Rural women sell river sand to eke out a living

As the economy shows no sign of recovery, women living in Wengezi along the Chimanimani-Mutare road are harvesting river sand in the heavily silted Dimi river and selling it in Chimanimani where the commodity is scarce.

Removing sand from their silted up river is helping women make a living.
Removing sand from their silted up river is helping women make a living.

Local women told The Zimbabwean that unemployment and increasing poverty in their communities had forced them to venture into the project so that they could help raise money to fend for their families.

The women said they woke up early in the morning to collect river sand and packed it into used cement bags. They then carried it to the roadside where potential clients passed by. A 15kg bag of river sells for R5 or $0.50 each.

“Economic challenges have forced us to think outside the box. We used to sell vegetables, but the income is very small and can’t sustain the needs of our families. We have decided to supplement our income by embarking into sand harvesting,” said Susan Mutezo, a mother of two, who said her husband left for South Africa and never came back.

Babra Mawocha added they were realising better returns from selling sand to construction companies and individuals in Chimanimani. “We are taking advantage of our heavily silted river to collect sand and sell. Since we started this project last year, life has changed for the better because we can pay fees and buy food for our children,” she said.

In a good month, Mawocha said each member could raise $100 from the sales. Every day, they packed close to 50 sand bags. She said business was slack during the just-ended rainy season, but is picking up towards summer.

Sylvia Matanga said there was no employment in the province and they took this initiative to empower themselves using their natural resources.

“We have nothing to do and we are not receiving any support from government. We were promised projects before the elections, but nothing had happened. We don`t want to be prostitutes but we want to have a decent life through honest means,” said Matanga who was carrying sand bags to the roadside.

The women, however, bemoaned their lack of tools, such as shovels, wheelbarrows and protective clothing, saying this had made their work harder. They appealed to well-wishers and donors to come to their rescue by supplying equipment.

Tichaona Muranda, who owns a construction company, said his firm had been supporting the women through giving them tenders to supply tonnes of river sand.

“Since they started the project two years ago, we have been supporting them through buying bulk sand. Our economy is not performing well and government should support such initiatives by giving capital for these women to procure equipment such as wheelbarrows and shovels so that they help develop their communities,” said Muranda.

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