World Water Day – Clean Water for rural Schools and Communities in Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe

Most of us take for granted that we have a regular supply of clean water. We turn on our taps and have clean drinking water available to us. For the remote, drought ridden rural communities of Matabeleland North in Zimbabwe, access to clean water is considered a luxury.

An average day for women and young girls in these communities involves four to five trips, on foot, with a 25 litre bucket carried on their head, to a communal borehole situated up to five kilometres from the homestead. Not only is this a time consuming and exhausting task, but it often means children, particularly girls, are unable to attend school regularly.

With this in mind, when partnering with a school and community, Children in the Wilderness’s first priority is the supply of a clean, central, sustainable water source. Although rivers and waterholes are dry for most of the year in this area, there is a rich supply of water deep underground in artesian wells. To access this precious, clean water, is an expensive exercise, requiring drilling through thick gusu sand approximately 120 metres below. Thanks to generous donations from Grand Circle Foundation, the PGA Golf Tour (both of the USA) and a number of Wilderness Safaris guests, the CITW Zambezi Region have recently been able to facilitate the drilling of three new boreholes, and the installation of solar pumps and 5000litre holding tanks at six schools / communities under their umbrella.

Ngamo Primary and Secondary Schools in Tsholotsho, St Mary’s Primary School in Dete, and Jabulani Primary School outside Victoria Falls have struggled for many years to pump their boreholes because of an infrequent supply of electricity from the National Grid. Add to this a severe drought, and this makes water a scarcity for these schools. These school had to resort to using generator power to keep water in the tanks. With limited funding, the fuel needed to run these generators puts massive strain on the already struggling schools’ finances, so the installation of solar powered pumps has brought financial and drought relief to these schools and surrounding communities.

Thanks to donations from a long-standing patron of Emfundweni Primary School near Victoria Falls, the Taylor Smith Family, the school also has a new borehole with a solar pump and holding tanks. Both students and teachers are now gratefully benefiting from a good supply of clean water from their borehole and plans are underway to rehabilitate the school garden.

The drilling of the boreholes, the installation of a solar powered pump and the building of a dip tank at a central and more accessible location for use by both the Ziga and Ngamo Communities, has assisted the subsistence farmers and their families considerably. The lack of substantial rainfall and an irregular water supply means that crop farming is a massive challenge in this area. Although livestock ranching has proved to be more successful, the villagers’ most valuable commodity of cattle and goats also need a regular supply of water. While drinking water for the herds is essential, it is also important to dip livestock regularly as this is the most effective method for controlling ticks and other parasites which threaten the herds’ existence, and obviously water is required for this practise, too. The welcome addition of a communal dip tank at this water point now allows for regular dipping of livestock ensuring a healthier breeding stock, and therefore economic empowerment for the people of both villages.

Of the fifteen schools with which CITW work in Zimbabwe and Zambia, twelve now have a reliable, safe supply of water on tap.