Positioning Communities to Weather Climate Change
Climate change has aggravated ongoing drought in the Southern Africa region, says Mr Brighton Munyai, SADC Groundwater Management Institute Senior Groundwater Specialist.
“The traditional surface water resources that are relied upon by most of the communities are becoming vulnerable to the impact of climate change,” Mr Munyai said.
Throughout the years, climate change has worsened erratic weather patterns in the region. A SADC synthesis report says: “It should be remembered that 2019 saw severe drought, floods and back-to-back cyclones, which contributed to 41.2 million people being food insecure – the highest in a decade.”
This year’s World Water Week “Building Resilience Faster” highlights the need for the SADC region to be prepared and positioned for the shocks that come due to climate change.
As climate change adds to water scarcity in the region, SADC-GMI has been working to promote sustainable groundwater management in the SADC region. SADC-GMI’s footprint spans across the region, including the Limpopo River Basin, an area that the Food and Agriculture Organization describes as predominantly semi-arid, dry and hot.
In 2019, SADC-GMI contracted World Vision Zimbabwe to rehabilitate the SADC Groundwater and Drought Management Project in the Dite and Whunga communities. Through the intervention, SADC-GMI installed two high-yielding boreholes that are powered through solar energy. World Vision Zimbabwe WASH Technical Advisor Mr Morris Chidavaenzi said about 250 school children and 595 community members benefit from the improved water supply in the area.
While the improved water supply meets several needs of the communities including watering gardens created as part of the project, the success of capacity-building initiatives helps the project to be sustainable post the project implementation phase.
“We formed two school health clubs. At the end of the project they had reached 1218 children with hygiene messages. This split would be 618 boys and 600 girls. On top of that we trained five teachers who then formed the school health clubs from the three schools,” Mr Chidavaenzi said.
Eastwards of Zimbabwe, capacity-building initiatives also give longevity to a successful pilot project in Chimbiya Trading Centre in the Dedza District of Malawi. To date, the high-yielding borehole gives sustenance to over 15 000 people who frequent the trading centre that is an entrepreneurship hub.
Ms Zione Butao, SADC-GMI’s Malawi focal point and Chief Groundwater Development Officer at the country’s Department of Water Development, has been involved in the project throughout the years.
She said various community members have been trained to look after the borehole infrastructure and ensure the water’s sustainability. This has given them “ownership” of the borehole, she said.
“The Safe Water Committee was trained in terms of financial management so they are doing financial management and this is good for the sustainability of the system,” Ms Butao said.
SADC-GMI Executive Director Mr James Sauramba said the institute reaches out to grassroots levels in communities and has been working to get groundwater to the fore. This includes alerting policymakers of the importance of mainstreaming groundwater into the policy, legal and institutional discourse.
“At the end of the day, their interest is to supply water to the communities that they serve at that level,” Mr Sauramba said.