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 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 the CAMFED Association and volunteered her time doing community outreach and delivering life skills training. Through the network, 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, and graduated in late 2019.
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.
With her CAMFED Association sisters, Esnath helps other women to move from substistence farming to running successful agribusinesses.
“We all have to play our part, and with the CAMFED Association 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.
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 (beekeeping), 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, and developed a short manual on pest management and conservation agriculture, adapting existing resources to the context of the community of Zvishavane.
“75% of the farmers we worked with in the horticulture and livestock sectors are women; and for small grains it’s 60% women. Through this project we reached more than 700 families. During my time I also made sure that the farmers I worked with value and are motivated to educate their girls.”
Having seen her community struggle more each year against the adverse effects of climate change and resulting food insecurity, 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 is now working with other CAMFED Association members to support better understanding of climate-smart agriculture and resource management.
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.
“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.”
Just after completing her degree in December 2020, Esnath represented CAMFED at COP25, accepting a UN Global Climate Action Award on behalf of our young women leaders for the innovative Agriculture Guide Program. On her return to Zimbabwe, Esnath started working with CAMFED on the expansion of its Agriculture Guide program, applying 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.
She set up an insect farm in Marondera, aimed at delivering sustainable protein in the face of growing food insecurity, while empowering women and their communities to grow innovative businesses. Esnath then founded the Glorified Community Empowerment Trust (GCET), which trains insect farmers in rural communities in Marondera and Nyanga. Her model sees each trained lead farmer go on to train an additional 5 farmers, quickly scaling the production of nutritious food, in a context where 1 in 3 children suffers from malnutrition from a lack of protein, vitamins, and other essential nutrients. She aims to set up nutrition corners in local schools, providing insect-based snacks.
“Part of the training is going to support communities to develop their own enterprise models, so they can set up income-generating businesses, as well as improve nutrition, because insects are highly nutritious and they are fast-growing, making them climate-smart.”