THE Dufuya wetland in Lower Gweru has transformed the lives of communities under Chief Sogwala as villagers engage in income-generating gardening projects.

James Ncube (31) from the Dufuya area is one of the farmers who have been utilising the wetland to grow crops all-year round.

While other villagers wait for the rain, which has become erratic due to climate change, Ncube is busy from January to December on his piece of land at the Dufuya wetland.

The wetland has 350 gardens, where villagers grow tomatoes, onions, sweet potatoes and maize from September to February and vegetables and grains like wheat from March to August.

The villagers have not only enhanced food security, but also realised income from selling their crops in Gweru.

“My family is well-fed. I have been managing to send my children to school through the proceeds I get from selling produce from the wetland,” Ncube told Southern Eye.

“We don’t receive much rain in this area.  If we do not effectively manage our water from this wetland, the community will be hopeless and severely affected by food insecurity,” he said.

Another beneficiary Nomsa Dlodlo (40), a single mother of five, said her life largely depended on the wetland.

Dlodlo said she built a homestead and bought livestock from proceeds of the crops she produced from the wetland.

Nobuhle Ndebele, another beneficiary said the Environmental Management Agency (Ema) equipped them with enough knowledge on how to conserve the wetland.

“As a rural community, we have adequate knowledge on the need to conserve the wetland as we depend on it for food,” Ndebele said.

Ema Midlands provincial spokesperson Oswald Ndlovu said the environmental agency takes stock of wetlands to conserve biological diversity.

Ndlovu said communities, including those in rural areas, appreciated the importance of wetlands since agriculture has always been the backbone of their livelihoods.

“We account for wetlands in the province to enable their use and conservation.  The recurrence of droughts in the country calls for the need to intensify the utilisation of wetlands. The Dufuya community has understood the conservation language very well,” Ndlovu said.

He said the province boasted other well-preserved wetlands in areas such as Zvishavane-Runde, Tongogara, Chirumanzu and Gokwe, among others.

Environment experts say the protection of wetlands is important in conserving biological diversity.  They also note that wetlands are the most threatened ecosystem in developing countries.

Whereas the Dufuya community in Lower Gweru has appreciated the value of wetlands, the same cannot be said of their urban counterparts who construct houses on wetlands.

For example, in Gweru, government authorities lamented the development of residential stands on wetlands.

Local Government minister July Moyo recently warned that the long arm of the law will not spare councils that allow construction on wetlands.