By Clayton Masekesa
MARANGE – From a distance, at the foot of Makate Mountains along the perennial Chiure River, the sporadic loudening from shovels and the squeaking sounds of wheelbarrows punctuated by disconnected voices of exhausted and drained men could heard, as they build a dam that marks a new journey of fish farming.
After living on one of the world’s richest Marange diamonds fields for almost one and half decades, since the discovery of the precious gems in 2006, villagers’ anticipation has been turned into nightmares, as the diamonds they were suppose to benefit from, have been endlessly siphoned from them through well orchestrated syndicates.
Long suffering villagers in Marange have been so vocal about how they have not directly benefitted from diamonds and they say they have been highly prejudiced of genuine empowerment.
Pushed by the incessant neglect and the perils associated with illegal gold panning, the courageous villagers in ward 30, Mukwada village in Marange decided to come up together and established an aquaculture and horticulture projects that they strongly hope to be the game changer.
The two projects that have already shown great potential have been initiated by Bocha Diamond Community Trust (BDCT), a community based organization.
The Tilapia fish farming project commenced in December 2019 with a single dam that had 10 000 fish. Since then, the project now has three dams and two ponds that now have over 60 000 fish.
In a media tour of the projects in Mukwada village recently, the BDCT Director Moses Mukwada said they decided to embark on the projects as a way of empowering the displaced villagers.
“We decided to have these projects after realizing that the villagers were not directly benefitting from the diamonds. We also realized that it is dangerous to become illegal panners. So we wanted to change the game by embarking on fish farming and horticulture,” said Moses Mukwada.
“We wanted to avoid being beggars by always writing letters to ZCDC requesting for assistance. So these projects are a sign that we want to be self reliant,” he said.
Moses Mukwada said they were looking forward to harvesting their first fish in first two weeks of July.
“We are looking forward to harvesting our first batch of fish in the first two weeks of July. According to our plans we are expecting to have about US$60 000,” he said.
The Projects Manager Lovemore Mukwada said the project is set to empower and sustain lives of more than 300 families who were displaced to pave way for diamond farming.
“The advantage that we have here is the fact that we are just using natural water from the river (Chiure River) and use the gradient to siphon water from the river into the dams and ponds using pipes,” said Lovemore Mukwada.
He underwent a fish farming training in Mutare conducted by Lake Harvest.
“Our major aim of this project is to sustain lives. We have members of the community who do not have jobs and we want to empower them with these projects. We do not want our members from the community to become illegal panners and be involved in criminal activities,” Lovemore Mukwada said.
“At least we want to show the world that we have something to do rather than wait to be always assisted by the ZCDC,” he explained.
Turning to horticulture project, there is a healthy beans crop under 2.5 hectors that is almost ready for harvest.
“We decided to have beans as our first crop. The water that we siphon from the river is then used to irrigate the beans,” said Lovemore Mkwada.
“We want to thank ZCDC for providing us with a tractor that cultivated the land for the planting of the beans. We are looking forward to having such partnerships,” he said.
The chairman of the projects Takura Betera said they embarked on these projects after realizing that members of the communities were not being assisted by the diamond companies that have been mining in the area.
“This is a pilot project where we want to defy all odds. If the world has seen that we are capable of sustaining lives, then we will then impart knowledge so that it cascades to all the communities affected by diamond mining,” Betera said.
“We want to show the world that these projects are very real. We want to assist the families in this community so that they can have better lives through these projects,” said Betera.
Betera said they are looking for partnerships from various stakeholders.
“These projects that we have done are an example that we can do something. This shows how we are committed in sustaining the lives of our villagers. We want to extend this to other communities,” he said.
Despite the success and the potential, the projects are facing some challenges.
“We are looking forward to partnering other stakeholders and companies to achieve our wider goals. Yes, ZCDC has chipped in by providing a tractor that tilled the land for us,” said Betera.
He said they were looking forward to have assistance in any form and any means.
One of the beneficiaries Moddie Betera said the project is an inspiration to many in the community.
“The success it has brought shines everyday as the beneficiaries have become a light for others in the community. These projects have also brought balanced diet and nutrition in homes,” she said.
“We will be able to send some children to school through the proceeds from these projects. We will have some income and be able to sustain our lives. I would like to encourage other women not to sit at home but embrace such projects as these ones as a way of empowering ourselves,” said Moddie Betera.
From the look of things, the projects are earmarked to capacitate and enable the community to sustain their livelihoods beyond the lifespan of the diamond mine.