Debbie DeVoe, CRS’ regional information officer for eastern and southern Africa, is visiting projects in Zimbabwe.
As Agnes Moyo shuffles into her garden enclosure, I feel terrible. At 89 years old, this beautiful elderly woman doesn’t need a communications officer asking her to show off her garden. But she’s game.
She turns her head slowly to catch the interpreter’s translation and then shares that she was born in 1920. I do the math and can’t help a head shake. Then she says her sister Hleziphi, who is sitting 20 yards away next to their mud-and-thatch house, was born in 1913—96 years old in a country where the average life expectancy for women is now just 44 years, down from 63 years back in 1990. Unbelievable.
Agnes also cares for her 7-year-old great-granddaughter Sibonile, who became an orphan when her mother died a few years ago. When I ask why Sibonile doesn’t stay with her grandmother instead, Agnes simply says it’s better for her great-granddaughter to stay with her.
Unfortunately though, the three don’t have anything to eat. Their last meal was a day ago—water and “sadza,” the traditional starch made out of corn meal eaten across Zimbabwe and much of Africa.
Agnes is hoping in a few weeks that they’ll have “relish” on the side—the Zimbabwean term for any meat or vegetables that accompany the main dish of sadza. On May 28, with help from CRS and our local partner the Organization of Rural Associations for Progress (ORAP), she planted spinach, rape and tomatoes in an array of cans and a few plastic-mesh grain bags. She waters her garden with the liquid left over from washing plates. If the plants needed more water, she couldn’t garden. Her body simply doesn’t have the strength to carry enough water from the borehole nearby.
Until the vegetables are ready for harvest, the family will continue to rely on handouts from kind neighbors. But in just a few weeks, Agnes, Hleziphi and Sibonile should have plenty of relish to eat for many months to come.
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