Securing drinking water through environmental protection

The area has suffered numerous climate-related shocks including the major disaster of Cyclone Idai in 2019. Safe and secure drinking water is a growing challenge for many residents.

UNICEF
Community planting trees
UNICEF/2021
09 February 2022

At first glance, in the lush Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe, problems with water may not seem evident. But the area has suffered numerous climate-related shocks including the major disaster of Cyclone Idai in 2019. Safe and secure drinking water is a growing challenge for many residents.

The spring is now drying up and can no longer produce enough water for us to use to water our gardens and for the school to provide enough water for its pupils and teachers,” said Selinah Manjoko, the Kwirire Primary School Piped Water Scheme Committee Member.

Following the destruction from the cyclone, UNICEF Zimbabwe, in partnership with Welt Hunger Hilfe (WHH), supported communities to rebuild safe, more resilient drinking water systems through the World Bank-funded and UNOPS-managed Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project (ZIRP).

As severe tropical storms, cyclones and other climate induced environmental hazards are expected to become more regular in Zimbabwe, UNICEF is collaborating with communities, districts, and partner organizations, to improve risk-informed planning of drinking water services, including infrastructure, operations and maintenance and mitigative environmental measures to improve water quality and sustain water quality.

The spring is now drying up and can no longer produce enough water for us to use to water our gardens and for the school to provide enough water for its pupils and teachers,”

Selinah Manjoko

To enhance the resilience of water services in rural areas such as Kwirire, communities are supported to identify and address risks to drinking water quality and quantity – such as protecting water sources and watersheds that can prevent of flooding and damage to water intakes and pipes. This is done through various environmental protection measures such as planting trees and other plants around water sources and undergoing training on environmental protection and management.

Selinah Manjoko, a 42-year-old widow, has spent all her life living in ward 13, where the Kwirire Primary School sits. Selinah’s village was greatly affected by Cyclone Idai.  She witnessed the devastating effects of the cyclone on her community and said that the community was actively engaged in the recovery to understand and improve their situation to cope with and become more resilient against future climate-related shocks.

Sellinah Manjoko
UNICEF/2019
Kwirire Primary School piped water scheme committee member

We managed to procure 700 trees and plants

Selina Manjoko

“We had adequate water prior to 2019, before Cyclone Idai hit the area. The issues of inadequate water has led to tensions between the school and other water source users. During the rehabilitation of the school piped water scheme, we were able to highlight the problems we faced as a community,” she said.

“The district team requested the traditional leaders to set up a meeting at the water source to assess the situation. In attendance was also the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and Forestry Commission. It was observed that there was a large area close to the water source that was affected by Cyclone Idai that was left bare, with no vegetation.  This led to the siltation of the spring through erosion.”

Build-up of silt causes the spring openings to closeup leading to less water being produced. The EMA and Forestry Commission recommended that the community stop cultivation around the springs and water sources, and plant trees to curb erosion.

Kwirire Primary School piped water scheme in Chimanimani damaged by Cyclone Idai
UNICEF/2019
Kwirire Primary School piped water scheme in Chimanimani damaged by Cyclone Idai

Selinah said that during the Environmental and Social Management training they were taught that trees can reduce the amount of storm water runoff, which reduces erosion and pollution of waterways, and this reduces siltation of our spring.

“Trees improve the filtration process thereby recharging the spring. Trees also provide shade and lower temperatures around the spring to avoid loss of water through evaporation,” she said.

“We managed to procure 700 trees and plants such as Mutsungunu, Mutsahware, Figs, Water Berries, Lukina, Mutsamvu, Jacaranda, Mahogany, Murungu and Vetiver Grass. The community and the school were able to put aside our differences and come together to plant trees around our water source,” she explained enthusiastically.

“We were happy to learn new ideas of how trees are important in our lives. We are going to implement what we learnt at home and start our own Vetiver Grass nurseries. We are grateful for this support given to us by our District, WHH, UNICEF and the donors.”