“These boreholes are just one part of a well detailed program, this one that we are launching is symbolic,” said Ronnie Murungu, in reference to nine boreholes drilled to ease access to clean water in Manicaland communities.
Murungu, National Director of Action Aid, a non-governmental organization which chipped in with financial assistance for the boreholes, made these remarks at the official opening of the Nhadza community borehole, in Chimanimani district.
For the communities that are benefiting from these boreholes, the irony is not lost, as they represent the mineral resource curse in the truest sense, a reflection of the paradox of poverty amidst plenty.
All three districts, Chimanimani, Chipinge and Buhera, due to their proximity to Chiadzwa diamond fields, have experienced the negative effects of diamond mining in Marange, particularly contamination of river water which they used to rely on.
Diamond mining has left the communities ravaged by loss of livestock, social disturbances and moral decadence, miscarriages among a host of other negative impacts of the largely unfruitful extraction exercise.
In these communities access to clean water was already a challenge, with livestock depending on water from Odzi and Save River, sources which were contaminated by diamond slime, leading to loss of livestock.
Even as government has acceded to the futility of diamond operations and have consolidated all diamond claims under one company, the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company, to ostensibly bring accountability and transparency, in the shoddy dealings of the countries gems.
This is not withstanding the monumental loss of revenue, estimated at $15 billion by the head of state, as well as the already seemingly secret operations of the ZCDC, communities were left with no option but to approach donors to assist.
One villager spoke of how she relied on water from Odzi River before diamond mining contaminated the water, rendering it even more unsafe to use.
“Before diamond mining came water has always been a problem because we had to travel long distances to fetch water, so I would rely on water from Odzi, but when the mines came the water was contaminated.
“It became unsafe to drink, but we still would drink the water, but our health also deteriorated because of this, we are so grateful for the assistance we have received. However despite that the borehole is still far as some still travel longer, even up to 5km.
“Thank you for returning our dignity, we had lost everything our livestock, we were now the poorest of the poor but now we can provide clean water for our families,” said Sithembile Mwaangira.
District Sanitation official said there is a huge gap in access to water in most parts of the province, with at least two thirds of rural communities not covered by boreholes.
The officials said support from humanitarian organizations was welcome in the drought torn areas of the province, with thousands relying on food handouts in the Elnino savaged parts of the country.
“To the east it’s much better but for this side it is still a huge challenge, we are continuously monitoring through our GPS machines and these show that we at 33%, meaning that boreholes are still too few in our district, especially this western side,” said the official.
Through a community Trust, Save Odzi Network Trust, registered through the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), villagers submitted a proposal to Action Aid, which funded the water access project to benefit over 2000 people.
“In terms of investment we have around US $60 000 that we have invested, our plan was to basically drill and surface and also equip ten boreholes, but unfortunately we had a dry borehole in one of the areas.
“Currently we have nine that are operational, and we expect each borehole to service around 50 households, which is around 250 people and overall with all the boreholes around 450 households,” he said.
Murungu even echoed the pleas of the patched communities in Manicaland’s driest districts, as he acknowledged the great demand for access to clean water, a burden especially felt by women, who travel over 5km in some instances to reach a clean source of water.
“The demand is so high and with the issue of some of the borehole malfunction we will have more households benefitting from these initial ones.
“So it is our hope that with additional resources we will provide support to other boreholes which are not working, so that our communities have safe and clean water.
“In addition to safe water provision we are also looking at livelihoods, so we are saying that in all the areas that we are going to drill boreholes we also have to facilitate the establishment of community gardens because the water is already available,” he said.