Holy Cross Farm
In response to a letter written to the then Provincial Sr Francis Grogan by Sr Margaret Nhariwa in December 2013, the Zimbabwean sisters were asked by the next Provincial, Sr Monica Madyembwa in 2014 to meet and discuss the contents of this letter. In June 2014 the Holy Cross sisters of Zimbabwe met together to discuss the viability of having an old people’s home and a half way home for orphans where they would learn skills during the holidays. The outcome of the meeting was that the sisters expressed a wish to have a home with land where orphans could be trained in skills, especially farming. It was thought it would be best to have it around Masvingo town
Major Current Environmental Problems
- Pollution: Pollution of air, water and soil require millions of years to recoup. Industry and motor vehicle exhaust are the number one pollutants.
- Global Warming: Climate changes like global warming is the result of human practices like emission of Greenhouse gases. Global warming leads to rising temperatures of the oceans and the earth’ surface causing melting of polar ice caps, rise in sea levels and also unnatural patterns of precipitation such as flash floods, excessive snow or desertification.
- Overpopulation: Intensive agriculture practiced to produce food damages the environment through use of chemical fertilizer, pesticides and insecticides.
- Natural Resource Depletion: Natural resource depletion is another crucial current environmental problems. Fossil fuel consumption results in emission of Greenhouse gases, which is responsible for global warming and climate change.
- Climate Change: Climate change is yet another environmental problem that has surfaced in last couple of decades. It occurs due to rise in global warming which occurs due to increase in temperature of atmosphere by burning of fossil fuels and release of harmful gases by industries. Climate change has various harmful effects but not limited to melting of polar ice, change in seasons, occurrence of new diseases, frequent occurrence of floods and change in overall weather scenario.
- Deforestation: Our forests are natural sinks of carbon dioxide and produce fresh oxygen as well as helps in regulating temperature and rainfall. At present forests cover 30% of the land but every year tree cover is lost amounting to the country of Panama due to growing population demand for more food, shelter and cloth. Deforestation simply means clearing of green cover and make that land available for residential, industrial or commercial purpose.
- Ocean Acidification: It is a direct impact of excessive production of CO2. 25% of CO2 produced by humans. The ocean acidity has increased by the last 250 years but by 2100, it may shoot up by 150%. The main impact is on shellfish and plankton in the same way as human osteoporosis.
- Ozone Layer Depletion: The ozone layer is an invisible layer of protection around the planet that protects us from the sun’s harmful rays. Once these toxic gases reach the upper atmosphere, they cause a hole in the ozone layer, the biggest of which is above the Antarctic. The CFC’s are banned in many industries and consumer products. Ozone layer is valuable because it prevents harmful UV radiation from reaching the earth. This is one of the most important current environmental problems
- Water Pollution: Clean drinking water is becoming a rare commodity. Industrial development is filling our rivers seas and oceans with toxic pollutants which are a major threat to human health.
The need for change in our daily lives and the movements of our government is growing. If humans continue moving forward in such a harmful way towards the future, then there will be no future to consider. There are still many things we can do. By raising awareness in your local community and within your families about these issues, you can help contribute to a more environmentally conscious and friendly place for you to live.
What is Organic Farming?
Organic farming is an alternative agricultural system which originated early in the 20th century in reaction to rapidly changing farming practices. Organic farming continues to be developed by various organic agriculture organizations today. It relies on fertilizers of organic origin such as compost manure, green manure, and bone meal and places emphasis on techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting. Biological pest control, mixed cropping and the fostering of insect predators are encouraged. In general, organic standards are designed to allow the use of naturally occurring substances while prohibiting or strictly limiting synthetic substances. Naturally occurring pesticides are permitted, while synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are generally prohibited. Reasons for choosing organic farming include advantages in sustainability, openness, self-sufficiency, health, security and food safety.
The call of Laudato Si
“What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?”. This question is at the heart of Laudato Si’ (May You be praised), the anticipated Encyclical on the care of the common home by Pope Francis. “This question does not have to do with the environment alone and in isolation; the issue cannot be approached piecemeal”. This leads us to ask ourselves about the meaning of existence and its values at the basis of social life: “What is the purpose of our life in this world? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What need does the earth have of us?” “Unless we struggle with these deeper issues – says the Pope – I do not believe that our concern for ecology will produce significant results”-.
The Encyclical takes its name from the invocation of St. Francis, “Praise be to you, my Lord”, in his Canticle of the Creatures. It reminds us that the earth, our common home “is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us”. We have forgotten that “we ourselves are dust of the earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.”
Now, this earth, mistreated and abused, is lamenting, and its groans join those of all the forsaken of the world. Pope Francis invites us to listen to them, urging each and every one – individuals, families, local communities, nations and the international community – to an “ecological conversion”, according to the expression of St. John Paul II. We are invited to “change direction” by taking on the beauty and responsibility of the task of “caring for our common home”. At the same time, Pope Francis recognises that “there is a growing sensitivity to the environment and the need to protect nature, along with a growing concern, both genuine and distressing, for what is happening to our planet”. A ray of hope flows through the entire Encyclical, which gives a clear message of hope. “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home”. “Men and women are still capable of intervening positively”. “All is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start”.
Laudato Si talks about the need to care for creation. It tells us that human intervention, often at the service of business interests and consumerism, is damaging the earth. Our being created in Gods image and having been given dominion over the earth and its creatures does not justify domination over other creatures. An “urgent challenge is to protect our common home … to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change”.
The earth cannot be used and abused by the powerful for their own benefit. This leads to deterioration of the environment. Today, the analysis of environmental problems cannot be separated from the analysis of human, family, work related and urban contexts, nor from how individuals relate to themselves, which leads in turn to how they relate to others and to the environment”.
“In calling to mind the figure of Saint Francis of Assisi, we come to realize that a healthy relationship with creation is one dimension of overall personal conversion, which entails the recognition of our errors, sins, faults and failures, and leads to heartfelt repentance and desire to change”. We are all called to account for the way we make use of God’s creation. We first begin by appreciating the earth that God has given us and all the natural helps we find in creation which he gave us for our benefit.
The Holy Cross Sisters wish to choose organic farming in response to the call of the Gospel and the Catholic Church. Organic means working with nature. It means higher levels of animal welfare, lower levels of pesticides, no manufactured herbicides or artificial fertilisers and more environmentally sustainable management of the land and natural environment, which means more wildlife.
Buying a Farm
To enhance evangelization, the sisters, prompted by the Spirit and the signs of the times, decided to look for and buy a house with a big plot of land for training orphaned youth in farming skills in 2015. They also planned to have a home for old people to bring in revenue. There were many discussions about where to buy the land. They went to look at farms near Masvingo, near Kyle Dam, and near Roi. The sisters in Mukaro were also looking at farms around the Gutu area but this did not work out due to long distances from towns.
The farm was finally purchased in 2015. The main person involved in this project at the beginning was Sr Margaret Nhariwa. The sisters received a donation towards the farm and with the donated money,they were able to pay hired machinery to clear the land and hire labour to get clearing done. They were able to build a house, buy inputs for farming and drill two boreholes. The work at the farm at the beginning was difficult. The first two employees worked by day in the field and at night as security guards.
In 2017, a research on a “Youth Project” for the area was approved and funded by Misean Cara to assess the feasibility of a VTC at the farm. The research was to be done by Ms Fezile Ncube and the proposal was written by Sr Margaret Nhariwa. The research project would cost 10000 euros. Misean Cara offered to pay 75% of the project. Holy Cross would pay the rest in cash and kind. The research team would use our vehicles and also the farm house. Research would take place in Wards 14, 8, 31 Zano areas around the farm where there is a high level of poverty.
Strategic Plan (2017 – 2022)
This research was promptly carried out and the results of it were examined by a large group of stake holders and sisters who spent a number of days together at Nyanda Lodge in Masvingo. A Strategic Plan (2017 – 2022) was then drawn up. It provided a broad framework for the direction of the Holy Cross sisters over the next five years.
Through establishing a Vocational Training Center (VTC) it perceived a programme that could help unemployed youth (male and female) to make new beginnings. A Skills training programme could help the youth to secure formal and informal employment in an area of high unemployment and poverty. The Farm Project could include horticulture, animal husbandry and chickens to make it viable and to be used for the development of student learning skills. Other areas like brickmaking, carpentry, car mechanics and sewing/cooking programmes or computer classes could be included. A VTC could transform the lives of many young people who have few opportunities to proceed with education.
Clearing of Land
From November 2015-November 2016, the land was being cleared. Trees had to be cut, tree stumps as well as roots had to be uprooted. Two boreholes were sunk and secured. Within a short time the first borehole had dried up . A Health Inspector visited the farm to choose a site for Blair toilets for casual workers on the farm. Organic fertilizers were bought.
In 2017, a third borehole was dug; and this had problems with the switch, so water did not come forth at first. A large generator was bought to help pump water from the new borehole. This generator also gives light to the farm house. Water tanks were put in place. Solar power was set up in the area where crops were grown for pumping the water. Fencing was started from the western side. In 2018, a guardhouse and a post-harvest shed were built.
Construction began of a farm house in late 2015. The house was divided into two sections. The sisters originally planned to occupy one half of the house and the workers the other half. The house was finally finished in 2017 and is now occupied by some of the farm workers.
The Farm is located about 35 miles on the eastern side of Masvingo Province, along the Mutare road. Since quite a bit of the land was on hilly ground, the sisters requested a change of land boundaries so that we have more flat land. All the land beyond the public road on the farm’s western side would be taken from us and we would get more land on the eastern boundary which is flat land. The Ministry of Lands and our own independent surveyor sorted out the boundaries. The road branching off from the road to Glenlivet going to Zano cuts through our farm. Early in 2017,the former owner presented us with the final map. The land was purchased in 2015 and Title deeds came at the end of February 2019.
Construction began of a farm house in late 2015. The sisters originally planned to occupy one half of the house and the workers the other half. The Farm workers now occupy the house.
Construction of Greenhouse
By July 2016, the sisters had bought their first seeds for planting on a newly set-up irrigation plot. A topography map was done to organise the 10 hectares of farming and a bill of quantity was produced. Ridges were made, and the sisters enlisted the help of professionals to help with seedlings. A donation was used to erect a greenhouse where seedlings could be planted at the farm. Many vegetables were planted, as well as maize. By November of the same year, these crops were ready for the market.
Field Solar Power
Solar power was set up in 2016 in the irrigation field for pumping the water.
Second Solar power was set up in 2018 for light and pumping water
In 2018, a guardhouse was built
In 2018, a post-harvest shed were built.
With the arrival of 29 cattle to the Holy Cross Farm in 2018, a cattle kraal was soon built.
Since Chickens are very popular in the Zimbabwean menu, the sisters decided to invest in a Chicken run as a source of revenue for the Farm.
In 2018 a Project was done by the Mukaro Community to built a Piggery and invest invest in 2 female pigs and one male. There are now 15 piglets which will be ready for sell in the middle of 2019.
In 2017 in a meeting of the sisters, it was decided to invite each community to make a contribution to the farm by starting a project and implementing it as soon as possible. Bondolfi offered to sell maize and vegetable, Sengwa started a piggery project. They would sell the pigs and send the money to the farm. Mukaro and Renco community decided to do a fruit tree project. At this time, a compost was started, grafted trees were bought from the Forestry Ministry, bananas were planted.
A variety of crops were planted on the farm.
Zimbabwe has a tumultuous history within agriculture and producers are seeking positive change. Cattle play a key role as a national resource for the nation and for individual households, even though statistics say that nationally we only have 5 million cattle. Zimbabweans appreciate the reproductive and investment power of cattle. Cattle can be used for meat and dairy purposes. A new function of cattle comes with increased use of cattle manure – mupfudze, to maintain soil fertility.
Cattle are important as a means of finance and are kept as a saving against a future need. They are the means of a sustained income for farmers. We too, the Holy Cross sisters see them as an important financial investment on our farm
The swine industry in Zimbabwe has been struggling for a number of years, particularly within pig farming. It has been weighed down by high production costs, poor producer prices and a cash shortage that has persisted since March 2016.
As a result, the number of producers has been declining over the past 17 years and so has had little output. Stock feed is one big cost for a pig producer in this country. However if there is enough maize produced to stock feed, then farmers can manage to maintain the pig industry. We too, the Holy Cross Sisters, have decided to include pigs on our farm as a means of investment. One advantage we have is that we can use the maize that cannot be sold to help in feeding the cattle and pigs.
Mukaro Community began to build a piggery at the farm, bringing food daily to the workers. They used stones from the nearby mountain to construct the walls. This was finished in September 2018. They bought two female sows and a boal. The female sows gave birth to 15 piglets and they are growing very fast.
Despite the rise in chicken demand over the years as a cheap source of protein, the chicken industry still faces a number of challenges which the government claims includes competition from cheap imports, rising input costs of maize and soya meal (chicken food) and cheaper imports which comes with trade liberalization. This negatively affects local prices. We, Holy Cross sisters have built a chicken run on the farm, which houses 4×500 chickens. We regularly have batches of 200 chicks and we hope to expand. We also have roadrunners on the farm.
The sisters soon realised that to manage a farm successfully, machinery is needed. They checked out where would be the best place to purchase a tractor. They identified one in South Africa in Louis Trichart. However, after some research, it was decided in July 2017, that we purchase a tractor in Chiredzi. This place has the advantage that if we need help with the tractor, the place is closer to us. In addition, in Chiredzi they offered to give the driver lessons in how to handle farm machinery.
In addition to the tractor, later on in the year, a cultivator was bought, a Trailer, a disc harrow, and a planter. Around the same time, a donation was made for a grinder and a maize sheller which are an essential part of the farm.
Farm Committee Members 2015-2017
|Committee members: Sr Anna Bondeja, Sr Noster|
Farm Committee Members 2017 to date