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Zimbabwe, 6 June 2017: Piped water scheme transforms lives in Buhera District

For 73-year-old Francis Hazvinavarwi last year’s drought turned out to be a blessing in disguise. After three decades of residents from Chiweshe village, in Buhera South walking as much as eight kilometres to fetch water in the drought prone region of Zimbabwe, a piped water scheme which had lain dormant since 1986 is now being revived.

With assistance from USAID’s Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), Hazvinavarwi’s dream of seeing his village transformed through access to clean, safe water has been realized. The 17-kilometer piped water scheme roared back to life at the beginning of April, providing water to 327 households, two schools, a clinic, a dip tank and a business centre serving thousands of people.

“Our prayers have been answered,” Hazvinavarwi said as villagers completed digging trenches along one of the last sections of the pipeline at Chinhuwo Primary School. “I never thought I’d live to see the day when running water would flow out of our taps again. This will change our lives in every way.”

OFDA has contributed US$60 000 towards this project which is being implemented by UNICEF and managed on the ground by World Vision, as part of to build resilience in drought prone communities after southern Africa’s worst drought of the new millennium last year.

In a demonstration of innovation making a difference even in hard to reach communities, solar pumps are being used to pump water from a refurbished borehole at the base of nearby Bepe Hill. The water is first pumped into a 150,000-litre water reservoir, about 200 metres up the mountain.

Using the high elevation, the water is released into the pipes, feeding 38 water points in the three villages. Three more villages will be added when funds permit, said Arnold Maworera, the secretary for a committee spearheading the project.

“Water is life,” a beaming Maworera said. “This water will transform our lives. Whole households have been lost to cholera before,” he added.

Beyond improving community hygiene and access to safe water, the clean water will also be used to attract business to the area, he said. These would be charged separate tariffs while villagers are being encouraged to start market gardening activities and other projects like bread-making.

“Water has been our biggest problem even though we are surrounded by two big rivers,” Headmen Arkshow Mupariri said. “My people are being given power. We are a poor people and this scheme is a big development for our region.”

For mother of 11, Raramiso Chigome, the water is a huge relief after a lifetime struggle. She recalled a fight that took place two months ago between her daughter and another woman seeking to be the first to draw water from the only safe water source her village was using in Mwerari River.

“It was so bad and embarrassing,” Chigome said recalling her daughter bit the woman’s finger. “Sometimes it was so bad you hesitated to give visitors water. This was water for cooking food, washing clothes and for drinking as well. I’m so happy.”

However it has not been smooth sailing so far. The scheme has suffered a number of pipe bursts which Erick Mavhunga, a director of project contractor Western Swallow attributed to aged equipment. “It’s just part of teething problems.”

The solar equipment comes with a 25-year guarantee, said Maurice Chidavaenzi, a technician with UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene team, noting that extra security had been provided around the panels after vandalism of the previous equipment in 1992.

Hazvinavarwi is certain water shortages will be a thing of the past because of the project which is being managed by World Vision.

“Government engineers told us the source will never dry up,” he said, noting that it has had water since it was first identified in 1962.

 

 
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