Tsholotsho Communities Women’s War on Plastic Waste and Income Generating Project

The income generating projects established by Children in the Wilderness Zambezi (CITW) for rural women in Zimbabwe are assisting with economic growth and poverty reduction in remote northern Matabeleland. A lack of consistent and reliable livelihood options has led to high levels of poverty in this area where communities rely on subsistence farming. However, erratic rainfall and Kalahari Sand soils that lack nutrients make for low yields and very seasonal harvests. The raising of livestock such as cattle and goats is reasonably successful but can be plagued by disease, making this livelihood method unreliable as well. With an average household monthly income of nine dollars and most households having between five and eight members, many families struggle to provide for their basic needs, and the majority cannot afford to send their children to school.

Read the rest of this wonderful report below, written by Sue Goatley, our Zambezi Region Community Development Liaison and CITW Programme Coordinator. Beautiful images © Liz Lane

To diversify livelihood options and reduce poverty in these areas, Wilderness Safaris and CITW have assisted with the creation of eleven women’s income generating groups in the area. These allow women to utilise their creative skills by making unique products that can be sold. As part of the establishment of these groups, workshops were provided to educate women on household budgeting and managing a small business. This ensures that groups like these can be sustainable in the future, with self-management and motivation that should lower the need to rely on CITW for ongoing support.

Innovative ideas using plastic waste have been incorporated into the traditional skills in basketry. This has resulted in marketable products, instilling pride in the local culture and encouraging women to work together, cultivating a sense of teamwork and community cohesion. This project also provides a method of responsible recycling and the reduction of plastic waste, which is an ongoing problem, in spite of these being remote, rural areas. Plastic waste is collected in and around the communities by both adults and children, it is cleaned and used in the basket-making, enhancing the products with vibrant colours found on confectionary wrappers and various plastic bags. This leads to products with unique designs that individuals and businesses such as lodges are able to use as part of their interior design. Children in the Wilderness markets the products to businesses around Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park to increase selling potential, and Wilderness Safaris displays stock in camps for guests to purchase. Some of the products made by these groups so far include baskets, placemats, coasters, trays, and lampshades. Such has been the demand for these products, that plastic waste has become a scarcity in the villages so Wilderness Safaris’ camps in Hwange sort their plastic waste and deliver plastic bags, maize meal, and vegetable and rice sacks to the ladies weekly.

As these groups become more settled and broaden their product range, the income they will receive for their work will greatly help towards feeding and clothing their families as well as paying for school fees. This ensures that children can continue with their education and teachers can be retained. Using locally made products not only empowers the local communities and assists with economic growth and waste reduction, but also showcases to Wilderness Safaris Guests the local talent and the importance placed on community upliftment.

Utilising traditional skills in basket-weaving, these women are creating unique, colourful products by incorporating plastic waste into their designs. This project is assisting with:
 – Women empowerment
 – Waste reduction and recycling
 – The ability to pay school fees
 – Enhancement of local traditions
 – Instilling pride in the local culture

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