Wheeling self to the field, leg amputee (55) etches footprints in urban farming to survive after hit and run accident

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By Darlington Gatsi

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A 55-year old wheel-chair bound Harare man, John Mazvidza, defies odds as he tills a maize field which has become his source of livelihood since 2008 when he was involved in a car accident.

Mazvidza was a victim of a hit and run accident in 2008 while working for a local security company which led to his legs being amputated.

The amputation condemned Mazvidza to a wheelchair and in the process he lost his job as a security guard.

Sitting on his wheelchair facing a green maize field, evidence of his tremendous success, Mandizvidza narrates a night that changed his life.

“I was working as a security guard on a night shift. A car came off speeding as it was involved in a chase with police and hit me before the suspect run away.

“After that accident that is when I ventured into farming because I already had a passion,” said Mazvidza.

Mazvidza is among many urban farmers who take advantage of idle land to farm maize for their small families.

John Mazvidza

This urban subsistence farming hedges many from high prices of mealie meal in most supermarkets.

Despite many – elderly people and disabled – being beneficiaries of a stipend from the Ministry of social welfare through mobile money transfer farming augments few thousands.

“I throw maize seeds randomly into holes. With the availability of fertilizer I can harvest more from this field.

“I sell the produce to some members of the community so that I can buy some necessities,” he said.

Current incessant rains in the capital city have come as sweet news to many farmers including Mazvidza who depend on subsistence farming.

Challenges and split marriages

Maizvidza’s makeshift house is a real definition of dilapidation with walls appearing to be giving in to external pressures.

A roof hangs precariously with pretentious support from two poles, mice playing hide and seek with smoke tainting walls in a house that doubles as a storage for his maize.

He has witnessed three marriages falling apart as a result of his lack of a stable income.

Mazvidza has resigned himself to a life as a loner in a rugged house in Kuwadzana.

“Some family members chip in now and there. Most of the time I depend on myself to put food on the table. Since I live alone I do house chores.

“This house I live in is a temporary structure. When rain descends there are leakages which lead to some of my grains to rot and there is nothing I can do about it,” he said.

Fears however linger for Mandizvidza that the house might be demolished to pave way for small-scale industry.

Living up to old adage, disability does not mean inability, Mazvidza has a roadside vending market which he eke a living from after farming season.

A local supporting group Zambuko Trust – which works with vulnerable people – has provided a shoulder to Mazvidza through provision of a wheelchair.

“I started knowing John Mazvidza nine years ago. We have helped him by providing linkages with social welfare. We sourced a wheelchair which he uses for mobility,” said Zambuko Trust founder only identified as Chanda.