Monday, March 5, 2012

Zimbabwe: Farmers Tackle Water Problems Fuelled By Climate Change By Ignatius Banda

    Women in rural Zimbabwe are coming up with solutions to water shortages aggravated by climate change. Credit:Ignatius Banda/IPS

Beauty Moyo’s desire for access to water has finally been met. The rains that fell in the past week after a long dry patch have awakened this small-holder farmer deep in rural Plumtree, Zimbabwe on the border with Botswana to the reality of sparse rainfall, climate change and how she and her fellow villagers can respond.

Plumtree, like most parts of southwestern Zimbabwe, is notorious for low rainfall. But millions of farmers in the country rely on rain-fed agriculture and food they grow themselves, which presents villagers like Moyo with tough choices.

“The rains that fell this week have been able to bring back hope as we had sunk our own reservoir to trap the water,” Moyo said.

She says she teamed up with other neighbours during the course of the year, and they invested their energies in digging what looks like a miniature golf-course waterway.

“This idea came after people realised we have been complaining each year about poor rainfall and harvests,” Moyo told IPS.

This reservoir water is used in farming activities where the subsistence farmers say instead of spraying the whole field with water, they now water individual plants.

“It’s a lot of work, but it helps conserve our water,” said Susan Mathebula, another villager working on the project with Moyo.

“We had heavy rains that we had not seen in a long time, with ice falling, and we were able to trap the water in this small catchment we set up ourselves,” Mathebula told IPS in mid-February.

While drinking water is available from such sources as boreholes, Mathebula says their major concern is water for irrigation purposes, as they plant their own food and cannot rely on rainfall alone for the maize and groundnuts they grow in their small fields.

Plumtree is one of the areas lying on the southwestern belt that experienced localised heavy downpours in the last week of February, with the Zimbabwe Meteorological Service Department announcing that the nation should expect more rainfall in the next two months.

Hope is returning that the water they have will ensure adequate household food security at a time when humanitarian agencies such as the Famine Early Warning System – Network (FEWS-NET) announced early this year that millions of Zimbabweans will require food aid.

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