Ingutsheni Central Hospital is now relying on its farming projects to remain operational and feed patients due to limited funding from the central government.
The mental hospital caters for 600 patients who need a balanced diet.
To become self-sustainable, Ingutsheni turned to farming and has plans to expand into cattle fattening and goat farming next year.
CITE visited the farm for first-hand information to see how sustainable the farming project is and learnt Ingutsheni has a sizable farm tended to by 19 general workers who use few farming implements.
Currently the institution uses two boreholes that draw water into a reservoir and a booster pushes the water into the irrigation pipes.
Flood irrigation is used to water the nutrition gardens, horticulture and citrus fields while the institution also runs a poultry project.
Ingutsheni farm manager, Nkosilathi Mpofu said as part of occupational therapy, patients either came to learn farming or do some work for 30 minutes.
Mpofu said the farm delivered 300 kg of cabbage and six to seven bags of a variety of vegetables to the main kitchen twice a week.
“We conduct crop rotation to keep soil fertile and also make use of nursery beds to develop the seeds which are later transplanted into the fields. We grew maize on a 0.1 hectare field and we are yet to use another 0.1 hectare to carry out the gatshompo farming model to increase yields,” he said.
Two weeks ago, Vice president and Minister of Health and Child Care, Constantino Chiwenga visited the institution and expressed satisfaction on the project.
He, however, noted Ingutsheni could expand its farming project and promised to send a team from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement for an assessment.
“What we are going to do now is send a team from the Ministry of Agriculture to come and it will be in two parts, one from the irrigation department and the other from AGRITEX to replan this 90 hectares,” Chiwenga said in his visit.
“We must have livestock, from cattle fattening projects into rearing other small animals such as goats, sheep and also piggery. All protein and meat requirements must be met.”
Mpofu confirmed a team led by Agriculture Deputy Minister Vangelis Peter Haritatos came afterwards to advise the hospital and was due for another visit this week.
Chiwenga also noted that Ingutsheni had ‘many’ boreholes that had to be repaired.
“Once we irrigate this area we need to put greenhouses. That money has to be found and Ingutsheni can then supply hospitals such as Mpilo with all their vegetable and meat requirements, which will cut costs of food procurement. Food produced here will be for patients and staff. We need to develop fishery projects and have full complement of nutritious meals, this must be done as a matter of urgency,” said the VP.
He also promised to source farming equipment from relevant ministries for the institution and noted more farm hands had to be recruited locally to widen the scope of farming activities by increasing their hectarage.
“In my capacity as the vice president and minister of heath, I want to implore upon all clinics, provincial and district hospitals to emulate the sufficient models showcased by Ingutsheni Central Hospital,” Chiwenga said.
“This initiative will go a long way in reducing the budgetary allocation set aside for the procurement of food and related items. Implementation of this self-sustenance policy by all hospitals will certainly curtail the food deficit situation in some of our institutions.”
The VP also tasked Bulawayo Provincial Medical Director, Dr Welcome Mlilo to encourage other health institutions to kickstart such farming initiatives.
“Such quick impact projects remain key in the enrichment of nutrition for patients and our hospital staff. You can start with clinics, where they can plant 10 different fruit trees and vegetables rather than have them saying they need a tender to buy vegetables. We should be able to give you then general hands because farming is more profitable than buying cabbages that have spent three days in the sun. Let’s have fresh vegetables,” Chiwenga said.