Biodiversity protection through Women Empowerment & Nature Preservation in Buhera District, Zimbabwe.
Biodiversity protection through Women Empowerment & Nature Preservation in Buhera District, Zimbabwe.
. Project Summary
This project aims to expand a successful initiative of sustainable wild harvesting of indigenous fruits and growing of indigenous melons in Buhera District, Manicaland Province, Zimbabwe, which will create essential sources of income for the women groups involved, while also preserving Zimbabwe’s nature and natural treasures. This will lead to:
1. Improving community management of natural resources through knowledge transfer and awareness raising.
2. Economic empowerment of community-based women’s groups through the creation of additional income flows, the strengthening of the organisation of the groups and enhancement of their knowledge base.
3. Improved nutrition among families of members, both directly (sustainable crops) and indirectly (via increased purchasing power).

The number of direct and indirect project beneficiaries will be approximately 1,200 people in Buhera District, while the set-up of the project provides opportunities for successful scaling up. Kuumba Arts has secured guaranteed offtake which will lead to additional sources of income for the women groups, which together with highly knowledgeable partners creates preconditions for successful implementation of this project.

Buhera District is one of seven districts that make up Manicaland Province in Zimbabwe. It is a predominately semi-arid rural community occupied almost entirely by communal farmers holding small parcels of land who rely primarily on their land to earn an income. Buhera is in agro-ecological region 4 and 5, which means that it receives very low amounts of rainfall (between 450 - 650mm annually), which have been unpredictable and uneven due to the effects of climate change. The region experiences periods of drought every 1-3 out of 10 years and is a region that struggles with land degradation, veld fires and alarming rates of deforestation. The primary source of livelihood is agriculture with an overdependence on the cultivation of maize, which often does poorly due to low rainfall, poor soils and poor farming practices. The cultivation of smaller drought resistant grains and other more sustainable agricultural practices are yet to become the basis for livelihoods in the region.

In Buhera, the environmental and economic challenges facing the district are compounded for women. Local women struggle with:
i. Low levels of education which limit professional and business opportunities (about 60% of the population has a primary level education or less);
ii. Very limited economic opportunities in the district (most households rely on agricultural activities from their small parcels);
iii. Domestic violence and abuse;
iv. Child marriages (the practice of child marriages is still prevalent in Buhera especially among the Mapostori sect); and
v. Limiting social and cultural customs and traditions.

With an overall struggling Zimbabwean economy, governmental and other social support systems are also unavailable to support women in Buhera. This means that women are left to self-organize to support themselves and their families. Despite the harsh climate, the region has a number of underutilized natural resources. This project shall train and empower women in Buhera – Manicaland Province to appreciate, utilize and earn an income from key natural resources that flourish in abundance in their environment. Kuumba Arts is currently working with two self-help local women’s groups in the following villages:

1. Dzenga Village – 24 members
2. Jori Village – 20 members

Eight more self-help women groups in Buhera will be engaged to participate in Hand in Hand, which will bring the total number of direct beneficiaries to 200 women. The indirect number of beneficiaries will be around 1,000, as a result of the additional income, which will assist the family members of the direct beneficiaries. As part of this project, Kuumba Arts will not only expand its activities in Buhera, but also expand its activities to a second semi-arid region (scaling up).
Hand in Hand will focus on “wild harvesting” of the fruits and extraction of the nuts/seeds from the following:

1. Marula (Sclerocarya Birrea)
The fruits from the Marula tree contain nuts and kernels that are pressed to produce Marula oil. Marula oil contains a large proportion of monounsaturated fatty acids and protein which makes it effective for hydrating and moisturizing the skin and hair and acting as an effective sun block.
As such, there is a growing market in Africa and around the world in the cosmetic industry for Marula nuts and kernels. This provides an economic opportunity for women in Buhera to earn an income from the sustainable harvesting and processing of Marula fruits. Currently in Buhera, Marula fruits ripen, fall on the ground and are eaten by goats in the community.

2. Ximenia Americana (“Sour Plum” in English and Nhengeni in Shona)
The fruits of the Sour Plum contain nuts and kernels that are processed to produce Ximenia oil. Ximenia oil is highly sought after in the cosmetic industry for its high content of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids (about 99%), with the major component being oleic acid. Ximenia has excellent anti-aging properties due to presence of ximenynic acid. Ximenia oil is an emollient, conditioner, skin softener, body and hair oil and is also used in lipsticks and lubricants.
As such, there is a growing market in Africa and around the world in the cosmetic industry for Ximenia nuts and kernels. This provides an economic opportunity for women in Buhera to earn an income from the sustainable harvesting and processing of Ximenia fruits. Currently in Buhera, the Ximenia fruits are harvested and eaten when ripe and the nuts thrown away. The fruit can also be processed into a sour jam and this is an economic opportunity that remains unexplored.

3. Kalahari Melon (Mashambva)
Kalahari Melon is an indigenous melon that is grown across Zimbabwe intermittently with maize and it can also be found growing without cultivation. The melon does very well in dry/arid environments. One vine can produce up to 60 -70 melons. The Kalahari Melon is not a sweet melon and the fruit is used to make a local porridge known as Nhopi while the seeds are discarded. Kalahari Melon seeds are pressed to produce Kalahari Melon oil which is another highly sort after cosmetic oil that is super-rich in linolenic acid; which makes up between 50% and 70% of its entire content. It makes skin look firmer and reduces the appearance of wrinkles. Packed full of antioxidants, and Vitamins A, C and E, it has a hydrating and tightening effect when applied. Since Kalahari Melons flourish in the Buhera climate, they can be grown in abundance as a cash crop. Once the seeds are processed their sale can provide a sustainable income for women in the district.

Marula, Ximenia and Kalahari Melon shall be referred to herein as the “Sustainable Crops.”

By learning how to harvest and process the Sustainable Crops, the women will:
1. Gain new appreciation for their environment and strive to conserve their natural resources;
2. Make sustainable use of abundant natural resources rather than assuming that such resources serve no purpose;
3. Begin and develop new, sustainable, nature-based women led income-generation projects;
4. Reclaim degraded lands and control veld fires through the planting of Kalahari Melon;
5. Enhance informed women’s decision-making capabilities regarding use of their land and forests;
6. Develop personal leadership and self-agency and become empowered to find solutions and alternatives to the problems they face in their community.

1.2. Organizational Background and Capacity to Implement The Project
Kuumba Arts Trust (“Kuumba Arts”) was registered in Zimbabwe in 2012 (Trust Registration Number: 938/2012) and began operations in 2017. Kuumba means ‘to build’ in several African languages. Kuumba Arts seeks to build and transform communities through the power of the creativity. Kuumba Arts work has two focus areas:
i. Supporting Women in Crisis through self-awareness, healing and empowerment. In times of crisis we often ignore or forget our own strength and inner resources to change our circumstances. Kuumba Arts helps women explore their experience from a place of discovering and recovering the innate strength and capacity that resides within so that they can change their lives and make a positive impact within their community. Kuumba Arts is helping women move from crisis to clarity to change.
ii. Nurturing socially aware artists, through capacity building and knowledge production that shifts how artists perceive themselves, their circumstances, and contributions to society. Both with artists and citizens, creativity in addressing complex social issues is key to Kuumba Arts work. As citizens face increasingly challenging circumstances creative action that stimulates energy, drive and perseverance is needed for lasting social change and transformation.

Kuumba Arts will implement this project working directly with self-organized womens’ groups in Buhera District. Kuumba Arts will add eight more self-help women’s groups to the Hand in Hand cohort. In implementing the project Kuumba Arts will work with a number of partners.

Kufunda Village Trust (“Kufunda Village”) shall be engaged to conduct and manage community trainings and support the women’s groups during the project period. Kufunda Village will also manage the participation of existing women’s’ groups and recruit new groups into Hand in Hand. Kufunda Village has been operating in Zimbabwe since 2002. It is a learning village whose purpose is to inspire the co-creation of healthy and vibrant communities in Zimbabwe and beyond. Kufunda Village has a strong track record working with and in local communities across Zimbabwe. For the trainings Kufunda Village will cooperate with Bio Innovation Trust who have specific knowledge and training methods on wild harvesting.

Kukura Organics is an innovative organic skin care company, which promotes the use of fair-trade, organic and natural cosmetic products. Kukura wants to ensure fair and sustainable practices throughout it’s value chain and is therefore willing to partner with Kuumba Arts. Kukura has committed to the organic certification costs and guaranteed off-take of the harvest collected by the women groups.

Kuumba Arts has the track record, capacity and passion to implement the proposed program. Kuumba Arts is currently successfully implementing a wild harvesting and indigenous crop cultivation project in Buhera District. Kuumba Arts successfully implemented a women’s empowerment project in Epworth, Harare (2019-2020), which created a self-agency, personal leadership and justice circle. All the participants were struggling with suicide ideation, depression, social isolation, domestic violence and abuse and a host of other traumas. This was a highly successful endeavor, which created a powerful space for sharing and understanding of women’s rights, nurturing a sense of self-worth, creation of agency and the building of a movement towards transformative feminist leadership. Following the success of the project, Kuumba Arts in now working on creating 12 such Agency Circles in 3 high-density suburbs in Harare and 9 rural areas in Zimbabwe, showing Kuumba’s ability to expand projects.

With an emphasis on innovation, Kuumba Arts has implemented and managed several creative advocacy projects, including two positively reviewed “Creative Advocacy on Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs)” in Zimbabwe and Zambia, funded by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa. Kuumba Arts also managed a multinational Artists Residency Program, which focused on community engagement on environmental sustainability and natural resources, culminating in a successful Exhibition on social justice. Furthermore, Kuumba Arts Trust and its partners are well versed in participatory methodologies and these will be harnessed to design generative conversations.

In recent years Kuumba Arts has also expanded its model to rural areas, where it is working with a number of women groups focusing on sustainable wild harvesting of indigenous fruits. Not only does this lead to increased appreciation and preservation of nature, it also provides women additional sources of income in areas with limited economic opportunities. Kuumba Arts also actively engages private sector actors to ensure the women groups can sell their products.

Organizational Structure
Kuumba Arts Trust has a 4-member Board of Trustees who meet once a quarter. They are:
1. Ms. Deborah Mubi (ID Number: 63-847273J00) – Non-executive
2. Ms. Irene Pashapa (ID Number: 63-044272G47) – Non-executive
3. Ms. Venitia Govender (RSA ID No: 6510040169080) – Non-executive
4. Dr. Mutheu Bomba (ID Number: 63-1661154K63) – Executive

Kuumba Arts staff structure is as follows:
Position Staff Member
Director Dr. Mutheu Maitha-Bomba (Female)
Finance Manager Ms. Jacqueline Chadzingwa (Female)
Monitoring and Evaluation Mr. Gideon Chandimhara (Male)
Community Program Coordinator Ms. Nyasha Kahondo (Female)
*Kuumba Arts is not a GEG SGP grantee and is not involved in a GEF SGP funded project.
1.3. Project Objectives and Expected Results

Problem Statement
With an uncertain Zimbabwean economy compounded by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, women in rural areas in Zimbabwe are struggling to earn an income that can sustain their families. This is especially true for rural communities with unpredictable rainfall patterns, which makes a reliance on agriculture unsustainable.

Project Objectives
1. Improving community management of natural resources through knowledge transfer and awareness raising.
2. Economic empowerment of community-based women’s groups through the creation of additional income flows, the strengthening of the organisation of the groups and enhancing their knowledge level.
3. Improved nutrition among families of members, both directly (Sustainable Crops) and indirectly (via increased purchasing power).

Project Rationale (Justification)
Ecosystem protection and restoration can only be achieved in a sustainable way, when communities see the value of doing so. By training women’s groups on sustainable management of natural resources and by assuring additional incomes that follow from the harvesting of the Sustainable Crops, the communities have an incentive to improve community management of natural resources. As our target communities are experiencing the negative consequences of climate change (e.g. prolonged drought) their traditional livelihoods are threatened. Current deforestation rates have exacerbated the situation. By creating opportunities for women and vulnerable groups that are the result of the sustainable management of natural resources, Kuumba Arts aims to reverse the current negative path into one of sustained improvement. Partnerships with off-takers are crucial to guarantee that these opportunities materialize and Kuumba Arts has secured a stable off-take of the harvested Sustainable Crops.

Project Results/Outcomes
1. Enhanced sustainable and environmentally conscious practices in wild harvesting and organic farming.
2. Increased participation of women in economic life and decision making within their community.
3. Enhanced practice of good nutrition in local households.
1.4. Description of Project Activities

Table 1: Objectives, Activities and Outputs
Objective Activities Indicators for each activity Outputs Outcomes
State Objective 1
Community control and management of natural resources Activity 1.1 Organize 25 wild harvesting and organic farming trainings (1 initial training and 4 smaller follow-up trainings for each group addressing specific needs. Two groups will attend one training).
Baseline: 0
Target: 10 1. Wild harvesting and organic farming training provided.
2. Women’s knowledge on wild harvesting and organic farming increased.
3. Training materials available for reference within each women’s group.
4. Propagation of the Sustainable Crops begins in Buhera, District. Enhanced sustainable and environmentally conscious practices in wild harvesting and organic farming.
Activity 1.2 Train 200 women in 10 community women’s groups on wild harvesting of indigenous fruits/nuts and organic farming.
Baseline: 44
Target: 200
Activity 1.3 Develop, translate and distribute training materials to support each training. Baseline: 44
Target: 200
Activity 1.4 Train 200 women in 10 community women’s groups on propagation of the Sustainable Crops to ensure their continued abundance in their district. Baseline: 44
Target: 200
State Objective 2
Economic empowerment of community based women’s groups Activity 2.1 Wild harvesting of Marula and Ximenia nuts and cultivation of Kalahari Melon. Baseline: 20 tonnes
Target: 100 tonnes 1. 100 tonnes of Marula and 5 tonnes of Ximenia nuts harvested and 20 hectares of Kalahari Melon cultivated.
2. Certify the collection area (organic certification) and ensure off-take of the certified nuts and seeds.
3. Average yearly income increases for women group members. Increased participation of women in economic life and decision making within their community.

Activity 2.2 Sale of Marula and Ximenia nuts and Kalahari Melon seeds. Baseline: 20 tonnes
Target: 5 tonnnes
Baseline: 0 tonnes
Target: 12 tonnes

State Objective 3
Improved nutrition among families of members Activity 3.1 Training on growing, maintenance and nutritional value of moringa and other traditional vegetables (e.g. black jack, sweet potato leaves, nyeve e.t.c) Baseline: 0
Target: 200 1. Nutritional training provided.
2. Women’s knowledge on affordable, highly nutritious vegetables increased.
3. Moringa seeds planted in each household.
Enhanced practice of good nutrition in local households.
Activity 3.2 Distribution of moringa seeds to each women’s group. Baseline: 0
Target: 200
Activity 3.3. Growing and harvesting of moringa. Baseline: 0
Target: 200
Activity 3.4 Train women in the processing of by-products into nutritious products. Baseline: 0 tonnes
Target: 20 tonnes 4. Processing of nutritious by-products becoming an increasing part of the diet. Inceased food security and improvements in nutrition.


Project Snapshot

Kuumba Arts Trust
Area Of Work:
Grant Amount:
US$ 50,000.00
Co-Financing Cash:
Co-Financing in-Kind:
US$ 8,000.00
Project Number:
Currently under execution
Project Characteristics and Results
Gender Focus
) Indicate the needs of men and women in the project (with a focus on the needs of women). This project focuses on women in Buhera, District. The needs of women in the district include: ? Increased economic opportunities and the ability to earn an income. ? Training on the value, utilization and processing of local natural resources. ? Training on value addition, post-harvest storage and processing of natural resources. ? Diversification of farming methods. ? Nutrition education. ? Control and decision making over utilization of land. ? Access to finance and financial literacy training. ? Access to inputs, technology and extension. ? Links to established markets. ? Access to business development skills and information. ? Assistance in forming and strengthening women’s groups. ii) Indicate the specific actions and measures that the project will take to respond to the needs of both. This project will provide the women in Buhera with: ? Training on the value, utilization and processing of local natural resources; ? Training on value addition, post-harvest storage and processing of nature-based products; ? Diversification of farming methods to include the Sustainable Crops and Moringa; ? Training on setting up tree nurseries and tree planting skills to enhance reforestation; ? Training on sustainable, balanced nutrition; ? Links to established markets through companies like Kukura Organics and the Marula Company; ? Training on business development skills and information for the Chairladies and Community Coordinator; and ? Strengthening local women’s groups. iii) What are the specific roles of men, women and youth in the project. The women’s groups will be primarily responsible for wild harvesting and extraction of Marula and Ximenia nuts. They will also be responsible for planting, harvesting and extracting the seeds of Kalahari Melon. They will be responsible for proper weighing and storage of the nuts and seeds and selling of the nuts/seeds to Kukura Organics and other buyers sourced by Kuumba Arts. iv) Are both men and women equally involved in the decision making and how many women are in the project leadership structures. This project seeks to strengthen local women’s sense of self-agency and personal leadership so that they can seek and find solutions to their problems and recognize themselves as women who can earn a sustainable income and play an active role in decision making in their families and communities. The management of this project will be carried out co-operatively with each women’s group led by the Chairladies. Women who show a potential for leadership will be given greater responsibility and supportive training within Hand in Hand. v) Do women have access and control of project resources do they benefit equally from resources and products or activities proposed by the project during its different phases? The women have control over the raw materials that form the foundation of this project and will be paid a fair market price for everything produced under this project. vi) Indicate how the project reaches other social inclusion groups (indigenous peoples, youths and persons with disabilities) The key focus area of this project is rural women in Buhera District, Manicaland Province, Zimbabwe. As part of Hand in Hand, we intend to also do training in another semi-arid area.
Promoting Public Awareness of Global Environment
A key element of this project is ensuring that ecosystems are protected and that the harvesting of the Sustainable Crops will be done in a sustainable way. As Kuumba Arts has secured off-take of the products, it will be able to scale up efficiently based on the training methods developed and implemented in this project. Scaling up through the inclusion of other regions in Zimbabwe is part of this proposal (see Section 1.7.), and Kuumba Arts has already identified other regions that are suitable for this approach. By sharing training materials, lessons learnt and knowledge with a large number of women groups and community based organisations, Kuumba Arts believes that a significant scaling up and replication is very
+ View more

Grantee Contact

Dr Mutheu Maitha Maitha Bomba
Phone: 0774548152


8 Hillmorton Road, Meyrick Park
Harare , Harare , 263

SGP Country office contact

Ms. Tsitsi Wutawunashe
(263) 700946
Mr Luckson chapungu


P.O. Box 4775
Harare, AFRICAN REGION, 264-4-