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Japan Spreads Development Wings Across Zimbabwe

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By Jeffrey Moyo | IDN-InDepthNews Feature


HARARE (IDN) - As the battle to attain the Sustainable Development Goals hits up across the globe, the government of Japan through its development organisation, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has covered a myriad of development areas in this Southern African nation.

The SDGs are the UN’s set of action-oriented, concise and easy to communicate development goals to help drive the implementation of sustainable development globally.

These range from ending poverty in all its forms everywhere to promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all amongst 17 goals in all.

In line with its founding mission, JICA provides support for human resources development, capacity building, policy and institutional improvements, and provision of social and economic infrastructure, thereby pursuing sustained poverty reduction through equitable growth.

The Asian nation’s development agency also facilitates inclusive development as an approach to development that encourages all people to recognize the development issues they themselves face, participate in addressing them, and enjoy the fruits of such endeavours.

To this end, JICA has apparently made strides in ensuring such developments are fulfilled in Zimbabwe as it has moved in to help in areas of sustainable development.

But JICA does not do the work as it pleases.

“We work on request by the government of Zimbabwe. We agree with the government on what is to be done. We try by all means to work within the prescribed areas,” Yuko Mizuno, JICA Resident Representative in Zimbabwe, told IDN.

So far JICA has managed to push through numerous projects that have changed many people’s lives like Nehemia Mutasa from Nyanga, a town 100km north of Mutare, Zimbabwe’s eastern border town.

“The Japanese through JICA have changed my life by aiding our agricultural projects via trainings that have enabled people like me to emerge as very successful farmers here, who are profit-driven,” Mutasa told IDN.

Such areas that have enjoyed the support of JICA are Nyakomba irrigation scheme in Nyanga, a town approximately 100 kilometers north of the country’s eastern border town of Mutare.

“In Nyakomba, JICA has helped the government here to develop Block B, C and D irrigation blocks after some pipes for the long time irrigation schemes there were affected by the Cyclone in 2006, and Japan agreed to repair the pumps,” James Nyahunde, JICA’s Zimbabwe Program Officer, told IDN.

This, JICA does via its initiatives that support Small-to-Medium Enterprises as much as agriculture in Zimbabwe, done through the agency’s Small Holder Enhancement Program, aimed at changing the mind-set of farmers here so that they treat farming as a business in which they grow to sell.

“By this initiative, we mean a farmer must secure a market before even planting the crops and famers who have embraced this initiative are making wanders,” said Mizuno, the JICA boss in Zimbabwe.

Success of initiatives

The success of such developments is evident in many areas here like Tsunda in Bindura in this country’s Mashonaland Central Province and Chitora in Murehwa in Mshonaland East Province, where emerging farmers are basking in the glory of their new found success, thanks to JICA.

“I’m now a proud owner of an urban home in Harare, which I rent out and raise more money to support my family while I live here in Murehwa, and this is all because I have managed to learn from JICA successful methods of farming, which indeed have transformed my life,” Bindura-based Chipiwa Chitanda, a widow with six children, told IDN.

The Asian nation development agency does not however combine its humanitarian help with other Non-governmental organisations from western countries.

“Unfortunately, JICA cannot do basket funding, meaning our help to Zimbabwe cannot come through Zim-Fund,” Mizuno told IDN.

Zim-Fund refers to the Zimbabwe Multi-Donor Trust Fund, which was set up in 2010 by a group of donors in a bid to support priority recovery activities of the Government of Zimbabwe.

Zim-Fund came following approval by the Boards of Directors of the African Development Bank Group of the recommendations contained in a document entitled ‘Establishment of a Multi-Donor Trust Fund for Zimbabwe’.

As part of its efforts to help Zimbabwe, Mizuno said, JICA is currently working with the surveyor general in this Southern African nation to develop geographical information systems for the country’s maps last updated over 30 years ago.

“With the geographical systems updated, it will make it easier for us as JICA to identify areas that need development,” Nyahunde told IDN.

“The city of Harare can rely on this to trouble shoot, riding on this system JICA would have helped update while the same would apply to the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority and stakeholders and the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe, and these geographical system updates will be up and running by 2017,” Mizuno said.

Through JICA, even community-based tourism in this Southern African nation has received a boost.

And Zimbabweans like Yvonne Ngorima from Manicaland Province, JICA has come as a relief to them through its support for community-based tourism projects.

Community based tourism is tourism in which local residents, who are often rural, poor and economically marginalised, invite tourists to visit their communities with the provision of overnight accommodation.

The residents involved in community-based tourism earn income as landowners, entrepreneurs, service and produce providers, and employees.

Creating employment

“With unemployment rife here in the countryside where I live, this community based tourism JICA has helped me to become involved, has raised my social status through the benefits I’m realising in the trade,” Ngorima told IDN.

On community-based tourism here, the JICA resident representative said, “we are working with the Ministry of Tourism to enhance and put value on whatever exists to promote tourism.”

“We help in identifying what is there in communities to attract tourism; is it culture or is it religion? And we target women and children in this regard,” added Mizuno.

Many people like Ngorima have benefitted from the strides being made by JICA in backing community-based tourism, and based on statistics from Zimbabwe’s Tourism Ministry, over 120 000 people, who include women have become beneficiaries to community-based tourism being supported by JICA.

The benefits to ordinary people are coming in the form of revenue fetched through areas identified for tourism.

JICA’s efforts in shaping lives here have even stretched to the areas of education.

According to JICA, each year trainees numbering between 60 and 70 are taken to Japan from Zimbabwe for training in different areas of development often taking three to 11 weeks.

“We also have the ABE initiative for Masters PhD studies for people from this country, meant for South-South cooperation where this learning takes place in countries of similar circumstances in Africa,” Mizuno said.

ABE refers to the African Business Education for Youth, which was named after the current Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe.

And in terms of Information Communication Technology in this Southern Africa nation, over the years JICA has brought more than 500 volunteer experts attached to this country’s tertiary institutions focussing on ICT, music, physical education and sport.

This, Mizuno said, is in response to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s calls for the embracing of ICTs here.

“Ideally, our projects are request-based and we work within and with government,” said Mizuno.

Through its Embassy here, Japan has stood through thick and thin with Zimbabwe.

“Our government has made huge efforts to support many local projects for socio-economic development in Zimbabwe, through the scheme of grant aid for grassroots human projects,” a top Japanese diplomat speaking to IDN on the condition of anonymity for professional reasons, said. [IDN-InDepthNews – 15 October 2015]

This article is part of a media project of Global Cooperation Council and Devnet Tokyo.

Photo: From left to right: Yuko Mizuno JICA Resident Representative in Zimbabwe, and James Nyahunde, JICA Programs officer at their Zimbabwean office in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare. Photo by Jeffrey Moyo.

2015 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

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