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Agri 2024

Vusilizwe Thebe

Vusilizwe Thebe, Speaker at Agriculture Conferences
University of Pretoria, South Africa
Title : “Petty cash” and “food security”: Empowering through a community garden project in a former labour reserve in north-western Zimbabwe


This study examines the poverty reduction and empowerment potential of small-scale irrigated horticultural community gardens for semi-arid or dry region farmers. It focuses on the contributions of these horticultural projects to livelihoods, income generation and food security for participating farmers. Using a case study of a donor sponsored irrigation community garden in a former reserve in north-western Zimbabwe, it shows how through the guidance of the area agricultural extension officer, participating farmers generated income from the sale of mainly vegetable crops and also produced maize for their consumption. Through participating in the project, households could afford to invest in the education of their children and stopped reliance on humanitarian food aid. It argues that where land is freely available and farmers receive technical advice and donor support, small-scale community gardens can play a role in reducing poverty and achieving food security for the poor farmers, although benefits may not be uniform. Some sections of society, particularly youth will continue to shun these projects, while participating farmers with resources and men would derive more benefits than those without resources and women. It is clear from the study that the significance of these projects, just like that of subsistence agriculture, must be understood within the larger social context of a migrant labor economy. It concludes that the attractiveness and significance of these projects may be enhanced, where capital accumulation is possible through the production of high value crops, which allow for the generation of “quick money”.

Audience Takeaways:

  • Significance of irrigation in dry regions.
  • Agriculture can be a vehicle for poverty reduction for the poor, if such agriculture is remunerating.
  • In some societies, land is not a major challenge, but the main challenge is precipitation, which makes irrigation a major policy focus.
  • There are significant lessons for policy for policy makers, donors and governments: design agriculture project in such a way that makes agriculture attractive.
  • If agriculture is remunerating, impose less in terms of drudging, youth can be attracted to the sector.


Vusilizwe Thebe obtained his PhD in Development Studies from the School of Global Development, University of East Anglia in 2007. He started his academic career as a lecturer at the University of Lesotho, before joining the University of Pretoria, where is is currently a Professor and Head of Department for Anthropology, Archaeology & Development Studies. His research interests include migrant labour societies and their transformation. He has published more than 40 articles in international journals on the social and economic dynamics in former migrant labour societies, including on land and agrarian reforms

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