Opinion Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu
It is now clear that some regions of Zimbabwe are facing a devastating drought, and that outside food aid will be required. The affected regions are Matabeleland South, parts of Matabeleland North such as the Hwange-Jambezi sector, the western part of the Tsholotsho communal land, a large part of the Midlands Province, that of Masvingo particularly the Chivi sector, and Manicaland, especially the Zimunya area where there is a well known “rain shadow” geographical territory that seldom gets much rain even during relatively good seasons.
The current drought is one of numerous similar weather experiences very common to the affected region. In 1912, the British South Africa Company (BSAC) colonial administration discussed the possibility of laying water pipes from the Zambezi River to Matabeleland, a region with a high industrial potential in the mining and the pastoral farming sectors. The idea was revived after Zimbabwe’s attainment of independence and an organisation was launched to raise funds and practically kick off the project with the government’s participation.
Much has been said in support of the idea, and some financial and construction effort has been put into the project without much to show. It is still work in progress without any work actually being done.
We are, however, in this article concerned with how the recurring problem can and should be solved urgently. That water is a priority to every living thing is well known.
As it is, many people will lose livestock due to lack of drinking water this year. Some of the people will be walking long distances daily to fetch some water for their domestic use. Livestock will go without or do with inadequate supply, resulting in their poor health and other negative physical conditions.
The Zimbabwean regions that are always adversely affected by drought do receive some rain usually at the beginning of the season before the rain-bearing Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) has shifted to the north where it occasionally causes floods in some parts of Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East and Malawi as well as northern Mozambique. If that early rain can be stored in well constructed deep dams, drought effects can be made less serious than they are now.
Taking Matabeleland South as an example, if at least 20 medium-sized but fairly deep dams, were strategically sited and built in each of the province’s six districts, there would be less misery caused by drought than is the case at present.
A similar plan could be used for all drought-prone provinces and most of the workers would be recruited locally, preferably the majority coming from the ward in which the dam is being built. Unemployment could thus be reduced temporarily at least.
Boreholes or wells should be sunk at every school, business centre, dip tank and chief’s village at least, but also below each dam so that people do not have to consume water obtained from the same sources as their livestock. Funds permitting, boreholes or wells could be sunk at other strategic places as near as possible to centres with large populations.
Talking about funds brings us to what is most probably the most important aspect of this idea that is how to finance such a project.
Zimbabwe’s national economy is obviously in the doldrums, and is unlikely to come out soon. It is not this article’s purpose to identify or analyse the causes of this country’s economic meltdown. Recurrent droughts are, however, some of the extraneous factors that adversely affect our national economy as it is largely agricultural-based.
To launch such a project, we would need the help of developed countries such as most of those comprising the European Union, some of the African Union and some north and South American nations, Australia, China, South Asia nations as well as Russia.
A properly constructed national team can launch a well publicised fund-raising project called ‘Adopt a Zimbabwean district,’ and have it presented by an appropriate government ministry to certain economically sound states such as Brazil, United States, Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Norway, France, Australia, India, China, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Algeria, New Zealand, Russia, Ireland, the United Arab Emirates, Angola and a few more South American and Asian states, such as Japan and Korea.
It is the considered opinion of the author of this article that if well prepared water resources development projects, showing each district’s area, population, arable land area, number of livestock (cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, equines) dip tanks, chiefdoms, headmen, village heads, business centres, government administrative centres if there are any, health medical centres, and communal-run irrigation projects, some countries could offer to build one or more dams and or wells or boreholes.
African countries such as Angola, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea are endowed with natural resources such as oil and may be willing to help. Israel is another possible donor.
Care must be taken, however, not to include districts that are seldom, if ever, seriously affected by droughts. Chinhoyi, Bindura for example are located in what are usually called “nyika nyoro”(wet) provinces, so is Marondera; the provinces Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland East.
The project could be dovetailed into the current national economic development plans, and/but be treated as a short term or, at the longest, medium term undertaking.
Meanwhile, the Zambezi water pipeline scheme should not be shelved or allowed to gather mothball, but should be regarded as a long term undertaking in the same way our ancestors built the Great Dzimbabwe. Over to the corridors of power!
l Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a retired Bulawayo-based journalist. He can be contacted on cell 0734328136 or [email protected]