MUTARE: Zimbabwe has endured several droughts in the millennial years, mostly attributed to the severity of climate change and unpredictable rainfall patterns.
Like most rural districts in the dry regions of Zimbabwe, Mutare Rural District has some areas constantly hit by perennial dry spells.
Boreholes and wells dry up as time takes the people further away from the short rain seasons experienced in these areas.
The supply of water becomes erratic and people have to walk long distances to find water for home use and their livestock as running streams also dry up.
Access to safely managed water is a basic human right, yet rural water supply remains a challenge in Zimbabwe.
Piped water, within the 500 meters stipulated distance is a dream!
A dream that Mercy Corps, in collaboration with the government, the World Bank, and UNICEF have managed to bring to reality for the local community under the Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project (ZIRP).
“The project is a three-year response designed to mitigate the devastation left by Cyclone Idai on the most affected communities and lay the foundation for regional recovery and longer-term resilience in Mutare and Buhera districts. Therefore, the project is targeting the most affected districts, with a focus on immediate recovery, livelihood support, and restoration of community infrastructure and social services,” said Mercy Corps Senior Programs Manager Collen Shoko.
Feeling the stench of the climate change down railing livelihoods, the community itself played a major role in setting up the pumps, digging trenches, laying down the network of pipes, and hoisting the reservoir tanks at the distribution station.
“The community identified the water source, mobilized all locally available resources, like bricks, concrete stones, trenching and mobilizing funds for insuring their piped water scheme. The Rural District Council and the Ministry of Local Government were responsible for mobilizing communities to participate in the project, while the Government technical departments supervised and monitored the installation works. Mercy Corps procured all the accessories and other materials for the project that were not locally found,” added Shoko.
The US$ 30 000 solar piped water scheme stretches over 7 kilometres in the ward, covering five villages consisting of Derembwe, Nyamukondiwa, Jarawani, Chatindo, and Mbiza.
Chatindo Village Head, Tawanda Nyamurasa believes that the water scheme will improve livelihoods and provide a sustainable solution to the drying up sources due to a not-promising rainy season in the area.
“Access to water has always been a problem, especially from around July when the rains will be gone. Some villagers have to move long distances to fetch clean water and drive cattle for more than five kilometres to find water since nearby streams would have dried up. This is a good program. We hope they find resources to cover other villages beyond the selected wards,” highlighted Nyamurasa.
A cattle trough and a total of 17 stand-up taps were distributed over the area.
Some taps were erected on two schools and two creches benefiting more than 1000 pupils who attend school.
“The tapped water was necessary, especially for school-going children. At some point in the past year, the Derembwe Primary School administration had to ask students to bring some water on their way to school because their borehole had dried up. Some people used to fetch drinking water from unprotected sources of water,” elaborated one of the villagers Abigirl Chademurungu.
” This also provides a number of solutions, especially for women and girls in the area. This means we have to travel less distance to fetch water and some of our climate resilience projects such as gardens can now be sustainable. Women have been affected a lot leading to child marriages, under-nourishment and school dropping, as hard choices are made,” she added.
The cyclone, also a product of the ever-changing climate, caused the destruction of infrastructure including water and sanitation facilities leading to an increased risk of disease outbreaks such as diarrhoea, typhoid, and cholera.
The project aimed to also address social service issues such as violence, menstrual health, and hygiene, especially at the schools.
“Availing water nearer to homesteads will significantly reduce the time taken to fetch water hence more time availed for other productive household chores. The project will contribute to a reduction of violence against and abuse of the girl child at water sources. Availability of water at the two schools will enhance health and hygiene activities including menstrual hygiene management,” said Shoko.
In the case of solving the health-related problems, Jarawani Village Headman, John Jarawani said they had already identified a water-related health problem in the village, especially in children.
“Gather points such as shops now have running water and there was a dire need. There was also a developing problem of children having intestinal worms mainly caused by drinking unsafe water. This development will help alleviate such problems in the future,” he indicated.
Mercy Corps is continuously mobilizing resources to support more communities and has completed schemes at Muranda ward 21, Manzununu ward 22, Bwizi ward 19, and of late has secured funding for two more schemes targeting Matanda ward 20 and Chipfatsura ward 4.
As the world grapples with the provision of WASH services, such development in ward 36 can be seen as a positive step toward sustainable livelihoods and bring hopes for better agricultural activities in the area.
According to UNICEF, only about 37% of the Zimbabwean population has access to basic sanitation services. Rural areas remain the most affected.