Climate change: Malipati women, girls keep the fight on… Government includes them in mitigation programmes

23 Sep, 2022 - 00:09 0 Views
Climate change: Malipati women, girls keep the fight on… Government includes them in mitigation programmes Trained pump minder Irene Ncube of Mtetwa Village in Malipati explains how she repairs boreholes. — Pictures: Joseph Manditswara

The Herald

Phyllis Kachere recently in MALIPATI, 

Chiredzi South

Living in Mtetwa Village in Ward 15 (Malipati area) in Chiredzi district, which is in agro-ecological Zone 5, a semi-arid and drought-prone area with mean annual rainfall ranging below 500mm, is not easy for Mrs Irene Ncube (48) and other women.

The low and unreliable rainfall is not sustainable for rain-fed agriculture, the mainstay for most rural Zimbabwean households.

With the effects of climate change now becoming a reality, the water table in Ward 15, which also borders Mozambique and South Africa, is now said to be deep and inaccessible.

This in some cases, forces women and girls to travel long and dangerous distances, as the ward also borders the world-renowned Gonarezhou National Park in rugged terrain, in search of potable water.

Because of the low water table, boreholes/bush pumps are spaced far apart, resulting in communities, mostly women and girls who traditionally bear the household chore of providing water, having to shoulder the burden.

When a bush pump breaks down or requires some maintenance work, that adds on to the distance to be travelled by the women and girls as they search for alternative water sources.

“As an intervention to lessen the burden on women, when a borehole breaks down or requires routine maintenance work, we have trained local men and women to do so,” said the district water and sanitation sub-committee chairperson, Mr Sams Takaniza.

“In recognition of the burden that falls on women as they travel extra distances in search of water, we have trained some women in bush pump engineering and these women respond at the earliest possible time to any borehole breakdowns in Chiredzi South. 

“Mrs Irene Ncube is one of those women we trained in bush pump repair and maintenance.” 

Mrs Ncube told The Herald that after a call for qualified volunteers to be trained in borehole maintenance and repair, she was the only woman in her group who volunteered in 2017.

“Boreholes in our area are far apart because of the low water table and that means if one breaks down, it is women and girls that travel long distances of up to 14km to and from in search of potable water,” she said.

“Because of the high temperatures endemic in our district, our rivers and swampy areas dry faster and that means no water for both livestock and the community. I volunteered so that I would be able to repair or maintain the pumps faster to reduce the burden on my fellow women and girls.” 

The nearest borehole to Mrs Ncube’s homestead is almost 3km away at Tlangelani in Rutandare Village.

She said because of the proximity to South Africa and Mozambique, most men in the area spend time away working in the neighbouring countries such that those who had been trained to be pump minders have left the villages and crossed borders for work.

“I realised that most men who had been trained as pump minders have left the village for work either in Mozambique or South Africa,” said Mrs Ncube. “I then volunteered because I am permanently based in my village and will always be available should I be required to work on the boreholes.” 

Villagers said Mrs Ncube’s quick response to borehole breakdowns since her training had also ensured that nutrition gardens that also depend on water were saved.

Mrs Elios Hlamalani (51) who lives in Ward 11 in Mupakati Village commended Mrs Ncube and other pump minders for saving the few nutrition gardens that are useful in the fight against stunted growth, which is prevalent in the district.

The World Health Organisation describes stunting as the “impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection and inadequate psychosocial stimulation. Children are defined as stunted if their height-for-age is more than two standard deviations below the WHO Child Growth Standards median”.

“We have little or no rainfall at all. When it rains, we are likely to experience flooding and that usually results in crop failure,” said Mrs Hlalamalani, who is growing cucumbers and carrots for sale. 

“Because agriculture provides a sustained source of food for households, this means we are disadvantaged, hence our children suffer malnutrition and stunted growth.

“It is vital that we keep our nutrition gardens functional. For some of us, nutrition gardens are not only a way of mitigating climate change effects and hunger, they are also a source of funds as we sell our produce.

“We then pay for our children’s school fees and meet other family needs from the nutrition garden proceeds.” 

Mrs Oppah Makondo (56) of Ponyoka Village, also in Ward 11 said she had embarked on a poultry project where she keeps thousands of guinea fowls, turkeys, ducks, pigeons, free range chickens and goats at her homestead.

“I did not expect the kind of returns I am getting from this poultry project,” she said. “There is not much crop husbandry that we do here save for sorghum and other traditional grains. So, I embarked on this project to hedge my family against food insecurity. We sell our produce and ensure food security. School fees and other needs are met from the sales.” 

Mrs Makondo said the project had been a life saver for her family and community as other families were also replicating it.

“Almost all surrounding neighbours have started similar projects and I can safely say we are now food secure and we can now build secure homes for ourselves,” she said.

Results of a study carried out by Chanza and Musakwa (University of Johannesburg’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning) said the sensitivity of water resources to climate change is quite evident in Malipati.

“The respondents witnessed noticeable changes in ground water recharge where the water table is said to be very deep (48 percent), deeper (38 percent) and inaccessible in some places (6 percent),” the researchers found.

Chiredzi District Development Coordinator Mr Lovemore Chisema said while his district was more prone to the negative effects of climate change, Government was working to mitigate these through various interventions.

“Working with our partners, Government has managed to engage communities in the districts for income generating projects, grain and cash disbursements, among others,” he said. ‘Most of the households in the district suffer food insecurities, but that is mitigated through a Government’s grain distribution scheme.

“The effect of climate change on women and girls in the district can never be over-emphasised as they are the ones that bear the brunt most. 

“Hence, Government has also came up with a plan to keep girls in school for longer as a way of stopping early child marriages.” 

Mr Chisema said their aim was to involve women in all programmes and projects carried out in the district.

According to Kezia Fortuin, Cities Research Assistant, in Africa, women are more vulnerable to climate change effects compared to men. Women rely more on agriculture for food security.

A 2018 UNDP report indicates that in 46 out of 53 African countries, 40 percent or more of the agricultural workforce is represented by women, while in sub-Saharan Africa, women make up 60-80 percent of smallholder farmers.

These are precarious jobs – informal, without contracts or income security – with low earnings and/or productive gains in light of low adaptive capacities to climate change impacts. 

As women are largely responsible for tending to the natural environment, with its variable rainfall and temperature patterns affecting production patterns, their poverty levels and food insecurity in rural areas are increasing.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation says approximately 70 percent of sub-Saharan Africans are reliant on primarily subsistence, rain-fed agriculture – an industry dominated by women. 

This means that the rapidly growing African urban population will increasingly rely on rural and peri-urban women farmers for cheap produce. 

This also implies that climate change will threaten both the livelihood and food security of women farmers, alongside the food security of the growing urban population.

*This story was funded by the Women in News SIRI Real Grant Project

Share This:

Sponsored Links