Beyond thirst since 1969: Svinurai village’s water woes mounts

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Perseverance Javangwe

It is 10 am on a Tuesday morning and the residents of Svinurai village in Gawa, Gokwe South are coming from Sengwa, which is 10km away from their village to fetch water. There are some girls and boys who have to go and drop their water containers at home thereafter they will head to school. A complaint has been passed by one of the local school heads that school pupils from Svinurai village are always late at school.

The water challenges in Svinurai village have become unbearable. According to the villagers, it has been a struggle they have witnessed for more decades. The drought in recent years due to climate change has worsened the situation with the closest water sources in Svinurai village drying faster than in previous years, “pamwe ndiyo yavanoti climate change yacho hatichazivi tatopererwawo (we are not really sure what is going on, maybe it is the climate change that they are talking about nowadays),” says Headman Svinurai.

The continuous poor rains in the recent seasons have brought more hardships to both humans and their livestock. Elderly people as well as persons with disabilities have not been spared either since they are not able to travel long distances to fetch water. They have to rely on begging for water from those that have access. Speaking with Angella Chigwanha a villager from Svinurai, this has been a struggle for a long period.

“…even the elderly and persons with disabilities in this area cannot access water, so sometimes if we get something we have to make sure that we share with them. So it is difficult for us here in Svinurai, we try and share the little water we have with those who are not able to go to the river. Sometimes we are forced to spend the whole week without bathing saving for our children to go to school. Even if you look at our children from this area they are not well dressed because we do not have water. Some of us have problems with our legs because of old age but we just hustle to go and get water. Sometimes we plead with neighbors to assist,” she said.

Otilia Siziba and Mike Mutete added that fetching water has become the business of the day because women and girls now spend more time fetching water than doing other chores. According to Mutete some of their livestock, which they use to ferry water have seized in most kraals largely because of the long and rocky distance to Sengwa and back which is approximately 20km on a daily basis.

“The water challenges here in Svinurai village have troubled us for a long time. During the rainy season, it is a bit better because we have a small pit that was dug a few years back so we fetch water from there, but we will be sharing with our livestock as well. We have another small well that we sometimes use but now it does no longer hold enough water. The first people to go early will get it while others cannot. So this forces us to travel 10km to fetch water at Sengwa. The distance is unbearable for us as women because we spend much of our time fetching water than doing other chores. Above all, we do not have vegetable gardens, and it is difficult to sustain our families without vegetables. We cannot even engage in income-generating projects because we do not have the water to make that possible,” said Siziba.

“If we take a look at many households in our area we will discover that their cows have become fewer because the cows are perishing due to overwork. They are being abused on a daily basis because they carry water on a daily basis to and from Sengwa. This is double jeopardy for us because we now have water challenges and we also have livestock challenges since we are losing some. There are some who do not have any livestock, and daily they go to those with their carts to place their containers. If we deny these people it will be bad because they will spend the whole day without water, so it is a huge challenge. The pit that these women are talking about was dug by DDF (District Development Fund), it is a blessing for us because it assists us a lot in the rainy season. Most households come to that pit, but we still share with our livestock as mentioned. At the moment we are using the Headmen’s well because he gave us the permission, but the challenge is we are now too many at that well, and it can no longer sustain all of us. The headman has resorted to rationing the water so that we can all get something,” said Mutete.

Headman Svinurai Hlalambi Mutasa closing his well after fetching 5litres of water

Bishop Edmond Munengiwa the coordinator for the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denomination (ZHOCD) in Gokwe South stated that most children from Svinurai village attend school late because they have to fetch water first before they attend school.

“As the leader of the church, I discovered that Svinurai village is no longer attending churches because they spend much of their time fetching water to the extent that they are not able to do anything else. They are not even able to do garden projects, in the bible we are taught that we are supposed to work. Even the Garden of Eden survived through water, but in Svinurai village because of water challenges they cannot have gardens. At the same time, we wish that God can intervene, and assist the villagers here because this is unbearable for them. Even for the school children, we once had a meeting with the school head where Svinurai village children attend, and we were informed that the children here are the last to attend school late. This is largely because they travel long distances to fetch water before they go to school, and end up being late at school. We appeal to all well-wishers for assistance so that the people here can have their own boreholes,” he said.

A drive through the village finds scotch carts pulled by cows carrying drums of water. Men and women have to walk beside the carts so that they limit the weight, to avoid straining their livestock. In a few minutes, we arrived at Headman Svinurai’s homestead. The headman has a well dug at his place and has allowed villagers to come and fetch water for drinking and cooking purposes only. Speaking with this reporter the headman said that the water from the well is no longer sufficient to sustain the whole village so they have resorted to rationing, with each household getting 20litres a day.

“The water challenges here in Svinurai Village have become unbearable. Though we have other problems, the water woes have become too much on us. The closest dams that we have to go to are Mbumbusi and Sengwa which are 10 to 15km from here. The water woes here have continued since 1969 when we first settled here. Nowadays it has worsened and sometimes children are forced to be absent from school because they have to go and assist their parents in fetching water. Women bear the brunt more as they walk long distances while being exposed to gender-based violence, and abuse along the way. Sometimes young girls are abused along the way as they go to fetch water.

“Women are struggling a lot because it is difficult for them to get enough water to wash their babies’ napkins. Sometimes when they wash, they are forced to keep the same water and use it again the next day. The only water source that we have is here at the Headmen’s place where we have a well. However, for the past five years up to now, we have had low water and it cannot sustain every household. So we are now rationing it, making sure that every household gets 20litres each for drinking and cooking only.

“In terms of proper nutrition, we are at a disadvantage because of the water challenges that we face. We want vegetables but we do not have the money, so we are losing all our maize because we want vegetables. What happens is that those who live close to the dams have gardens so they come and sell their products to us in exchange for maize and groundnuts. This leaves us at a disadvantage because we are left without much maize to the extent that we will reach the next harvest with nothing left to eat.

“We appeal to well-wishers to assist us in having boreholes constructed here so that we can have income-generating projects. We have our water committee that sat and agreed that every household should contribute whatever amount they can so that we can have a borehole constructed in our area. We also set aside two hectares with the plan that if we can have a borehole constructed then each household will have a small portion where they can do their garden projects, as well as livestock rearing which is impossible at the moment without water. We appeal to those who are willing to assist in this endeavor so that our lives become much better. As for our school-going children, it is a disaster because oftentimes they go to school without bathing because they do not have sufficient water,” said Headman Svinurai.

Some villagers which include Bhutugwani and Kasamara have been blessed with two boreholes already and this has helped villagers in those areas. However, it is not the case with Svinurai which according to Ward 32 councilor Remigeo Mazo, the village seems like a lost or forgotten one.

“This village has had this challenge for a long time, so I appeal to those who are able to assist us to intervene so that we have at least one borehole. It is painful that this village seems like a lost village because it is away from a lot of things including being away from schools, water, and churches amongst others. We appeal to anyone in Zimbabwe to kindly assist Svinurai village so that they can have access to water. My wish is for DDF through the government’s programs on access to water, to consider Svinurai village so that they get at least one borehole,” he said.

Water is essential to life, but in Svinurai village, access to it has grown precarious. Politicians campaigning for elections will persuade villagers with words that are more brittle than lovers’ oath, but when the villagers vote for them, they disappear from the scene.

Zacheo Chinhema a representative from the DDF, who heard the grievances of the villagers during a duty bearer engagement meeting organized by ZHOCD said that he would take the matter further to the relevant authorities.

“I have witnessed the water challenges here in Svinurai village, and I have heard all their pleas. I have seen what is on the ground. I hope that when there is a program to assist villages with boreholes, Svinurai will be on the main agenda so that they can get access to water close by. I have heard that they travel long distances, so what I will do is to inform my superiors, the District water technician, and explain everything to them so that they can get assistance for Svinurai village,” he said.

Philemon Handinahama Hwami, the Project Officer for the EU-ZHOCD Troicare Project in Gokwe South stated that there is a need to make sure that the dignity and promotion of human rights through access to water in Svinurai village are observed and acted upon because access to clean, potable, affordable water is essential for maintaining individual and public health. He further stated that when villagers face barriers to obtaining safe water, it can have negative economic and social effects thereby hampering positive development in the rural areas.

“…the community of Svinurai has come to air their grievances with regards to challenges that they are facing in terms of water availability, and what we have done as ZHOCD is to create a platform where the community engages with District Development Fund who are responsible with water in the rural areas. So what we have done is to bring a representative from DDF so that they witness what is on the ground. From what we have gathered from the DDF representative is that we have been assured that he is going to take up the matter with his superiors and we hope that they will be able to address the challenges of water availability in Svinurai village. With the idea of bringing dignity and promoting human rights through access to potable water for the community and we are very hopeful and we want to thank the EU and Troicare for having given the community access to government and duty bearers’ engagements. We are hopeful in particular the women, that their lives will be improved after this project,” he said.

The water woes have exacerbated the nation’s deteriorating economic situation, with inflation soaring above 700%, and basic foods have become hard to purchase.





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