Rainwater Harvesting and Integrated Planning for Resilience


Integrated planning for resilience

The effects of climate change have become common, however a cumulative effort is necessary if resilience is to be build. Emily Matingo a Climate Change Scientist from the Climate Change Management Department in the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate elaborates on this, “When there are climate extremes, such as drought, water levels decrease thus affecting the mandate of ZINWA whose vision rides on providing universal and affordable clean and safe water to drink and for domestic and other purposes.  However, due to a decrease in water, livestock suffer as there is not enough water for them to drink and forage area and quality is affected.  In addition, the community may in turn suffer as low crop yields are usually realised which may lead to malnutrition (especially in children) and food shortages. Low harvest yields may also cause extreme poverty leaving communities to rely solely on forest resources for their survival thus leading to an increase in unsustainable forest management practices such as deforestation. Furthermore, the plight of women and girls is worsened by climate change induced droughts as they have to walk longer distances in search of water.”

To solve the ripple effects that come with climate change Emily Matingo went on to say, “Adaptation is context specific and a range of measures requiring multidisciplinary collaboration are required even in one location to build resilience among rural communities. It is therefore fundamental that sectors work together to reduce vulnerabilities to climate change if we are to become resilient as a nation.”

The problem of climate change and extreme events in Chiredzi.

In 2015, OXFAM in partnership with the University of Zimbabwe under the Scaling up Adaptation with a Focus on Rural Livelihoods Project conducted a rapid assessment in Chiredzi which saw different government departments and community stakeholders participating in the process. As a first step, the various stakeholders identified a number of problems affecting them as a result of climate change. The problems were as follows:

  • The civil protection committee highlighted concerns over the frequent occurrence of flash floods, “Chiredzi District can receive in a single flash flood about 130mm of rain in 24 hours.” They also went on to explain how the flash floods were leading to soil erosion from runoff that came especially from roof tops.
  • The environmental sector indicated that a lot of gullies were being formed as a result of the runoff that was drawn from rooftops during the heavy rainfall events.
  • The community explained how they experienced water shortages. Chingele Primary School headmaster, Mr Tyanai Sithole had the following to say as an example, “The school has an enrolment of 800 pupils but only has one functional borehole located 500 metres from the closest classroom block. This takes away important learning time for pupils who have to go in pairs if one needs to fetch some drinking water.” Adding on to this, he mentioned how the distance made it difficult for the school authorities to improve the aesthetic value of the school environment because it was difficult to establish flower beds, gardens and orchards.

The stakeholders also explained how the frequent occurrence of droughts were leading to a decrease in the quantity and quality of pasture thus also leading to overgrazing and ultimately making the land prone to soil erosion in heavy rainfall events.

The case of Chingele Primary School Water Harvesting Project.

Having identified the challenges mentioned above, stakeholders from Chiredzi District, working through the Scaling up Adaptation Project identified rainwater harvesting as an adaptation strategy with multiple benefits, solving most of the problems that had been identified; water for the school children and environmental benefits for the community through reduced soil erosion and gully formations.

However, stakeholders realised that the full benefits of the identified adaptation strategy could only be realised if they worked together in a coordinated way as they had done during the planning stage.

As so, Chiredzi Rural District Council spearheaded the process by carrying out site assessments basing these on the status of the roofs and number of blocks for water harvesting. From these, Chingele Primary School was selected to be one of the six sites where water harvesting would be piloted. This process was then followed by involvement from Department of Mechanisation and Irrigation Development under the Ministry of Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation Development who provided technical guidance on the design and supervision for construction of the water harvesting structure. “The tank has a capacity of 55 000 litres and was constructed in a way that will prevent dirt from flowing in and contaminating the water. It was also constructed in such a way that it can be constantly cleaned to prevent formation of moulds” describes Brian Madzinga from the Department of Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Chiredzi.

Refusing to be left out from the work was also the community leadership that encompassed councillors, headmen and village heads who helped in mobilising communities for the construction of the water harvesting tank. The response the community gave was tremendous. Not only did they provide locally available resources such as sand, bricks and stones but they also provided their labour during the construction of the tank. In all this, AGRITEX became a bridge between the technical departments and the community as they contributed in coordinating the two parties.

Progress towards the setting up of Chingele Water Harvesting Project has +been successful with minimal back draws as stakeholders from different backgrounds managed to work together and are continuing to work together in a coordinated manner.  As a result, vast benefits which address the mandates of many government institutions are already being realised and others expected to materialise from the coordinated efforts invested in the Chingele Water Harvesting Project as the project continues to unfold.

“Following the completion of the tank in 2016, it has been full to capacity with the rains received only between the period of December 2016 and January 2017. They had to actually let some of the water out” Farai Shonhai from Plan International, who is also the Project Coordinator for the Scaling Up Adaptation Project in Chiredzi expresses. “We have already begun to realise the benefits of the tank especially in relation to water availability. Children at the school are using this water for washing hands as well as in the school garden. The water however is not yet being used for consumption purposes as Ministry of Health and Child Care and the Environmental Management Agency still need to test it,” he adds on.

In an effort to continue building resilience through integrated planning, AGRITEX plans to use the water harvesting tank at Chingele Primary School as a community resource centre where farmers from the surrounding community can learn about rooftop rainwater harvesting as an adaptation strategy to climate change and its advantages in relation to improving their water and food security so that ultimately, the community replicates the idea on a household level. Plans are also underway to make use of this water to support a nursery, woodlots and fruit tree production at the school with Forestry Commission supporting the initiative. This will not only improve the aesthetic beauty, but will help to reduce erosion of the soil and thus ultimately improve the general environmental management around of the area.

Apart from various stakeholders coming together and working in a coordinated fashion, the success of the project is also anchored on the continued support the project gets from the donor community: UNDP/GEF who is working through Oxfam and its partner Plan International and through the Environmental Management Agency.

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