Zimbabwe, like many African countries, has its fair share of challenges, not least of which is the effect of unpredictable rainfall patterns and successive droughts on agricultural production and subsistence farming. The consequent food scarcity causes malnutrition in local children and is linked to the disturbingly high infant mortality rate.
The Malilangwe Child Supplementary Feeding Scheme was set up in response to the dire need to provide these children with a proper meal each day. In association with the national government of Zimbabwe and, following guidelines put in place by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), Singita set about establishing a feeding programme on the outskirts of the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, where Singita Pamushana Lodge is situated. As with many such initiatives, its success is to a large extent dependant on the involvement and support of local community members.
One such community member is Mrs Ettah Mhango. Not only does she raise her own two children, she also takes care of six of her nephews and nieces. On top of this, she is a key member of the Supplementary Feeding Scheme team, and has been since its inception in 2003. As the manager and storekeeper of one of the scheme’s 436 feeding points, it is her responsibility to ensure that regular deliveries of the blend are received and securely stored, that there is enough porridge to feed the 34 small children in her care, that the food is well prepared and the correct portions are adhered to each day.
When asked about the value of the programme she was heartfelt in her reply: “The Malilangwe Child Supplementary Feeding Programme is the backbone of the community and, if it stops functioning, our children will die”. She also provided the insight that, as the programme also operated at the local primary school, good school attendance was being encouraged.
In total, 19 000 children on the outskirts of the reserve receive such a meal each school day. This would not be possible without the committed involvement of local people, largely women, who volunteer their time and effort to partner with this programme. These amazing people ensure that the children of the village begin each day on a sound and healthy note.