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Catawba College Student Assists Humanitarian Organization in Zimbabwe

September 20, 2018

Category: Academics, Business & Economics, Events, Students

co-zimbabwe2.pngCatawba College student Luca Picci, a senior Economics & Finance major, spent his summer working on agricultural development in Zimbabwe. Picci, a 2018 recipient of Catawba’s Anne Esterline Fogg Cross-Cultural Award, once again assisted Cesvi, an Italian-based, non-government, humanitarian organization, in its efforts to advocate for human rights and strive to support vulnerable populations in the developing world.

Thanks to the generous funds donated Picci’s successful application received from the Cross-Cultural Award at Catawba College, he was able to support Cesvi’s operations in Zimbabwe, and promote cross cultural exchange through cooperation and development emphasized in Cesvi’s projects.


Picci’s work this summer with Cesvi focused mostly in the agricultural development sector. The agricultural industry in Zimbabwe has collapsed since the turn of the century. Despite the existence of several large scale commercial farms, much of the country is characterized by subsistence farming.

Cesvi’s agricultural projects are focused in the southern part of Zimbabwe because of the high drought risk, low rainfall, and generally lower quality soil. These factors have made crop production a real challenge. Food insecurity is a serious issue for many communities in this area.

According to Picci, Cesvi’s first agricultural intervention was in the Shashe area. Through direct cooperation with farmers in this area and the development of suitable irrigation systems, this community’s standard of living has been greatly improved. The development of a farmers’ collective in the area allowed production to increase, and allowed the development of commercial citrus production, increasing incomes drastically.

co-zimbabwe.pngCesvi is in the process of expanding its agricultural projects to other regions and Picci is helping by developing a cost analysis and economic evaluation of Cesvi’s interventions in these areas. This analysis looks at multiple variables of interest for different communities, such as crop type, irrigation system and time, and considers all business inputs and market conditions to derive a cost of production and potential income for communities. Importantly, this model will be adjustable for the specific conditions of different communities. The model will be useful for Cesvi to understand what, when and where to promote, and to better inform farmers according to the specific farming conditions they face. Such a model is essential for successful expansion of these agricultural projects.

Picci said of his summer experience and the value of the Cross-Cultural Award he received, “I learned a great deal, and putting theories taught in class into practice has added greater meaning to my education going into my final year at Catawba. I hope to continue promoting cross-cultural cooperation in my final year and upon graduation. Once we understand each other’s similarities and differences, we realize the challenges we face in our individual communities are much the same.”

This is the second summer that Picci volunteered in Zimbabwe with Cesvi. During the summer of 2017, he worked with a rather famous Cesvi project, the House of Smiles, a day refuge for street children in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe. During the day, children can come to the house to receive a cooked meal and to have access to other basic necessities. Children receive counseling, and can participate in educational, artistic, and musical activities. Despite the immense obstacles they face, the team at the House of Smiles works tirelessly to reintegrate street children into society.

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