Water is still a challenge in certain parts of the Kingdom of Eswatini. Approximately 400 000 people in Eswatini are still without clean and safe drinking water, children are being deprived good education due to lack of access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene. Women with disabilities and children still travel long distances to access water, which is sometimes not clean as it is shared with livestock. Climate change, growing population, shrinking water supply and rising water demand are some of the challenges facing the Kingdom of Eswatini and many other countries across the SADC region. However, Eswatini is not unique, water shortages in Southern Africa is becoming a common phenomenon,and this problem compromises food security, and people’s livelihoods at large.
The Government of Eswatini (Department of Water Affairs), in collaboration with the SADC Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI) through the World Bank funding are ready to address the water challenges facing the country, through the implementation of Groundwater monitoring and installation of solar powered pumps at selected localities in the country. This Eswatini initiative is part of the World Bank funded project – Sustainable Groundwater Management in SADC Member States. The Eswatini project focuses on resuscitating the old groundwater monitoring system that,due to climate change and drought, was converted into the water supply system. The project also acknowledges the intensified need for monitoring and increased access to water supply amidst the challenges of climate change.
The project will install six monitoring stations in hotspot areas in the Northern Hhohho region: Matsamo Boarder, Mpofu community, Mavula community, Mkhuzweni Health Centre, Piggs Peak Gold Mine, Lufafa Gold Mine. It will also install monitoring and solar powered water systems in the 4 local institutions ofTimphisini Primary school, St. Pauls Primary school, Mnjoli and Mseni Primary school. The region was identified as critical because it hosts new mining industry developments which have an impact on groundwater quality and other social water needs.
A delegation comprising representatives from the SADC-GMI,the World Bank, the Department of Water Affairs (Eswatini), and Water Aid visited St Paul primary school which is one of the beneficiaries on 26th September 2019. The school, with approximately 530 learners often goes for days without potable water and it is in dire need of water. On days without water, school children are forced to walk some 2km to a nearby river to fetch water or run to neighbours in search of water. Mr. Sibusiso Moya is a teacher at St Paul primary school and he says due to water shortage, the school is sometimes forced to operate shorter hours as they can’t keep learners the whole day without drinking water or food because they also cook for the learners as the school operates a daily feeding scheme. He said the shortage of water also negatively affects children who are involved in agricultural subjects as they cannot complete their projects if there is no water for gardening.
Ms. Jabulile Yende is the Chairperson of the school’s Governing Council. She expressed that she has been very concerned about the water situation at the school because it impacts on both learners and teachers.
“This project will be helpful to the school and the community at large. We can’t thank the World Bank, SADC-GMI and the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini enough for this intervention”, she concluded.
The project is implemented by Water Aid – (Eswatini) on behalf of the Department of Water Affairs. Mr Ncamiso, the Country Director of Water Aid said, “There is a drastic decrease in groundwater quantity, and poor water quality is becoming prominent. Some boreholes in the country are running dry and there is no effective monitoring system to monitor these issues. 80% of the rural water supply is reliant on groundwater, the country needs this resource to be climate change resilient. This project will ensure that as a country we monitor and manage our water resources effectively and effective monitoring system will lead to accurate information for better planning.”. He added that five community institutions including schools will hugely benefit from the project. According to Mr. Mhlangafrom Water Aid, approximately 5000 people will benefit directly and indirectly in all the 10 project sites.
Anna Castari the Technical Task Team Leader for the World Bank project – The Sustainable Groundwater Management in SADC Member States commended the SADC-GMI, University of the Free State (SADC-GMI host), SADC Secretariat and the sixteen SADC Member States for working cooperatively for the success of the project.