Improved access to clean water brings new hope to villagers
By Elizabeth B. Mupfumira
The 5th of December, 2013 is a day that the villagers of Mapanzure in Masvingo Province will never forget. On this day, for the first time in 15 years, the only borehole in their village began to pump clean and safe water. “Our lives have changed. It’s hard to believe that I now walk less than 15 minutes to access clean water,” says Charity Mazani, Chairperson of the Mapanzure Water Point Committee.” Before this we were constantly visiting the clinic, due to diarrhea which was caused by the water we would access from unsafe shallow wells,” said Charity.
Before this borehole was rehabilitated, the 41 surrounding households were forced to access water from unsafe shallow wells, rivers, or the nearby dam. Others would walk more than 5km to the nearest functioning borehole in the next village.
It is therefore understandable that the villagers would take great pride in their borehole and be very diligent in maintaining and caring for it. The area around the borehole is cleared and cordoned off by a wooden fence constructed by the villagers. The villagers elected a seven person Water Point Committee (WPC) to oversee the maintenance and usage of the well to ensure that it does not break down again, or is not vandalized.
The WPC consists of trusted members of the community who are accountable to the 41 households who use the borehole. Each committee consists of a chairperson, treasurer and secretary. Guided by a constitution drafted by the villagers, the entire community plays a part in the upkeep of the borehole, including paying monthly dues of $1 per household for repairs, maintenance and other sundries. $1 is a lot of money for most, but worth the sacrifice.
Jethro Makumbe of Kandisai Village in Gutu District also underwent the Village Pump mechanics training, a seven day training on rehabilitating and repairing boreholes. He was also given the tools to repair broken down boreholes. A welder by profession, Jethro now repairs five of the surrounding boreholes in the area. “It’s a very demanding job, but I am proud to be able to assist my community,” he says. “I wish I had a bicycle to allow me to reach the boreholes with greater ease.”
Water Point Committees and Village Pump Minders are part of the Community Based Management programme, which is a component of the Rural WASH programme aimed at capacitating members of the community to protect, maintain and repair their boreholes, thus giving them a sense of ownership and responsibility. All members of Water Point Committees have undergone training as part of the Participation for Operation and Maintenance activity.
In rural Zimbabwe, the lack of water, sanitation and hygiene services have had an effect on access to all social services for the most vulnerable members of the community. Lack of adequate WASH has resulted in a large disease burden, especially an increase in preventable diarrhoeal deaths of children; a large number of students, especially girls dropping, out of school due to inadequate water and sanitation facilities in schools; and a large labour burden on women and girls in villages such as Mapanzure who must travel large distances to collect water.
Masvingo Province is one of the beneficiaries of the US$52 million rural WASH programme supported by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) which aims to significantly reduce the number of people without access to safe and adequate sanitation in the most vulnerable Provinces in Zimbabwe.
“This year, we hope to start some projects such as nutrition gardens for income generation, as well as improving nutrition levels in the community. This borehole will help us to uplift ourselves,” said Shelter Mazhetese, the WPC secretary.