Grass harvesting economically empowers Gweru women

By Stephen Chadenga
Women from the Midlands capital have resorted to harvesting grass which they sell to thatchers as they turn the activity into a money spinning venture at the same time conserving the environment by reducing veld fires.
The women sell a bundle of thatching grass at between US $1 and 50 cents depending on the size of the bundle.
The women who formed a club called Old Ascot Kushinga Thatching Grass Club said they have managed to earn a living through the venture.
“From January to date our club numbering about 63 including a few men who recently joined us managed to sell about 15 000 bundles of thatching grass,”said club chairperson Beatrice Madhende during a recent Environmental Management Agency (EMA) media tour.
“We go to nearby farms and plots where we harvest the grass before selling it to people who do thatching.”
She added: “We have managed to eke a living from the venture by not only buying food but also paying rent and school fees as well as buying household property.”
She said EMA approached them and provided them with sickles (grass harvesting tools) since they were helping preserve the environment.
“At first we thought EMA officials wanted to arrest us for cutting grass but we later learnt that they were actually happy that our activities were helping reduce the spread of veld fires,”she said.
A member of the group, Olta Nyoka said since she joined the club she has been economically empowered.
She said young women are now joining the club as they realised it had financial benefits.
“You can make a living from harvesting grass. I pay my tithes, buy food, property, pay rent and school fees but above all I am helping preserve the environment,”she said.
Another woman, Shelly Chauraya, from a different group of 10 (women) from Mambo suburb said women were now helping their husbands through selling grass.
“Besides preserving the environment there are numerous economic benefits from grass harvesting,”she said.
The women appealed to EMA to help with gloves, gumboots, work suits and sun hats.
EMA provincial spokesperson, Oswald Ndlovu said harvesting grass has reduced biomass thereby decreasing veld fires in the Midlands.
“Last year we had 75 364 hectares of land lost through veld fires,”he said.
“A1 and A2 farmers were the most affected hence we encourage them to construct fireguards as well as encouraging more women to venture into thatch grass harvesting as a way of reducing veld fires.”