Inspirational Garden on the Banks of the Murove River
Story by Martha Mutomba
In the rural area of Buhera in the Manicaland Province of Zimbabwe, a young man named Lameck is generating a lot of buzz with the market garden he created on the banks of the Murove River. This garden has become an inspiration to the people of his community. I had the opportunity to visit Lameck’s garden when I went home to be with my family over the Christmas holidays in 2015.
“Madam, I was a dunderhead in school,” Lameck said to me after we had been introduced. Pointing to the Munhu coordinator who was accompanying me, Lameck said, “My teacher here did his best to help me improve my grades when I was a student in his class not very long ago. I tried the best I could but nothing stuck in my head. My biggest embarrassment was that I would cry each time I failed to do simple things that the other children could easily do. I felt ashamed. In the end, I left school because I just could not cope with the daily disappointments.” Tears welled in his eyes as he recounted his difficult days in school.
I was touched by his candor as I watched him speak. At well over six feet tall, with a muscular build, the tears in his eyes and the softness in his voice seemed a little out of place, I thought to myself. Then suddenly, his face brightened into a wide grin as he said, “My world changed when I discovered that gardening was my gift.” Sweeping his hands in a grand gesture, he exclaimed, “Look around and see what your organization has helped me to achieve already!” I looked at the abundance of dark green foliage around me. To one side were neat beds of market-ready green vegetables and to the other were rows of tomato plants. At the back, I saw towering corn stalks with ripening mealie cobs. Water hoses snaked along the cultivated plants and sprinklers slowly puffed sprays of water, irrigating the crops.
“I thank you and those who donate the money to help people like me,” Lameck said, “because your help has indeed changed my life. I now have dreams. I now plan for the future. I tell you, I never had that before.”
A year earlier, Lameck had applied for and received a $300-grant from Munhu’s Community Grant Program where we use a part of the donations we receive to give grants to villagers who start income generating projects. Beneficiaries are asked to pay back the money once they start generating profits from their projects, and the repaid money is recycled to other members of the community to start new projects. Lameck had used the $300-grant he received to buy irrigation equipment to maximize the crop yields of his garden that is located along the banks of the Murove River, a major waterway in that rural community. Prior to acquiring the water pump, Lammeck carried buckets of water on his head from the river to irrigate his crops.
“Madam, this garden was shown to me in a dream,” he continued. “I started by growing a few beds of vegetables that I could water by hand.” Then my teacher here told me about your organization’s grant program. When I received the money, I immediately bought the hoses and the sprinklers that you see. And I bought the water pump that is pulling the water from the river.” Gesturing with his hands he said, “You should come and see the pump.” He led us down a steep embankment to the bottom of the river valley, where the water pump rumbled gently as it drew water through a hose submerged in a shallow pool in the middle of sandy river bed.
On returning to the garden, Lameck proceeded to describe his dream for expanding his project. He said he was currently selling his produce at the local business centers and surrounding schools, but had plans to market to the nearby towns. He said his project was already generating profits for him and he had paid back $120 of the grant money he had received. He was very proud that he could now buy food and clothes for his family.
“I want my boy to have food to eat before he goes to school. That way he can concentrate on his studies. I think he will do better than me in school.” Lameck’s six-year old son Martin stood by watching his father. I was glad to hear that Lameck could now feed his family. I was glad that Martin his son, a Munhu student who was starting Grade 1, would not go to school hungry. And I shared his father’s sentiment. I hoped that Martin would do well in school.
Lameck then led us to a parcel of open land, about three or so acres, traversed by gullies and earth mounds. He said the gullies were waterways to feed the fruit trees that he was intending to plant as the next expansion phase of his project. He said he had a clear vision of his orchard in his head, and he described it in detail. He grew excited as he spoke of how he wanted to change the barren land that spread out in front of us into a bustling vegetable and fruit operation. I got inspired watching him as he revealed his plans.
As we were leaving, Lameck handed me a bucket full of red vine-ripened tomatoes to share with my family. I thanked him and told him how impressed I was at what he had achieved with very little money. I also told him I was inspired by his plans for expansion. “You have to come back and see it Madam. You have to come back and see it,” he stressed. “Right now I am the only one who can see the orchard in my head, but soon many people will see it too.”
I promised to return to his garden for another visit. As we walked away from Lameck’s garden, I glanced back at the empty land we had just surveyed. To my surprise, I could see images of fruit-laden trees in the fields as if they had already come to be. A slow smile broke on my face. It seemed Lameck’s enthusiasm was contagious. I was happy to help him hold on to his vision until the day it became a reality and everyone could see it, as he had said. I was certain that his vision would become a reality.