Community of Macheke, Zimbabwe
Macheke is a rural farming community in Zimbabwe that was formed during the colonial period because of its rich agricultural soils. The 2006 census lists the population in Macheke at about 8,300 people (though current estimations based on the number of students enrolled in local schools places the population well above that). The native Shona people of Macheke live within the context of the HUNHU embodied practice. A legendary African ethic, Hunhu is the essence of being human and places an emphasis on co-existence (with other humans as well as the natural environment within which we live). Principles of hunhu are built on hospitality, harmony, love, justice and balance. In itself; Hunhu is a sustainable approach to social development, bio-cultural diversity and protection of the natural environment. Bio-cultural diversity refers to the variability of life in all its manifestations & interrelatedness including biological, cultural and linguistic.
In the recent years, Zimbabwe suffered one of the worst economic downturns in the world and in 2008, it was estimated that the inflation rate soared to 87 sextillion percent. The largest bank note that the government of Zimbabwe released was the 100 trillion dollar bill issued in January 2009, before the local currency was officially deleted. Within the last four decades, Macheke has gone from hosting dozens of active commercial farms to less than 10, the majority of which are producing at less than 10% capacity. Most of the land in Macheke is used as subsistence farmland, with locals living near the poverty line as defined by under-nutrition, prevalent disease due to underserved public health and lack of access to relevant sustainable education. The village has 1 small clinic, at least 5 schools (no university), no banks and no formal industry. There is 1 river which is currently devastated by effects of dam development during the colonial period, pollution and climate change. Much of the wildlife has migrated or deteriorated due to fires, extreme foresting and environmentally unfriendly hunting. The years of unsustainable agricultural practices have negatively affected many plots of land across the village. Some key developments in the near future would be ideal for sustainability progress in Macheke including a progressive institution for higher & technical education, a medical center for therapy & research, a revived river for fisheries & water supply, solar power & internet access.
“It’s not what you call me. It’s what I answer to”
Despite rather immensely challenging circumstances, the people of Macheke continue to work hard and carry the hope that much like the wild fruit comes in abundance each rainy season, the socio-economic issues will resolve and an opportunity for a life of sustained dignity will arise. It is their perseverance that inspired the establishment of the Macheke Sustainability Project.
Researched-based findings in Macheke
Research is an ongoing tool to understand the community of Macheke with a goal to provide access to the most relevant resources and place-based education as part of the poverty eradication development protocol. We have conducted research that helps reveal some views of Zimbabweans living in Macheke, and we will be presenting that information here as soon as we are able.
Challenges in Macheke
- Weak communication technology & unreliable power supply
- Diminishing natural environment & at-risk bio-diversity
- Deficient learning facilities for academics & innovation
- Chronic conditions of poverty have diminished development
- Women and girls face challenges that undermine their potential
Opportunities in Macheke
- Local schools are embracing sustainability initiatives
- The existence of traditional ecological knowledge (e.g. Hunhu)
- Adequate fertile land that can contribute to food security
- Existing conditions of poverty have increased locals’ interest in learning
- Women and girls are keen to be included in the development protocol