48-year-old Francine Mashimango stands inside a greenhouse at a hydroponics station in Tongogara Refugee Camp (TRC) in southeastern Zimbabwe. Mashimango is looking at a month-old lettuce grown in a deep water culture system of hydroponics.
The single mother of eight children fled conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2018. After having passed through Zambia and getting arrested along with her children for breaking immigration laws in Binga in Zimbabwe’s north, she found sanctuary at TRC in Chipinge district.
Mashimango - who was a smallholder farmer in DRC - tried to establish a backyard garden at her home in the camp but with no success as water is nearly a kilometer away, making her farming venture unsustainable.
In November 2021, she became one of the pioneer smallholder farmers in a hydroponic station established by World Vision Zimbabwe, a humanitarian organization with funding from the UN World Food Programme (WFP).
“Deep Water Culture is one of the most simple and efficient hydroponics techniques,” explains a World Food Programme official. “The plant grows in a net pot filled with a small number of clay pebbles. The roots develop immersed in a water-based mineral solution constantly that is oxygenated by an air pump.” The Dutch bucket system, the official adds, uses two or more growing containers connected to the same irrigation and drainage lines that provide oxygenation and nutrients.
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