Water crisis hits drought-ravaged Gokwe

22 Apr, 2016 - 00:04 0 Views
Water crisis hits drought-ravaged Gokwe Oasis . . . Karita Saizi tends to her vegetable garden near the water body found at Chitekete Business Centre in Gokwe recently

The Herald

Oasis . . . Karita Saizi tends to her vegetable garden near the water body found at Chitekete Business Centre in Gokwe recently

Oasis . . . Karita Saizi tends to her vegetable garden near the water body found at Chitekete Business Centre in Gokwe recently

Sydney Kawadza Senior Features Writer
It’s almost 9am and the sun is scorching hot.

Gardeners trying to make the most of the water collected from a small weir near Chitekete Business Centre race against time and have to literally make hay while the sun shines.

The water they are using to water their vegetable patches will be gone until the next rainy season.

Chitekete Business Centre is in Gokwe, Midlands Province, and forms part of the driest area in the province. It is in this heat that Karita Saizi is busy watering her small maize crop, and a variety of vegetables.

She is in a race against time. Her crops are under threat from the sweltering heat.

“The heat is so much that I have to come again later in the afternoon to do some more watering,” she said.

The water crisis in Gokwe has already seen the emergence of the human-animal conflict over water sources

The water crisis in Gokwe has already seen the emergence of the human-animal conflict over water sources

The area had received rare rainfall for a week but it also signalled the end of a disappointing rainy season.

Saizi and her fellow villagers have endured years of droughts and food shortages. Their area was once again ravished by the El Nino-induced droughts.

Saizi planted her crops when the area received minimal rains that were not even enough for cotton growing.

Cotton is the only cash crop that has helped farmers earn a living in the dry region.

“The rains were so poor this season that we have totally abandoned cotton growing,” she said.

“The battle is on surviving by all means and this vegetable garden will only provide relief for a few months.”

No significant farming has been done in most areas of the district.

“We are faced with starvation because even the water from the little dam will soon be gone. It’s just a shallow weir and by July we will be suffering,” she said.

The little hope she has for the crops in her garden will soon be dashed as the water situation becomes dire.

The weir currently serves residents and villagers near Chitekete Business Centre.

It reduces to a water puddle were humans and animals battle to get the resource.

“We do not have food and when we want maize one has to part with at least $9 for a bucket but no-one has the money,” she said.

Godfrey Chikwenhere urged authorities to urgently do something about the dam.

“The dam looks full but water collects on a small part after rains. That part is not deep enough so we will never get to October,” he said.

“In fact, we fear that animals that have been finding pastures and water will soon die of thirst,” he said.

The dam is so shallow; grass grows right in the middle indicating its shallowness.

“It’s full of soil that is washed up when it rains and because the authorities have neglected it for years. No water is collected in that dam,” he said.

“If our political leadership in the area was caring, they could have mobilised funds and human resources to dig it up so that we collect more water when it rains. Unfortunately by the time we reach October people will be suffering.”

Chikwenhere fears that the current food shortages being experienced will worsen before the next agricultural season.

“People are starving. What has made the situation dire are unscrupulous businesspeople ripping off desperate villagers. The businesspeople come here to exchange buckets of maize with livestock,” he said.

Most of the maize, according to villagers, is transported from as far as Harare.

“These people are coming with lorries exchanging livestock for buckets of maize. One can lose a beast for eight buckets of maize while a goat goes for four or five gallons of maize,” he said.

The same predicament is shared by Mr Syachingili Mweembe who lost his cattle to maize traders who promised 10 bags of maize.

“We have been exposed to these dealers because of our desperate situation. We have leaders but it is rare to see them in the area so that they can see how we can get help from the Government,” he said.

Mr Mweembe revealed that some villagers were surviving on tubers and wild fruits.

“To see people digging up roots and surviving on fruits and tree leaves and barks is something we experienced a long time ago and it just shows how desperate the villagers have become,” he said.

The old man is from the Nenyunka, one of the many areas which received erratic rains since the beginning of the rainy season.

Chitekete is part of the Gokwe Kabuyani Constituency which comprises Zumba, parts of Sengwa and Madzivazvido and is prone to droughts.

People survive on cultivation of fodder crops and cotton.

According to the Parliament of Zimbabwe, most of the young people in the area do not have education beyond secondary school and begin farming for a livelihood at an early age.

“There are high levels of poverty and squalid living conditions. The road network is extremely poor in this constituency and there are very few schools. Just a few clinics exist mainly to serve children’s basic medical requirements, just as minimum statutory requirements demand,” the Parly website noted.

There are only 30 boreholes in the whole constituency amid serious concerns that this might cause diseases like cholera since people might end up using unsafe water sources when it becomes too dry.

According to Parliament, Gokwe Kabuyuni, like any other constituency in the Gokwe area, is an arid constituency characterized by subsistence farmers whose main cash crop is cotton.

“Most of the children do not complete their education as their main interest is cotton farming. Hence it is generally poor with a number of social infrastructures that requires upgrading,” the House noted.

It further recommended that there was need to increase the coverage of clinics in rural areas so as to make health care more accessible to the population by reducing walking distance.

“This will enable the less privileged to access key services such as immunisation and family planning, amongst others.”

The Chiteketeke Business Centre however received a major boost when the Rural Electrification Agency last year switched it on to the national grid.

This raised hopes that the availability of electricity would improve, among other services, water provision for the villagers.

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