Zimbabwe: Water Shortage Stunts Growth

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Ambuya: “Women suffer a lot, they fetch water from boreholes which are far away in the next village.�

[Africa News Update: Development Challenges]

As with most African countries, getting clean, safe water everyday poses a major headache for many rural households in Zimbabwe.

For people in the Murefu, Mubvumbi and Chikakayi communities in Domboshawa, a rural area about 20 to 30 miles north of the capital, the unavailability of safe and clean water has exposed people to many waterborne diseases. Lack of water has over the years also affected gardening ventures.

Soon after independence, the government with the assistance of international partners embarked on a number of projects to improve access to water and sanitation facilities in most rural areas.

But over time, owing to a number of challenges including funding, some of the project were not completed or never managed to reach out to needy rural communities.

“Some wards have boreholes others don’t have here in Domboshawa,” says Ambuya Celia Chinamora of Chikakayi village in Domboshawa. She said it is the women who carry the burden of ensuring there is adequate water in most rural homes.

“Women suffer a lot, they fetch water from boreholes which are far away in the next village. It’s difficult and we are happy now that non-governmental organization working together with our government are coming to assist us.”

Amon Motsi of the same area says maintenance and rehabilitation of most boreholes is now required to help improve access to water and sanitation as well as to improve their vegetable garden operations which are key to their survival.

“Here in Domboshawa we are blessed. Our area is well known for having hard working people who grow vegetables –onion, carrots, grape, beans, strawberries, herbs and fruits which are sold at,” Mbare, a popular market in Harare, he says. “But for us to feed people in the capital we also need boreholes, we need spares and grease to maintain boreholes.”

Some of the problems that were reported in other rural wards of Domboshawa include the breakage of borehole stands and pulley ropes, damaged pistons, poor maintenance of water sources to prevent build up of dirt, algae and weeds which clog the pump and pipe during suction, and breaking down owing to suction of mud.

In 2007, the District Development Fund estimated that it required at least $300 billion Zimbabwe dollars to repair 15, 000 boreholes and water points across the country. The
fund was allocated $556 million for borehole maintenance, a figure which was too small to cover the expenses.

The Zimbabwe National Water Authority estimates that there are between 40, 000 and 50, 000 boreholes in the country. Most of these boreholes are no longer working and need to be repaired to increase water supply for people in rural areas.

In 2004, DDF and the Rural Capital Development fund targeted to repair 3, 742 borehole pumps and 2, 200 non-functional water points, but this goal was not achieved owing to limited funding.

Statistics from the 1980s and 1990s indicate that Zimbabweans use up to 30 percent of ground water and 70 percent surface water for agriculture, industry and domestic purposes.

Globally, contaminated water kills almost 2 million people per year. According to a 2005 United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) report, more than 4, 000 children every day because they do not have access to adequate supplies of clean water.

In Africa alone, 43 percent of children drink unsafe water and one in five die before their fifth birthday culminating in about 1.6 million preventable child deaths each year. Despite the challenges, there is great hope in some wards of Domboshawa.

Some local and international NGOs have over the years played a significant role in the development of boreholes, water points and to provide support rural communities to play their part in rehabilitating communal water infrastructure.

This has resulted in the drilling of boreholes and opening up of wells in various districts across the country. The European Commission undertook a project to rehabilitate more than 600 boreholes in the remote parts of Gokwe, Binga and Kariba districts while in 2004, the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society facilitated the sinking of 148 boreholes in the
country’s rural areas.

After the installation of boreholes in some wards some villagers have managed to increase their produce with dramatic impact on their quality of life.

“I’ve managed to pay for my child doing his A’ levels at Makumbi High School,” says a widow in the Mubvumbi ward of Domboshawa. “I have also bought goats, built a two room house and pay fees for my other children at primary school.”

Tsiko is The Black Star News's Southern Africa correspondent based in Harare.

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