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Water harvesting brings joy in rural Shauke

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BY JAIROS SAUNYAMA

SIBOTSHIWE Moyo (30) smiles as Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe, Huang Ping lays a stone at the foundation of the weir bridge that is currently under construction across Shauke River in rural Zvishavane.

Although Moyo is not expecting the high-profile ambassador to muddy himself while clad in his exquisite suit, she is happy with the erection of the infrastructure that will save her life in the future.

“Water is life. This area is dry and we experience successive droughts. We walk long distances to water our livestock and the construction of this weir dam is a welcome development in the whole area,” she says.

“I am happy that a number of villagers will have water for the livestock as well as for horticulture purposes.”

Moyo is one of the beneficiaries of the recently launched food assistance for assets Shauke Weir, Nutrition Garden and Orchard in Runde Rural District Council, which will see the construction of a 39 000 cubic metre weir dam as well as a 1,3ha garden that will see villagers practice horticulture using water from the dam.

The project was funded by the Chinese government through the World Food Programme (WFP) and implemented by the Adventist Development Agency.

Zvishavane falls under ecological regions 4 and 5 and is characterised by severe dry spells during the rainy season and frequent seasonal droughts.

Food aid has been distributed by WFP since 2002.

However, in a bid to end hunger, WFP realised that there was need for resilience-building initiatives such as the Food for Asset (FFA) and Lean Season Assistance (LSA).

The main objective of the FFA programme is to create, protect, or rehabilitate productive assets that improve food security, income security and livelihood opportunities.

Under this programme, food insecure people receive cash or food rations to meet their immediate food needs, while they work to create or rehabilitate assets that should build their resilience to shocks.

Addressing scores of villagers at the launch of the project recently, WFP country director, Eddie Rowe said the establishment of the weir dam and other projects was meant to empower villagers so they would not continuously rely on food aid.

“In the face of erratic climate and unreliable yields, communities that have relied on food assistance in the past can become independent, taking ownership of the creation and upkeep of productive assets such as irrigation schemes, dip tanks, dams, weirs and of course gardens,” he said.

“An asset is not a magic wand, but it can be the first step on the long road towards building resilience to adversity, sustainable local livelihoods and improved food security.”

The 7,5m high Shauke weir dam has a throwback of 310m, while having a catchment area of six square kilometres.

The water body will service a two-hectare nutrition garden and will benefit 480 households, 800 head of cattle and approximately 600 goats.

The participating villagers work for 60hrs or 15 days and receive $450 cash on a monthly basis.

Huang said of the $1m funds given to WFP, $534 000 was meant for the creation of productive assets.

“China provides $1m for lean season assistance and productive asset creation. In this programme, $534 000 is being spent in productive asset creation projects, with an expected 1 800 households in Zvishavane being supported through cash transfers,” he said.

“There is a saying in China, which says food is the first necessity of the people. China faced similar situation of food shortages decades ago, so the Chinese government always put agriculture as one of top priority tasks.”

Beauty Jaricha, leader of the project implementation team, said villagers welcomed the water harvesting and nutrition garden project and this has seen a number of villagers taking part in the construction of the weir and garden.

“Our future is bright and we are happy that the community is working hard so that we complete the project in time,” she said.

“The community is providing the labour and by December this project will be through. We were facing water shortage challenges and the construction of the dam will be a relief to both livestock and people.”

Jaricha said about 0,3ha of the garden would be turned into an orchard.

The area’s traditional leader, Chief Mapanzure, said it was high time that non- governmental organisations think of sustainable projects rather than giving food aid.

He said giving food handouts to villagers was not a lasting solution, as it created a dependency cycle, as it was like “giving a sick person a painkiller” that would treat the pain and not the cause of the pain.

“Now, the people of Shauke have water, hence, this will ensure food security in this area,” he said.
For now, Moyo cannot wait for the whole project to be completed.

In December, she will be smiling again, as she joins other villagers in irrigating their vegetables using water from the weir dam.

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