Renewable energy empowering women farmers

The problem

Most of the rural population in Gwanda and Motobo districts depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. The region faces high levels of poverty, food insecurity and land degradation.  Farmers are increasingly feeling the effects of extreme weather, erratic rainfall and drought.  A lack of access to energy is undermining economic development and placing a high burden on women who are responsible for many labour intensive activities.

Poor management of natural resources, deforestation and overgrazing are degrading the environment and undermining development and livelihoods. Gwanda town currently imports most of its vegetables from other regions of Zimbabwe incurring transport costs that increase their cost.  There is a large unmet local market for food production in both districts.

Irrigation powered by clean, renewable solar energy, coupled with training will enable farmers In Gwanda and Matobo to grow several harvests a year, increasing their incomes and providing much needed local food to the region.

What we’re doing to help

Objective: Economic empowerment of women smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe through access to renewable energy.

Renewable energy empowering women farmers (REEWF)

Location: Gwanda and Matobo districts of Matabeleland South, Zimbabwe
Number of beneficiaries: 990 smallholder farmers
Project date: June 2018 – May 2020
Principal funders: Isle of Man Government
Partner: Fambidzanai Permaculture Centre
Funding: £1 million

This project is addressing the major underlying causes of food insecurity in Zimbabwe including poor access to water for irrigation, and insufficient food production

Access to renewable energy for agricultural production

  • Establish 18 solar powered irrigation schemes 
  • Establish and train community management committees for governance, maintenance and repair of the facilities.
  • Activate a renewable energy market by hosting a solar fairs where companies can showcase products and explain payment options

Improved productivity

  • Restore degraded land and soil with agro-ecological farming techniques
  • Restore degraded land and improve soil quality by introducing techniques such as planting nitrogen fixing plants and composting to increase levels of organic matter 
  • Technical training briefs in the local language for reference materials
  • Collaboration with lead farmers and Agritex (government extension workers) to develop podcasts on critical issues.

Access to finance and markets

  • Farmers will be able to produce enough to sell as well as consume. Selling produce will generate income for critical basic needs such as school fees and health care for their families.
  • Training on business’ skills such as record keeping, financial literacy, planning and negotiation skills training to help ensure they receive fair prices and grow what is in demand on the market so that their farms can be run as profitable enterprises
  • A saving and loan scheme for each group to help farmers manage their financial affairs.

Natural Resource Management

  • Participatory environment scanning exercise to identify the key threats to the local environment
  • Introducing sustainable practices on water shed and wetland management and natural resource management to help reverse land degradation in the region
  • Construction of two sand dams in areas where there are only seasonal rivers and water is a huge challenge. A sand dam is a reinforced rubble cement wall built across a seasonal sandy river, a simple, low cost, technology that retains rainwater and recharges groundwater. Sand dams are the most cost-effective method of water harvesting and ensuring that communities (people and animals) have perennial access to water and underground water levels in the area remain high enough to sustain shrubs and other ground cover.

Look how far your money can go

We are now sitting in the garden of heaven. We grow okra, sugar beans, tomatoes, spinach. We are in business. Before the plots were too small, but now, collectively we sell to markets and divide the proceeds between us. Every month, each member contributes $7 to the security of the group, we have built a toilet and next we are building a store.” – Leslie, Sibhula, Zimbabwe


Simangaliso Nkomo lives in Sibhula, Gwanda district of Zimbabwe. She has 9 children - 5 girls and 4 boys. The eldest is 35 and the youngest is 21 and she has 8 grandchildren.  She is participating in the solar irrigation project which increases food security for poor vulnerable households in the Gwanda District of Zimbabwe by providing water for gardens of 1 hectare each. 

"We had to carry the water from the river which took a lot of time and energy. We felt like we were begging from our husbands for money. Since the scheme began, we have been able to have our own income and don’t need to ask our husbands for money anymore and we can pay school fees as well. We are teaching our children to use the gardens. We have also been able to help disabled children through our income. I am very happy with the assistance given."


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