Esnath is the youngest of six children, born and raised in rural Zimbabwe. Both of her parents came from disadvantaged backgrounds, and had to drop out of education after primary school. They strove for better opportunities for their children, and worked on a commercial farm to make ends meet. However, due to financial and social pressures, Esnath’s four older sisters married at an early age, and only one completed her education. When her father later lost his job, Esnath was distraught at the prospect that her education would also come to a premature end.
“I wanted to get married too, but only when I knew I had a clear plan for my future. They called me a dreamer.”
A brilliant student, Esnath was determined to stay in school, but progressing to secondary level there were more costs to meet, including school and exam fees, uniform, stationery and sanitary pads. Just as she was losing hope, CAMFED stepped in to provide not only financial but also psycho-social support, throughout the rest of her time at school.
Esnath describes that from that moment she felt that she was surrounded by a safety net of community members, all looking out for her education and well-being. This included a local Mother Support Group, and members of the CAMFED alumnae association, CAMA. Their efforts to safeguard vulnerable children in the community inspired Esnath to do the same.
“I got a bigger vision and committed to my dream to help the community become better.”
On completing secondary school, Esnath joined CAMA and volunteered her time doing community outreach and delivering life skills training. From CAMA she learned about opportunities to pursue tertiary education. Through CAMFED’s partnership with the Mastercard Foundation she successfully applied for a scholarship to study Agricultural Sciences at EARTH University, Costa Rica.
Having seen her community struggle more each year against the adverse effects of climate change, Esnath is committed to empowering farmers with the knowledge to mitigate these effects. In recent years the global phenomenon of El Niño and La Niña have caused both drought and flooding, reducing crop yields. With so many people in rural sub-Saharan Africa dependent on subsistence farming, including her own family, she plans to work with other CAMA members to support better understanding of climate-smart agriculture and resource management.
With her CAMA sisters, Esnath helps other women to move from substistence farming to running successful agribusinesses.
“We all have to play our part, and with CAMA in every corner of the country, we can improve and reduce these effects faster and more effectively.”
Esnath (left) during her internship with ADRA Zimbabwe, working with farmers to implement sustainable methods.
During her degree Esnath maintained close contact with her community. She sent messages to her former secondary school and village, to inspire younger girls to pursue education and leadership opportunities. During vacation she visits communities in her home district, sharing her story with girls to show that no matter the background they come from, they have the potential to break the cycle of poverty and achieve their dreams.
Between August and December 2018, Esnath took up an internship with ADRA Zimbabwe, a local humanitarian agency, as part of her studies, focusing on resilient livelihoods. She worked with farmers who practice horticulture, apiculture, grow small grains and keep small livestock, giving technical advice, training them on sustainable farming methods, and assisting them to look for high value markets for their produce. She also planned and monitored exchange visits, to support farmers to learn from one another.
“75% of the farmers we are working with in the horticulture and livestock sectors are women; and for small grains it’s 60% women. Through this project we reach more than 700 families. During my time here I am also making sure that the farmers I work with value and are motivated to educate their girls.”
Esnath speaks passionately about introducing innovative methods for soil conservation, irrigation, fertilization, pest management and agroforestry. And she advocates for the education of women and girls as central to improving rural communities, as well as leading to a more sustainable future for the entire planet.
Looking to the future, after she completes her degree, Esnath plans to return to Zimbabwe and establish a model farm where she can demonstrate the agricultural techniques which she has learned at university, many of which build on and extend indigenous knowledge of the interaction between local species, local climate, and the larger ecosystem. By teaching practices that work in harmony with the environment, Esnath wants to support more young women into sustainable agri-preneurship, strengthening community health and resilience, and unlocking the resources to send more marginalized children to school.
“Having access to education gives girls and women more control over their lives. They tend to choose to have fewer children, reducing the pressure on the little resources available, and therefore reducing the effects of climate change.”
With her CAMA sisters, Esnath is working to change the world one girl at a time. They know that inclusive, quality education — in the classroom and beyond — is key to the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals, from gender equality to climate action, from zero hunger to poverty eradication.
Read Esnath’s blog - ‘How girls’ education will help my community become climate-smart’
Watch Esnath’s message for Earth Overshoot Day