By Locadia Mavhudzi
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated effects on business growth, rural women in Silobela district in the Midlands province have proved a high level of resilience in successful market gardening projects.
However, their efforts are hampered by the poor state of road infrastructure which has resulted in most leaving produce to rot as vehicles shun the Gweru – Nkayi road.
“For us in the village, lockdown means concentrating on your own acre of land without visiting your neighbors,” said Stembile Mlauzi, member of the Madigani Gardens project.
“The lockdown has introduced to us a spirit of hard work which has really boosted our household food security.
“We have surplus butternuts, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions, which we are now failing to offset.”
Mlauzi said the villagers could be realising returns from their efforts.
“We could be earning much better by now but its unfortunate that we are selling at a giveaway price to those who may manage to come with their own trucks from as far as Gweru and Bulawayo because our produce is perishable,” she said.
“At the same time, its equally expensive for us to hire a truck as a cluster and sell in Gweru.”
Mlauzi said despite income losses, the roads had isolated the community from accessing health services like the Covid-19 vaccine.
“Our bridge at Mlalazela was washed away by the rains in 2019 and up to now community members in the southern part are hesitant to approach health service centers because they have to travel up to 20 kilometers to come to Madigani Clinic,” said Mlauzi who is also a village health official.
“The ward councilor has notified people in a WhatsApp group that the Covid-19 vaccine is now available at our local clinic but uptake is slow because of the distance issue.”
Meanwhile, Government has admitted the state of roads and bridges around the country was dire and in urgent need of reconstruction after a combination of years of neglect and continuous rains experienced in the past months.
Presenting oral evidence before Parliament’s Transport Committee recently, permanent secretary in the ministry of Transport, Kudzanai Chinyanga said several roads and bridges around the country had outlived their design life and are showing signs of distress evidenced by heavy potholing, cracking, and rutting among other visible failure modes.
He said the poor road conditions had been worsened by heavy rains experienced during the 2020-2021 season.
He said work on the rehabilitation of the transport infrastructure was expected in the immediate term as procurement processes of material under different authorities are being processed.