Youths dig sand for survival

The struggle to survive is forcing youths to increasingly turn to illegal sand extraction, at the expense of the environment, The Zimbabwean discovered during a recent tour organised by the Environment Management Agency.

Prince Kambarare, 24, who live in Damofalls about 25km southeast of Harare said he was initiated into the “business” by his father several years ago.

‘‘The EMA insists that we should get licences as a way of legalising our activities, but the process is cumbersome,” said Kambarare.

The youths and a good number of older men have descended on the local river, digging for the sand that is transported mostly by old trucks to destinations as far as 50km away.

‘‘I would rather play cat and mouse with EMA and the police than starve or engage in worse criminal activities such as robbery. I am aware that we are destroying the environment but this is my only source of income,” he added.

He identified himself as a member of Zanu (PF), claiming that sand extraction was one of the ways to empower youths. “This (sand extraction) is the empowerment that Zanu (PF) leaders in this area have told us to embark on in order to earn a living,’’ said Kambarare, who boasted that the illegal activity was in fact creating employment for other people who would otherwise be roaming the streets.

“We have allocated ourselves this place and we employ about 20 youths daily and each one of them walks away with an average of $10,” said Kambarare. On a good day he said he took home between $80 and $100, but his daily takings never drop below $40.

In a bid to put bread on the table, the youths are causing untold damage to the rivers. The sand extraction frenzy has left a trail of pits on riversides and riverbeds. As a result, soil erosion has increased and the rivers no longer hold the water that falls during the rainy season.

The pits left behind pose a danger to children, with numerous cases of drowning having been reported over the years by residents whose houses are located close to the rivers.

While the majority of sand diggers do it illegally, some have chosen to operate within the law.

At Joe Ephraim and John Special Sands Cooperative, a registered sand abstraction company at Stoneridge Farm in the same area in Harare South, about 10km southwest of the capital, 32 year old Munyaradzi Chamisa regards sand extraction as his formal job.

“My eldest child is now in high school and I am able to look after my family through sand mining,” said Chamisa.

He said, unlike those that operated illegally, they rehabilitate the land through tree planting.

“EMA advised us that we are only allowed to dig sand for not more than a meter in depth, so that we are able to rehabilitate the land,” he said.

Chamisa added that they were compelled to reclaim the gullies and pits that resulted from digging for the sand. The Chairman of JEJ Special Sands Cooperative in the same area, Ephraim Pfundukwa, told The Zimbabwean that he had 25 permanent employees and over 80 casual workers.

“This project has improved the livelihoods of this community. There are more than 100 workers, most of whom are youths,” said Pfundukwa.

EMA Communications Officer, Steady Kangata, encouraged environmentally friendly methods of extracting natural resources.

“There is need to ensure that before any extraction is done, there is a detailed excavation and environmental rehabilitation plan submitted to the Agency,” he said.

Post published in: Environment

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