Phyllis Kachere Deputy News Editor (Convergence)
For Kokwani Muhlave Chauke (79) of Chishinya Village in Ward 15, Chiredzi South who lives and cares for her disabled daughter Constance (28) and two grandchildren, walking almost 14km to and fro in search of water was hard labour.
“My frail body could no longer endure walking the long distance in search of water and yet I had to. No one in my household would be able to do that. My daughter here, is disabled and my grandchildren are too young to walk that distance,” said Kokwani Chauke.
Thanks to the rehabilitation of 10 boreholes in wards 13, 14 and 15 that border the Gonarezhou National Park by the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society (ZRCS) through sponsorship from the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent (IFRC), Kokwani Chauke will now only walk 900 metres to and from a rehabilitated borehole at Chishinya Secondary School.
A vulnerability assessment survey conducted by the ZRCS in conjunction with the Chiredzi district Department of Social Development before the implementation of the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) disbursement of cash pay outs showed a dire need for borehole rehabilitation in the three wards.
ZRCS secretary general Mr Elias Hwenga said the overall objective of this DREF operation is to anticipate and respond to the emerging food insecurities in.
“DREF also aims to improve the preparedness of the Chiredzi community to the forecasted hydro-meteorological emergencies in light of the normal-to-above normal rainfall forecast. The imminent emergency preparedness activities are being complimented by early actions that are aimed at mitigating and minimizing the humanitarian impacts of the lean season and anticipated hydro-meteorological hazards,” said Mr Hwenga.
He said DREF would target a registered 600 most vulnerable households, approximately 3 000 people to meet their basic needs through cash assistance for a period of four months. The food insecurity assistance will be complimented by the provision of water and sanitation facilities in Wards 13, 14 and 15 in the Chiredzi district.”
Statistics from the ZRCS survey showed that 70 percent of the respondents highlighted that they travel 0-3km in search of water, 20 percent indicated that they walk for 4- 6km to and fro.
“In Ward 14-15, 5 percent travel 7-9km in search of water while 3 percent from Ward 13 indicated that they travel above 10km in search of water.
“Most of the respondents across the three wards (53 percent) indicated availability of water access while 47 percent indicated that they do not have access to readily available water,” results from the survey showed.
When data was triangulated from the household interviews, with the local environmental health technicians and councillors, it was noted that some boreholes within the wards needed to be rehabilitated and solarized so as to reduce the long distances being travelled by other community members.
“Generally, 69 percent across all the wards use water from unsafe drinking water sources like rivers and dams and this was used for domestic use-washing clothes, plates and giving animals.”
After a secondary data analysis of the Chiredzi district borehole data base, 10 boreholes were physically evaluated and assessed on their capacity to be rehabilitated to provide domestic and livestock water.
Kokwani Esther Chikilimusi (68) of Chilotlela Village said they used to walk 8km to and from after their borehole broke down.
“Generally women and girls walk long distances in search of water. As you can see, there are lots of undulating slopes with rugged terrain around this area. This makes it a real challenge for us to get potable water,” said Kokwani Chikilimusi.
Pump minder Mr Ananias Ndlovu said he was trained by the DDF to repair boreholes in his area.
“I helped identify and repair boreholes that needed to be rehabilitated. In my area, Machala under Chishinya, there are no boreholes and over 100 families still walk long distances in search of water. I have been involved in the repair of 10 boreholes by the Red Cross.
“In my area, we have to cross a river to access the Mapholisa borehole under Chief Sengwe, about 9km away. My appeal is for the Red Cross to also sink a borehole for us.
The rehabilitated boreholes are Sosojiva borehole in Kosa Village, Kabele borehole in Kabele Village, Chavela borehole in Madhlonwa Village in Ward 13.
In Ward 14, Gwaivhi, Nwanoko and Mukulengewi boreholes in Chali Village were rehabilitated while the Mbalekwa borehole in Bhazela Village in Ward 15 now serve the community.
“The needs assessment also identified the problem of land mines in the project wards especially Ward 15. This poses a threat to the communities in terms of free movement to access markets, schools, health centres as well livestock movements.
“The ZRCS and IFRC will seek to engage the ICRC on intervention that alleviates the risks associated with the landmines as well demining. The landmines also pose a safety and protection risk for staff,” said Mr Elias Hwenga.
ZRCS project coordinator (Food Security & Livelihoods) Dr Mclarence Mandaza said drought has become a recurring feature of semi-arid Chiredzi and climate change will further exacerbate the frequency and magnitude of drought in the area.
“The borehole rehabilitation is a good move towards mitigation of the effects of climate change. We need to go further, upgrade, mechanise, and solarize the boreholes so that nutrition gardens could be set up. That way, we can guarantee food security for the most vulnerable members in these communities,” he said.
He said it would also be prudent to have weir dams where water is blocked from a perennial water source to harvest it at strategic positions.
“Construction of water ponds where water can be harvested from roof tops at household levels would also be another way of mitigating climate change.
“Keeping poultry and small livestock like goats is also a good way of mitigating the effects of climate change in dry areas like Wards 13, 14 and 15. These adapt well to climate change and can be sold to cater for household needs like school fees, hospital fees and supplementary food,” said Dr Mandaza.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) say that all the climate change models they have used suggest that the dry areas will become drier and more water stressed meaning areas like Chiredzi South are likely to suffer from the effects of climate change.
The 2005 Millenium Ecosystem Assessment showed that 40 percent of the world land surface is dry land and home to over two billion people, accounting for 35 percent of the world population. Some 55 percent of dry land inhabitants live in rural areas. Ninety percent of dry land inhabitants are in the developing world, with 70 percent of them living in rural areas.
Dr Mandaza said that improving the productivity of water in dry areas will continue to be a priority.
“Efforts to direct new research and the transfer of available technologies to overcome water shortages are very much needed.”
IFRC senior operations officer for the Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi cluster, Ms Hillary Dhliwayo-Motsiri said a lot still needs to be done to alleviate the food insecurity and water and sanitation challenges in Chiredzi district’s rural areas.
“We are happy with the progress done under the emergency programme in Chiredzi rural. This area, being an arid region, is one of the most affected by erratic rains and results in food insecurity. The situation has been compounded by climate change.
“This is just an emergency project meant to mitigate the resultant effects of food insecurity. The Zimbabwe Red Cross Society is implementing and IFRC is providing the support. We are giving out cash to the most vulnerable.
“We have also rehabilitated 10 boreholes in the area, some of which stopped being functional for as long as five years. Communities here walk long distances in search of potable water,” said Ms Motsiri said.
Chiredzi district administrator Mr Lovemore Chisema said as the district drought relief committee, they were working with partners like the ZRCS to implement a drought-induced food deficit mitigation programme through the Department of Social Development.
“Most of the identified vulnerable families are labour constrained either because they are headed by the elderly who can no longer work, let alone fetch water from boreholes whose long distances apart do not help the situation, or because they are child-headed,” said Mr Chisema.
He said under the drought mitigation programme, Government was targeting 167 000 beneficiaries in the Chiredzi district.