Sheffield community initiative helps sustainable food projects over 5000 miles away

A Sheffield initiative with ‘the potential to change the world’ is helping communities in Zimbabwe by offering workshops that help gain support for food projects.

By Kian Rains
Friday, 19th November 2021, 12:32 pm
Zimbabwean residents Daition and Emmanual recording video footage.
Zimbabwean residents Daition and Emmanual recording video footage.

The ‘Make It Grow’ project works to equip marginalised communities in Zimbabwe with the skills needed to create their own video proposals to pitch ideas that alleviate food and nutritional insecurity.

Between October 2020 and July 2021, several workshops have been hosted online by the Institute for Sustainable Food at The University of Sheffield, involving 32 Zimbabwean organisations.

The project has been working from Sheffield since October 2020, as Zimbabwe is currently experiencing their worst wave of Covid-19.

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Admire and Sketiwe video making

Participants have successfully created their video proposals despite difficulties such as strict curfews and restricted movement due to lockdown.

The Make It Grow project was devised as part of a Knowledge Exchange Programme affiliated to The University of Sheffield’s Institute for Sustainable Food and is led by research fellow Dr Pamela Richardson-Ngwenya.

She said: “We had planned to carry out the workshops in person, in Zimbabwe, but due to the pandemic, we had to re-think the methods of training and engagement. Since October 2020, we have been hosting the workshops remotely from Sheffield.

“As the workshops are practical and highly interactive, this has been a real challenge, yet the participant response has been brilliant, and we have seen some fantastic video proposals created by communities.

Professor Peter Jackson.

“We are now supporting their fundraising efforts by organising some online events to showcase the community videos.”

Ten years ago, Pamela Richardson-Ngwenya developed a handbook on “Making Video Proposals” for the United Nations Development Programme’s Global Environment Facility Barbados office; as a first attempt to support community groups in making video applications for their Small Grants Programme.

Since then, digital technology has moved on apace, with smartphones, apps, video technologies and wi-fi becoming increasingly prevalent and easily accessible, even for lower-income communities in the Global South.

It is thus an apt moment to revise and update the methodological toolkits available to NGOs and community-based organisations to better support communities worldwide to create their own video proposals to submit to funding programs such as the GEF’s SGP, as well as linking to crowd-funding platforms.

Vainona High School - SCOPE Zimbabwe

The video workshops were designed to teach participants how to create and use video effectively, whilst also supporting them in using it as a powerful tool to communicate, learn, document, and gain support for community-based food projects that will have a positive impact on their lives.

Co-Director of the Institute for Sustainable Food, Professor Peter Jackson said: “The Make It Grow project is a fantastic example of the Institute’s support for knowledge exchange and community participation, using new technologies such as participatory video-making to empower local communities in Zimbabwe to secure funding for a series of food-related sustainability projects.

The online course involves ten workshops over a period of nine weeks, with the aim of learning basic video-making skills through practical activities and group tasks.

Each group is then supported to plan a community project and produce a video proposal; to plan, pitch, and gain support to implement their idea.

Mr Decent Gaura, 44, attended the workshops on behalf of the Jairos Jiri Association, a non-governmental organisation promoting the rights of people with disabilities in Zimbabwe.

He said: “The workshops were full of learning, challenges and fun.

“They have the potential to change the world, especially for remote communities. I found the approach so engaging and beneficial.”

After participating in the workshops, Decent co-created a video proposal to raise funds to purchase a solar vegetable drier for 57 families with persons of disabilities in Zimbabwe’s Chivi District, ensuring food security for some of its society’s most vulnerable.

Another participating organisation was SCOPE Zimbabwe, which implements permaculture projects with schools and educational facilities in Zimbabwe.

Its National Coordinator, Ms Linda Kabaira, 42, said: “The whole learning process taught me that it is actually possible to get the voices of those we represent amplified and out there.”

SCOPE Zimbabwe are fundraising to buy a 1000-capacity egg incubator in a Zimbabwean school, where a large majority of pupils are from low-income families and often go without food.

Since being taught from Sheffield, the Make It Grow project team has facilitated over 125 hours of workshops, certified over 40 participants, and has supported the creation of 15 participatory video proposals.

In the face of today’s multifaceted global challenges, community-based food initiatives are becoming increasingly important, and great ideas for low-cost and dynamic solutions to food insecurity are often already present at the local grassroots level.

However, community-based initiatives often have the least access to funding and the least capacity to develop funding proposals.

With access to both generating and sharing video becoming ever more prevalent, it is important that organisations adapt grant-giving processes so that digital video can be mobilised in ways that enhance the accessibility of funding and give greater space to local initiatives and community voice.

At the same time, it is also critical that community-based organisations build their own capacity to harness the power of video and related ICTs, to communicate their ideas and thus, become more capable of attracting start-up funds.

Climate change has massively affected agriculture in Zimbabwe, thereby increasing food and nutritional insecurity, making this project increasingly crucial to the livelihoods of these marginalised communities.

With several video proposals completed, groups have set up independent pages to raise funds for their community-based sustainable food projects.

The nine video proposals completed have collectively raised around £750, with support from Make It Grow.

Chiadzwa Village is embarking on a goat-breeding project aimed at economically empowering members of its community.

Through improved food and nutritional security, the fellows envisage the emergence of a more united, self-reliant and peaceful community.

Chiadzwa is home to Marange diamond fields which became the hot seat of mineral discovery from 2006-2009; in the face of mineral extraction, the community living in the area has experienced many challenges and conflicts.

Starting with a group of 13 households, the project will involve the construction of a goat pen and the procurement of 14 goats, with participants receiving training in goat breeding by animal husbandry experts.

After breeding the first 14 goats, they intend on distributing the offspring to more households in the community until everyone can consume or sell goat milk and meat.

In response to the experience with previous workshops, the Make It Grow project is looking to create a female-only online learning space, supporting an existing women’s capacity-building programme in Zimbabwe.

They aim to organise a public event to showcase the women’s video proposals for International Women’s Day, to raise awareness about how gender relates to digital inclusion and food insecurity issues, as well as to support the women-led project fundraising campaigns.

Other plans include engaging further with international donor organisations in the future to promote video proposals as a tool for supporting greater inclusion of marginalised communities and community members in both project development and grant application processes.

To find out more or donate to the Make It Grow project partners in Zimbabwe, visit