Villagers sell sand to survive

Poverty has forced villagers in Mutare South to scoop river sand for sale from dry streams and rivers in order to fend for their families.

Low food harvests in the last season due to poor rains and lack of inputs wrecked local traditional food reserves and threw a large number of families into near starvation. Those particularly affected are in Wengezi and Muromo areas. “There is no other economic activity here except the sand sales,” said Trust Chayeruka, one of the villagers.

He told The Zimbabwean at his makeshift holding depot along the Mutare highway that sand was in demand in hilly urban areas around Chimanimani and Chipinge towns where the material is scarce. “Some of our clients also come as far as Mutare,” he added.

Enterprising sand dealers take advantage of empty haulage trucks returning from their long distance deliveries to move the sand to customers in nearby towns. Working as sand extraction syndicates, the dealers price their products from a dollar for a 50 kg bag to $20 for a tonne.

“Prices for higher quantities are always negotiable. On a good day I can push 50 bags. My clients are mostly Zimbabweans in the Diaspora who are constructing houses back home. I also supply some small scale construction companies in Mutare,” said one dealer, who only identified himself as Joe.

The dealers said that the Environmental Management Agency had authorised them to extract sand from the rivers, a claim The Zimbabwean was unable to verify independently.

“We are not sand poachers like those in towns who cause environmental damage because they extract the sand in open areas,” said Joe. “EMA actually encourages our business because we are only extracting sand from silted rivers.”

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