Villagers despair as funds run out

Delays in completing vital water harvesting for a micro-irrigation scheme below the Nyangani Mountain Range are having a negative impact on local communities as many can no longer endure long periods without water.

The delays are due to lack of funds to purchase outstanding materials such as polythene piping and accessories to help channel water from the small dams and reservoirs built high up the mountain range by the local people under the auspices of Chitsanza Development Association.

“About $90 000 is now needed by the CBO to finally complete the water project, whose combined effect will end Nyanga District’s Ward 19 and 22’s water woes” said Diana Sedze, the Director of CHIDA, in an interview recently. The community-based organization works with the Zimbabwe National Environment Trust.

“Given the persistent droughts, the project aims to improve and support local livelihoods and also act as a climate change mitigation and adaptation measure,” she said.

CHIDA, composed of 15 villages, is an autonomous body owned by the villagers who practise mixed farming, growing mainly maize, sorghum, sweet potatoes, groundnuts, yams, onions, leafy vegetables and garlic.

In the lower plains of the mountain range, open grazing of cattle, goats and sheep is common. But without access to adequate water many crops are wilting and dying.

The national office of the Global Environment Facility/Small Grants Programme recently announced that there would be no financial disbursements this year because “the global document that was supposed to be endorsed by the GEF Council (in New York) has not yet been signed and (we) have to wait till June 2012.”

The Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Management, Francis Nhema, praised the project on a visit last year and promised assistance by instructing a representative of the Environmental Management Agency who was present to make a list of the required materials.

There has been no sign of the promised assistance.

The local community are keenly aware of how critical it is to access water from the small dams to improve their daily lives. Each dam is currently full and has a holding capacity of 1 500 cubic metres of water. The water will not be paid for by consumers implying that no costs will be recouped upon provision. The water will be referred to as non-revenue water.

The district, which falls in Region IV, which is drought-prone, faces rampant food shortages and poverty. The local community, through CHIDA, saw the importance of sourcing water from the natural and perennial streams and springs within the mountain range. Thanks to gravity, they will not require pumps.

“Nonetheless, for the scheme to be fully operational, materials such as polythene pipes and fittings to facilitate the flow of water down to the villages and fields are needed,” said Ward 19 Counselor, Alexander Muchadeyi, adding that the timelines within which the project should have been completed is lapsing by the day.

Due to policy shifts, funding cycles of the Canadian International Development Agency and the Norwegian People’s Aid, which assisted in establishing the small dams and reservoirs, ended in 2007 and 2008 respectively.

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