OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

From Poverty to Food Surplus: The Kanyemba Turnaround Story

Bringing alive the salty and brackish soils of Kanyemba to make them a resource for food production and poverty alleviation

Photo of aldershot investments
1 4

Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Aldershot Investments Pvt Ltd

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • Under 1 year

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Kanyemba Village in Lower Zambezi Valley in Zimbabwe. It covers under thirty thousand square meters .

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Kanyemba is one of the least developed communities in Zimbabwe, with people living at a subsistence level. Poverty is a growing concern in Kanyemba. The only available economic activity, fishing, comes with a high barrier to entry with annual permit fees of US$800 per year. The average employed Zimbabwean earns between US$50 – US$100 per month, while the poverty datum line (PDL) for a family of 5 is US$245 as at the end of December 2019. With Kanyemba’s fishing fees beyond the reach of a decently-employed Zimbabwean, this barrier is way too high for the marginalized people of Kanyemba.

Such circumstances have forced the people of Kanyemba to resort to poaching. This introduces new risks to the environment as informal trading has developed, creating disaggregated data. Without aggregated data , environmental protection will become difficult and serious damage can be done to the environment, animal populations can rapidly deteriorate or even disappear by 2050. The livelihoods of communities across three countries could be under threat.

Our Directors have done missionary work in this community and became acquainted with the people. We observed rather painfully that their farming efforts produce very little food, despite the hard work they put  into farming the land. Upon further investigations, it became apparent that their soils are saline and brackish. Over time as an organisation we were drawn to their plight and have spend some time considering how we can provide a sustainable food  value chain.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.


Kanyemba is a village in the province of Mashonaland Central, Zimbabwe. It is located on the south bank of the Zambezi river at the extreme northernmost point of Zimbabwe at the meeting point of the Zimbabwean, Mozambican and Zambian borders. The village serves the Dande communal land.

Kanyemba is translated into English as "a bean". It is widely used as a surname in the Mashonaland province.

The underground water is mostly brine (salty solution), hence saline soils. 

The people there grow maize as a staple food. They mill the grains into a fine powder called mealie meal which is used to make the staple food Sadza. They also grow vegetables mostly leafy greens like rape and pumpkin leaves. these are the usual relish accompaniment to Sadza. For protein, they rely mainly on fishing in the nearby Zambezi River.

Kanyemba women have a reputation for making the most delicious flour fat cooks with their proprietary recipe. In essence this is a type of dough that is deep fat fried in oil. It is normally served for breakfast as a bread substitute. 

Kanyemba is at the confluence of 3 countries, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The language therefore is diverse with pockets of Shona, Tonga and Sena and Chikunda. 

This is also the home of the Doma people, who for all intents and purposes are still living a very primitive subsistent lifestyle.  

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)


What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

The environment is largely under-developed with people co-existing with wildlife. This sometimes creates conflict as wild animals can destroy crops in the fields. The temperatures are high for most part of the year, leading to dry conditions that can also compromise crop yield. This has led to the people of Kanyemba becoming food insecure and in need of aid to afford basic food.

Their main diet is mainly starch ( maize meal) and vegetables which really does not constitute a balanced diet. By adjusting pH through the use of soil conditioners, we can increase maize and small grain production that will not only feed the people but can be used in stock feed production which will see them breeding chickens, pigs and rabbits for the much needed protein.

Apart from the fishing in the Zambezi river, there is little else that happens economically in Kanyemba. Some women buy commodities in Zambia and cross over into Zimbabwe using canoes to create an income. This is just enough to get by as the total buying power of the community is low. This is a challenge in the sense that these people do not have extra income to condition their soils. 

Kanyemba is a fairly remote community from most robust towns, as such there is minimum technological advancement. Most residents do not have access even to the internet and radio. the community would benefit therefore from a concerted effort to educate them on alternative ways to increase their food production. 

The future of communities across three countries is at risk if Kanyemba's poverty concerns are not alleviated. Fish can be unsustainably harvested leading to shortages in future. Forests and wildlife can be destroyed, damaging the whole ecosystem and livelihood of future generations and a way of living for some traditional communities.  Deforestation can lead to siltation, which can severely constrain the electricity generating potential of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Less electricity will dampen economic growth potential, leading to less wealth creation opportunities for over 62 million citizens

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Our vision is to secure funding that will enable us to make Kanyemba soils more productive. Conditioned soils will improve nutrient absorption leading to higher yields. This unlocked value can be used to develop the community of Kanyemba to a better standard of living which would mitigate risks of poverty-induced environmental degradation.

Due to limited access to technology in Kanyemba, we intend to deploy field workers that will disseminate knowledge to the Kanyemba community. We will train businesses on:

  • modern farming techniques;
  • financial inclusion and financial product education;
  • how to access physical and virtual markets;
  • business management and strategic planning;
  • information technology and harnessing the power of the internet;
  • environmental management; &
  • becoming a good corporate citizen through promoting a culture of tax compliance and collective accountability and responsibility.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

The possibilities are endless for the people of Kanyemba once their soils are made productive. The future 2050 can be a completely different image to what 2020 is. 

We see a future agricultural green belt producing maize, small grains like rapoko, millet and sorghum. Because of the weather, these crops can be produced all year round. We envision an area where drip irrigation all year round will replace dependence on rainfall for farming. This is important because there has been climatic changes due to global warming resulting in unfavourable weather patterns.

The next big thing is infrustructural developments, with hospitals, rural clinics, schools, business centres, and improved road networks linking the three countries, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique through bridges along the Zambezi River.

A general buzz of economic activities as there will be trading in and out of the neighbouring countries.

All these improvements will in general impact positively on the quality of life thus leading to lower maternal mortality rates, increased life expectancy and a more empowered community.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

We envision the transformation of Kanyemba from an area with poor soils to one of highly productive soils where artificial intelligence is used to monitor soil conditions and deliver nutrients on an ongoing basis..

This then results in improved food production which will impact positively on the diets of the people in Kanyemba. Because of this high food production the economic environment will be transformed positively through employment creation, improved incomes and less dependence on handouts.

The introduction of drip irrigation and other aspects of Smart farming will lift the community from backward subsistence farming to commercial farming. The use of mobile phones will link the rural farmers to each other to achieve scale as well as give them access to technology breakthroughs and new best-practices. 

Whilst we do not have any political clout, we believe that this sort of community growth and development, would lead us to have an audience with policy makers, thereby contribution to agriculture policy formulation.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Kehinde Fashua

Hi aldershot investments welcome to the Food System Vision Prize Community!
[Vision appreciation and feedback by you]
As we begin the countdown to the deadline day, please make sure you have reviewed your final submission through the Pocket Guide to support you through the final hours of wrapping up your submission. This will give you the most important bullet points to keep in mind to successfully submit your Vision. Here is the link to the pocket guide:
Look forward to seeing your submission finalized by 31st January, 5:00 pm EST.