Mark Marevera spent the majority of his life the way most farmers in his area of Zimbabwe do. Three years ago, his income was very volatile and he lacked the security of knowing if his farm would even provide a yield large enough to sustain his family.
He was living in the small village of Chirimanyemba, Zvimba where, despite agriculture being the main source of livelihoods, farmers struggled to respond to changing economic and environmental pressures.
Mr Marevera was producing far less food than what was possible on his farm. His story is one of repeated agricultural disappointment after experiencing the effects of poverty increasing in his region. He lived with the triple hardships of extremely low agricultural productivity, economic poverty, and a social environment that labelled him a beggar in his neighbourhood. He became isolated and alienated.
But, inwardly, Mr Marevera remained hopeful, Progressio agriculture specialist Matsvange Diego told us.
"His inner self exuded a man with great ambitions who demonstrated an insatiable hunger to learn," Matsvange said. "He tried out innovative ideas and, in hardened perseverance, became one of the most determined farmers in the village. Our project unlocked this great potential."
Through Progressio and our partner organisation, Environment Africa, Mr Marevera was taught how to diversify his crops into more reliable options that were also in greater demand. He was also taught conservation farming techniques that helped him produce a great yield in a difficult farming environment.
After struggling to produce enough resources to live, the skills we shared with Mr Marevera meant that he produced more than three tonnes of maize per hectare during the 2013/2014 season. He attributes this improvement to the conservation farming knowledge imparted to him by Progressio’s local partner organisation, Environmental Africa.
"The conservation farming skills I learnt not only transformed my food security and income, but also my social life," Mr Marevera said. "I have become more accepted by local society, and also empowered to do more for my community in the future."
Progressio and Environment Africa also trained Mr Marevera in how to lobby for political change that would help his business and was given training in advocacy.
"The skills I gained also raised my self-esteem," Mr Marevera added. "I found the confidence to interact with policy makers in my neighbourhood."
Mr Marevera is a member of the Nzarakuda Environmental Action Group that is supported by Environmental Africa. Formed in 2013, the Nzarakuda Environmental Action Group has a membership of 20, including seven women.