The work of Friends of Muonde is to support and champion the work and values of indigenous innovation in the Mazvihwa and surrounding areas of Zimbabwe.
Southern Zimbabwe is semi-arid and much of what we do is therefore focused around water. What rain as falls – and it seems to already be more erratic with climate change – comes in great thunderstorms and most is lost to flash floods that also remove precious soil and leave the area drier every year. Building on the discoveries of a local innovator, the late Zephaniah Phiri (see below), this community is deeply exploring water harvesting and associated soil management, micro-irrigation and agro-ecological farming so that as much rainwater is captured and directed into the soil and small ponds to support farming and life. We help them revitalize indigenous food crops and varieties that are adapted to local ecologies and support diverse healthy diets in the face of growing dependence typically unhealthy on external food sources. Moving from the farm level we buttress their efforts to work as communities to restore forests, watersheds and grazing areas, including through replacing brushwood fencing with drystone walls and hedges, and restoring cultural values like sacred forests.
In the domestic sphere women are innovating around their kitchens and workspaces (water, smoke, light, hygiene) and we also support their efforts to develop waste management systems for the influx of plastic into their lives. Friends of Muonde also supports entrepreneurship among women (and men) to build a more equitable, circular and environmentally sustainable economy both in food and agriculture and other local asset areas.
In education we provide scholarships to the disadvantaged, especially to women and orphans for the pre-university entrance years (“A” levels); support pre-schools in areas too far from existing facilities (one so far); to support poetry and creative writing workshops; provide training in computers and digital media and research tools; and we have supported adult education to enable over 50 individuals to go back to school to complete “O” Levels. Friends of Muonde also supports the cultural life of these communities (especially revitalizing music, values of mutual support and the sacred) as well as their processes of cultural change (especially around tackling patriarchy). Crucial for these community’s abilities to chart their futures is to understand their histories and to able to assess for themselves the outcomes of the changes they are introducing. To this end Friends of Muonde continues to support their long tradition of action research, and now to help move them towards publishing more of their good work.
All this work is transforming the communities of Mazvihwa and surrounds, not only materially but (even more importantly) in terms of their confidence and control of their lives and futures. The conscious efforts – and constant vigilance – of Friends of Muonde and its partners to decolonize our intentions and our interactions is core to the work in a world where Africa’s “development” is still the endless object of western paternalism and worse. Exchange and training are powerful tools in this process.
Friends of Muonde works by supporting exchanges between Zimbabwean community leaders and the wider world, through engaging volunteers in training community members, through contracting Zimbabweans to provide support and training for the work at community level, and especially through making grants to likeminded Zimbabwean entities that are entirely run and staffed by local people. To date these grants have been focused on two Zimbabwean Trusts, The Muonde Trust and Phiri Award for Food and Farm Innovators Trust.