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By Patience Shumba

ZIMSOFF has been actively involved in advocacy work to advance farmer felt needs regarding a broad range of issues including peasant rights, climate justice, gender, agroecology. With climate change adding another layer of challenges to those already faced by women, the need to have a gender sensitive policy and structures to mitigate the impacts of climate change on women is imperative. Unlike agricultural practices, advocacy work is a long and tenacious process that takes long to yield results. Advocacy is not a path for the weak willed-it requires character and determination!

On the 16th of May 2024, ZIMSOFF and other like-minded organisation converged at Sabre Business World in Harare to commemorate the launch of the Gender and Climate Change Task Force. ZIMSOFF had been involved in various activities that built towards the crafting of the (GCCTF) and the Gender and Climate Change Action Plan (GAP). The Minister of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development (MWACSMED) who was the guest of honour acknowledged the sterling work that civil society, including farmer organisations like ZIMSOFF are doing to promote traditional seeds in the face of climate change. She particularly acknowledged the excellent work that women are doing in the face of climate change. Women, she argued, are not mere victims of climate change, but agents who are fighting the scourge. The minister also noted that women face myriad of challenges not least of which is patriarchy, and the Gender and Climate Action Plan (2023 to 2027) is a conscious effort by Government to address some of these challenges. She ended her speech by challenging all organisations present to do more to advance the cause for women. Other organisations that gave solidarity messages included UN Women, UNDP, and Gender Commission. In unison, all the presenters acknowledge that women face the crudest brunt of climate change and should therefore be at the centre of all development and agricultural programming. 

Honourable Minister of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, presenting her keynote speech.
Dignitaries touring the ZIMSOFF stand (L to R): Mrs Lilian Matsika – Takaendesa (Chief Director Ministry of  Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development), Dr. Loveness Makonese (Deputy Country Representative -UN Women), and Honorable Senator Monica. Mutsvangwa (in orange jacket).

At the launch, three ZIMSOFF female farmers, namely Mrs.Shamiso Pamela Makazinge, Mrs.Talent Macherenje and Mrs. Anna Chekenyika, displayed various farmer-saved seeds which they grow to mitigate the impacts of climate change as well as food products from traditional grains. The ZIMSOFF stand was a hive of activities as it was visited by many patrons including the Minister of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development, Honorable Senator Mrs. Monica Mutsvangwa, UN Women, UNDP, Gender Commission, civil society and fellow farmers. The ZIMSOFF farmers explained the excellent work that ZIMSOFF women do, and took the opportunity to air a few asks to the powers that be-in particular on the need for Government to do more in terms of recognizing farmers rights.

The electronic media graced the ZIMSOFF stand and got intrigued by the ZIMSOFF story. At the end of the function, Radio Zimbabwe interviewed Mrs Makazinge one of the ZIMSOFF farmers showcasing traditional seeds at the launch and her sentiments were aired on radio the same day. Thus, in small, but powerful steps, ZIMSOFF women are reaching out to, and possibly influencing many people on the potential of women as agents, and not victims of climate change.

While the launch is a plausible step forward-more still needs to be done to see the implementation of the provisions of the GAP. Zimbabwe is replete with well-meaning policies and action plans that, for various reasons, lack implementation. So, ZIMSOFF and like-minded organisations must engage the power holders – the Task force on Gender and Climate, in this case to ensure implementation of the Gender Action Plan. This is a process and will take time, courage and pragmatism.

Mrs Talent Macherenje (Extreme right in ZIMSOFF T shirt) explaining the role of women as seed custodians while the media capture the proceedings and Guest of Honor, Minister M. Mutsvangwa marvel at the diversity of seed on display.
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