Sustainable Use of Resources Organisation.
CM: Some developmental partners are known as briefcase organisations, what is the membership structure like and who is eligible to be a member of the board of directors?
AD: The organisation has its roots within associations of small-holder farmers. It has a membership of more than 4 000 people. The Board of Trustees is composed of executive directors and non-executive directors from the district. These represent certain disciplines due to their expertise. We have directors in finance, human resources, health, technical and management.
CM: What are some of the major projects this organisation has embarked on to help transform lives in the mountainous Chimanimani district?
AD: A lot of ground has been covered in most of Tsuro Village Groups. Tsuro was motivated by the availability of many different types of medicinal herbs in this area which has four climatic regions, from the rain forest to semi-desert conditions. Due to climatic change, we are now changing our focus to adapt to the changing environment. The organisation has helped to transform lives through sustainable agriculture, natural resources management, community based agro-processing and marketing as well as community health.
CM: The organisation is also involved in conflict resolution programmes, what inspired this and what are some of Tsuro’s success stories in this area?
AD: Community conflicts retard socio-economic development. Efforts and resources end up being directed towards fighting or antagonising each other instead of ensuring food security, building houses, raising healthy children and investing in the communities. Throughout the district, Tsuro has been supporting farmer self-help groups, Tsuro Village Groups, Farmer Action Groups, Community Health Clubs, Psychosocial Support Groups, Water Point Communities, Climate Change and Watershed Communities and Village Lending Groups that build community relations cohesion and peaceful co-operation.
CM: How effective has been the use of indigenous knowledge systems in promoting the Trust’s activities in conflict resolution, natural resources management and gender mainstreaming?
AD: Tsuro uses all the knowledge sources, that is traditional, scientific and spiritual. We fully support farmers in their quest for food and seed sovereignty by exclusively promoting farmer-saved seeds. Here l’m talking about open pollinated seeds like chitonga, chindau and mutsvura gudo. These also include mungoza (finger millet) and sorghum as well as local tubers, beans, cowpeas and groundnuts. We also promote indigenous vegetables which are nutrients dense, like mbowaguru and nhanzva. In the mental health project, we encourage traditional and faith healers to work closely with health centres in treatment referrals.
CM: Last year, Cyclone Idai wreaked havoc in most parts of Chimanimani and Chipinge, how did this natural phenomenon affect your programmes. How did you recover from it?
AD: We primarily work on development programmes and so with the Cyclone Idai, we were one of the first organisations to respond as we provided emergency services to those who had lost their relatives. We were also involved in burials of the victims, food provisions, assisting with clean water, disinfecting polluted areas and provision of ventilated latrines. We supported more than 6 000 families who lost seed and crops with 30 tonnes of seed, irrigation pipes, farm implements and 19 tonnes of organic fertilisers.
CM: The world is grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, how has your Trust come on board in helping to fight this pandemic?
AD: We are supporting Government’s efforts in preventing the further spread of this disease by providing adequate care and support to those who would have been infected. Tsuro has also donated personal protective equipment to health care workers.
Our personnel have also been trained in Covid-19 response. We also donated equipment and PPE worth US$8 000 to Biriiri Rural Hospital’s isolation centre. Two other isolation centres at Mutambara Mission Hospital and Rusitu Hospital got thermometers. We are prepared to chip in with assistance in the event of admissions at the isolation centres in the district.
CM: What are some of the organisation’s new programmes and what are the timelines?
AD: We would like to do more to support Government’s efforts at flattening the curve of Covid-19 infections by providing adequate care to those infected. We need to do more as we operate within the Covid-19 context. We need to support small-holder farmers with sustainable living techniques and agro-ecological practices using green manure. We will also work on water harvesting.
CM: What is your vision for the organisation and Manicaland at large?
AD: We envision an empowered, peaceful and united Manicaland community that has healthy and food secure people.
Tsuro aims to empower the communities to improve their livelihoods, natural resources management, agro-processing and community health. We need a community that uses its natural resources sustainably.
Food processing initiatives and marketing businesses should also be sustainable. We will be working with all stakeholders, including traditional leaders, so that we eliminate the dependency syndrome.