Zimbabwe: Solar Water Pumps Bring Bright Future to Villagers

14 October 2020

For Ms Lostina Dube, a farmer in the Sengezane area of Gwanda South district journeying to and from a dug-out water hole, commonly known as umthombo (or mufuku) on the Sengezane river bed was quite debilitating for her over the years.

Long spells of drought left the river bed dry, with insufficient water for own consumption, gardening and livestock.

All this, would leave her frustrated, weak and without hope for the future. But the installation of a solar borehole pump and irrigation system to help reduce water conveyance drudgery from the dug-out well to water delivered to the field by Practical Action under the Renewable Energy Empowering Women Farmers (REEWF) has restored hope for Ms Dube that will ripple out for years to come.

"We are very grateful to Practical Action and their partners for this precious gift -- water," she said.

"Water availability has brought happiness and better hope for the future. We now have clean running water for us and our livestock.

"In this garden run by us members of the Vusisizwe Community Garden, we can now grow vegetables, tomatoes, onions, cabbages. We have never run such a big garden for years. It's like we are dreaming."

The US$1,3 million project being funded by the Isle of Man government has supported the setting up of 18 solar power systems in gardens dotted around Gwanda and Matobo districts to empower women.

Through providing access to solar energy and conducting farmer trainings, the project has empowered women in Gwanda South district to increase crop productivity and improve livelihoods.

Practical Action communications specialist Mr Innocent Katsande said the project, which started in 2018 and ends this year, sought to facilitate access to affordable, reliable and renewable energy for powering agriculture production through solar power.

"This project aims to empower female farmers through improved access to clean renewable energy that supports water production for irrigation and garden plots for smallholder farmers," he said.

"We are quite satisfied with the level of the impact of the project to the smallholder farmers we have worked with in this arid region.

"Government extension workers and other agencies have been very supportive. All this has contributed to the overall success of the project."

Farmers were on crop husbandry, water harvesting, agro-ecology, market linkages, management of natural resources and also business and leadership skills.

"This project has removed all our worries," said Ms Khethiwe Dube, a member of the garden project.

"We are now planning to grow potatoes, butternut and watermelons.

"All this is due to the solar powered water pumping system."

The 20-member Vusisizwe Community Garden project is growing and selling vegetables, tomatoes, onions and cabbages to the local community.

Ms Lostina Dube said they have so far earned R7 000 from sales made this year.

"Our earnings have improved significantly this year.

"We got R7 000 from sales we made to locals," she said.

"These are not local dollars but South African rands. We now planning to boost our farming activities to earn more."

Zimbabwe has been hit by back-to-back droughts and improving access to borehole and sand abstraction water is seen as one major way of responding to the crisis and the growing threat to climate change.

For more than four decades, no non-governmental organisation had taken up the task of providing clean water for domestic consumption and gardening in the Sengezane area of Gwanda South.

In response to the drought and the need to support smallholder farmers in dry and arid regions, Practical Action and its partners implemented the REEWF project to solve the long-term problem of a clean and reliable water supply by providing solar powered pumps to the community to access to water.

"Providing access to water gives people back their time. Safe water improves health and education.

"Communities begin to grow themselves out of poverty," Mr Katsande said.

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