The goal of KAITE is to work with smallholder farmers and wild collectors to reduce poverty and capacitate communities for improved food security.

Kaite was founded in 2007 to raise the social and economic living standards of small-scale farmers in Zimbabwe. We focus on innovative organic farming, sustainable entrepreneurship, community building, and empowerment of women farmers in particular. Kaite considers the needs of participating rural communities as a whole, so long-term social investment is the key. Our goal is to work together with our partner farmers to reduce poverty and strengthen communities, through the formation of farmers’ associations and training, as well as value chain development of farmers’ products, so that they earn more and improve their food security.
Organic farming
Our focus on organic farming and the sustainable collection of underutilized indigenous plants reflects our long-term commitment to conservation agriculture in Zimbabwe, through eliminating the improper use of agro-chemicals and the subsequent reversal of land degradation. Organic farming ensures that Kaite uses environmental resources in a sustainable manner. It also provides small-scale farmers with the opportunity to minimize soil erosion, increase humus (carbon) levels in the ground and improve soil fertility. The elimination of artificial fertilizers and agrochemicals decreases the presence of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in the soil, leading to drastic reduction of toxic chemicals. In addition, herbs and spices are processed using solar dryers, i.e., only with renewable energy resources.

An environmental impact assessment was a prerequisite for the Trust when it applied for certification from the Union of Ethical Biotrade, which was subsequently granted in February 2010. Kaite is the first initiative in Africa to have achieved this. All wild harvesting of plants is undertaken in a sustainable way, so that the existing stocks are not harmed and their survival is not threatened. Wild harvesters are trained before the harvesting begins.

Empowering small-scale farmers
We build upon the training and experience that small-scale partnering producers have already gained in cultivating and processing certified (fair trade, organic, UEBT) essential oils, herbs, spices and medicinal plants for local and export markets, focusing on female-headed rural households as they are in the majority. Our partner farmers work together with us to improve processing methods and to certify the crops they grow in Zimbabwe according to international standards. The Trust recognizes that the best way to ensure continual economic growth is to enhance lasting social structures within the farming communities it cooperates with. So Kaite engages in the following community activities:

  • Training in sustainable livelihoods, healthy diet, preventable diseases, general hygiene, rainwater harvesting, compost toilets
  • Training in organizational development
  • Training in community action and community theatre on gender issues
  • Supporting the increasing number of orphans within the farming communities
  • Facilitating HIV and AIDS prevention and care for the farmers and their families, as well as linking them to appropriate counselling and health services
  • Adult literacy courses for members of the farmers’ associations
  • Income and employment generation through value-adding processing, particularly for female-headed households
How small-scale farmers benefit
Zimbabwe’s small-scale farmers have extremely limited options to produce high value agricultural crops and wild collected indigenous plants and to market them effectively either locally or internationally. Small-scale farmers, in particular, are not linked to export markets and have few possibilities to process their goods (except for those who process tobacco), as well as lacking the necessary skills to produce high value crops. They find themselves limited to producing and selling only staples, vegetables or cash crops, such as tobacco or cotton, with extremely fluctuating world market prices, and are therefore forced to sell their produce below production costs.

These farmers do not have adequate knowledge about sustainable agriculture and wild collection, as well as value-adding methods to reverse ongoing land degradation, which has led in turn to lower yields and a marked decrease in their food security. And the improper use of agro-chemicals has caused devastating soil erosion. Since the support infrastructure for rural agriculture has largely disappeared, the majority of small-scale producers in Zimbabwe are currently trapped in a vicious cycle of extreme poverty, with heavy reliance on unaffordable or unavailable inputs, unsustainable hikes in transportation costs, and volatile market prices.

For small-scale Zimbabwean farmers, Kaite’s promotion of high value crops and underutilized plant species for both domestic consumption and for marketing and sale has many benefits:

  • These crops favor the poorest of the poor
  • This form of agriculture benefits women
  • Such crops complement conventional food crops
  • Indigenous species are drought tolerant
  • They bestow competitive advantages to local producers
  • They increase family cash income and therefore food security
  • They increase technical and management capacities of participating rural communities
  • International certification guarantees fair partnership.
Training and capacity building
Training and capacity building covers community organizational dynamics and topics of general importance:

  • Women and youth development and empowerment
  • HIV and AIDS awareness, prevention and care
  • Health and nutrition
  • Water and sanitation
  • Environment and climate change
  • Income generating activities and value addition

Kaite conducts community engagement workshops to understand the problems, the needs and aspirations of the communities it works in, to establish a starting point for its programs and to prepare for longer term partnership in the participating communities. Participatory community facilitation using the Art of Hosting is employed, a methodology which encourages everyone to speak, including those who would normally stay silent due to traditional or cultural mores. The emphasis is on appreciation of what a community has, and where it wants to go together. Possible solutions and opportunities are sought, programmes planned and implemented.

Workshops on ‘farming as a business’ are part of Kaite’s community engagement: clay stove making workshops, for example, teach household members how to construct stoves from clay that they can source in their own areas using only six bricks. Easy to make and cheap, but most important, these stoves use less wood, thereby helping reduce deforestation and the time women and children spend gathering firewood. Income-generating activities like dryer workshops are also organised with youth members of the participating communities, so that they can learn how to construct and sell the dryers to farmers who need them to process their crops.

Working Together
Kaite has launched vibrant farmer organisations within the participating rural communities. The farmer organizations articulate the key socio-economic and organizational capacity challenges that impair their productivity and sustainable livelihoods. The capacity of the farmer groups is being built up through training in management, technical and marketing skills.

Kaite’s aim is to help develop the farmers’ associations and thereby develop the surrounding farming communities. The associations are engaged in the following activities:

  • Improving crop quality and quantity
  • Tackling challenges of input supplies and marketing of farmers’ produce
  • Opening up new markets (e.g., through Fair Trade certification)
  • Improving associations’ performance (e.g., through training in leadership, conflict management, training in farming as a business)
  • Acting as a conduit for micro-credit
  • Strengthening community action, thus improving the well-being and sustainability of communities
HIV and AIDS prevention and care
Kaite works with organizations specializing in HIV and AIDS awareness, prevention and care. We link farmers in need to these organizations so that they can access the appropriate advice and intervention. HIV and AIDS issues are integral to any training we organize.
Supporting orphans
Orphans in Zimbabwe often live in dire conditions in extended or in child-headed families. Some of them are HIV positive and need special care. KAITE Trust provides school fees and uniforms, helps to source drugs and pays the necessary consultation fees for the children. We also help the orphans to establish organic gardens where they grow vegetables, as well as aromatic plants, for their own consumption and for marketing.