In Zimbabwe, years of political and economic crisis have thrown many people into poverty. And although the economy has stabilised somewhat, massive unemployment and high prices mean that most people in rural areas still cannot afford food.
The problem is particularly acute in the Musoropamwe and Charandura areas of central Zimbabwe, because very low rainfall and poor soil fertility make farming difficult.
However, Oxfam has introduced an innovative voucher scheme which gives people like Violet Sithole the choice of animals in exchange for their work on Oxfam community infrastructure projects.
While the majority of beneficiaries work for their vouchers – fixing roads or drains, or digging latrines – so they’re not receiving handouts, about 25% of vouchers are given to the weak, elderly, carers and orphans, there also being a high incidence of HIV and AIDS in the area.
Violet Sithole chose to exchange her vouchers for two chickens and four goats at Oxfam's Musoropamwe livestock fair. Here, all animals are checked by a government vet and livestock sellers exchange the vouchers for cash. Many of the sellers have bought livestock at a previous fair and are returning with their animal offspring, helping to keep the scheme going. As seller, Fatima Norest says: "I'll use the money to buy food and pay school fees for my three children. I'll come back next year. It's a good idea."