"They help us, we help them" - A livelihood project in Zimbabwe

Allison Beebe

Malaria is a disease of poverty, and one way to reduce malaria is to reduce the burden of poverty. This is why the Lutheran Malaria Program in Zimbabwe seeks to ensure sustainable livelihoods for people in the communities where they work. The program grants seed money so that small businesses can commence their operations.  The earnings of the businesses can then be used to help people affected by malaria with medical expenses or treatment. 

The Chitekete Chemical Supply Shop in Chitekete, Zimbabwe is one such business. "The grant is really just to kick start the project," says Kelton Ncube, Malaria Field Officer in the Burure Region for the Lutheran Malaria Program in Zimbabwe. For the Chemical Supply Group, the seed money was returned to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe after just three months, as the group had already earned it back. "From stiff competition, we find ourselves ahead of competitors because of our reasonable prices," says Tendero Mutakanyi, one of the stakeholders in the chemical supply shop. With their success, Tendero mentions that earnings are used "So we can fund hospital bills and also buy food."

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​(Photo: Tendero Mutakanyi demonstrates how environmental control can help to reduce the mosquito population.)

The shop is run by ten individuals – six men and four women. They take turns working at the shop and share management responsibilities. The team meets twice a week to deliberate and strategize. They pride themselves on operating with transparence.

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(Photo: Six of the shopkeepers, with Field Officer Kelton Ncube at the far right)

Not only do the funds support people affected by malaria, but the goods that they sell help to keep the mosquito population under control. They sell insecticides and mosquito repellant to protect their neighbors from mosquito bites. The group teaches the community about the chemicals, ensuring safe and effective use. Their top seller is an agrochemical for cotton crops, as cotton is a popular plant in the region. The region sees healthy, more robust crops because these agrochemicals are available.

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(Photo: Philliph Choguya during his shift behind the counter at the Chitkete Chemical Supply Shop)

The Chitekete Chemical Shop is an asset in the community, and it is also good for the church. The shopkeepers are all members of Burure Lutheran Parish and some of their most loyal customers are members of their congregation. They often get visitors from church stopping by to browse and shop. "Parishioners buy their supplies from here, because they want to support them," says Shumba, a fellow parish member and lay leader in the Burure Parish. "They help us, we help them."

Indeed, by reducing the financial burden of malaria to families in need, and by working to control the mosquito population, the Chitekete Chemical Supply Group is helping the community in more ways than one.