Poor communities worst affected by water shortages

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ZIMBABWE prides itself in great water bodies and rivers which support aquatic life and various irrigation schemes.
The Government has embarked on a dam construction programme to increase access to water.
However, water has remained scarce in some communities that are forced to walk several kilometres to fetch water.
Some communities that continue to face water problems are the BaTonga of Binga as well as the San community in Tsholostho who walk long distances to fetch water despite being near one of the biggest rivers in southern Africa, the Zambezi for BaTonga and Gwayi River for the San community.
The few boreholes in the San community have either dried up or broken down and have resorted to traditional means of water storage where they dig up huge holes and store water in huge earthenware pots.
The water is fetched many kilometres away in the Gwayi River.
As some rural communities are set to benefit from the Command Fisheries Programme, the BaTonga and San communities feel hard done as they do not have water bodies that will enable them to be part of the programme.
The perennial water shortages have resulted in some families digging up unprotected wells that have exposed them to waterborne diseases.
However, the rivers are still the link, which enables the minority communities of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Angola and the DRC to remain connected.
But the communities have largely remained poor.
Access to water will enable these communities to become self-sustainable and less dependent on donor aid.
Poor communities throughout the world have been victims of resettlement programmes for the purpose of major technical developments such as dams and lakes which have resulted in the uneven distribution of water downstream.
The ‘Zimbabwean River Tonga’, resettled in the 1950s, are just one of many African communities that have suffered from being resettled by colonial governments.
When the Kariba Dam was constructed, more than 57 000 people on both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides were relocated.
Since the project was carried out during the colonial era, much attention was given to the technicalities of the dam and not how people residing in the areas would be affected.
The engineers, geologists and economists concentrated their energies on the dam, such that even when the dam was completed, people and animals had to be evacuated as the dam levels began rising.
The BaTonga found themselves pushed far away from their main water source.
They were settled in places which had no water and could not support the life they had been accustomed to.
The communities began to rely more on rainwater, especially for agriculture.
Rivers and lakes are the most heavily utilised sources of fresh water but sadly, in some instances, they have become beneficial to people far away from them.
It is imperative that stakeholders ensure these communities access and benefit from the water bodies in their areas.
It is time they cease to depend on donors and become self-sufficient through various activities that include agriculture.

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