Tearfund's Jenny Beechey shares about a recent visit to Zimbabwe.
In the rural Matabeleland region in western Zimbabwe, low rainfall and fairly inhospitable land make farming a challenge.
“Cattle are important to people here”, says Anania Ncube, director of Tearfund’s Zimbabwean partner HEFO. And cattle play a key role in the economy of the region.
Tearfund’s local Christian partner HEFO helped the community sink a borehole, and now around 2000 head of cattle come each day to get water. Solar panels power a pump that lifts the water to a tank. Not only do cattle have water, but excitement is building.
Everyone I spoke to on my visit to this region late last year said something very similar: before the borehole, life was hard. Water for animals and for gardens came from the river that is nearby – about a one hour round trip on foot to reach it with animals or to water the garden. When there is water in the river it can be dangerous, but for months of the year it is dry and people need to dig in a sandy river bed until they reach water. These holes are just dug in the sand and collapse when animals walk over them, so need to be re-dug next visit. It’s hot, hard work at the end of a long walk, and has to be done almost daily.
The women that I met were excited. They said that the borehole was saving them time – something of an understatement! I spoke to Florence and Lady, who said: “This is great for us. We used to get water from the river … it’s very hard work to dig for water. This borehole is lovely and modern. We are clean, smart, feel really good about it.”
The water is better quality so there is less illness, and they have more time for livelihood activities including a basket-making group and a savings group, as well as working on improving their homes.
They were looking forward to the next project that HEFO and the community are planning – a nutrition garden, which will mean they won’t have to garden by the river anymore, saving loads more time. The garden will use the water source (and a bit of what the cattle have left behind!). These women and others will be able to grow a wide range of nutritious vegetables that will improve the health and nutrition of their families and provide an additional income stream.
HEFO will also continue to work with the community, demonstrating alternative ways of doing things such as conservation agriculture, integrated farming, empowering women and starting savings groups, always working with people where they are.
Related projects have received support from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).