“The sun that scorched other people’s fields because of El Niño is the same sun that has changed our lives” – Dominique Dingane.
While the El Niño-induced drought has left many Zimbabweans wishing for rain, Mabale village in the southern district of Hwange, has managed to harvest sunlight using solar panels which convert it into electricity to power a water pump.
By Tatenda Macheka
Through the World Food Programme’s Productive Asset Creation (PAC) programme, the village has seen livelihoods transformed by solar technology. The water supplies drinking troughs, a dip tank for cattle and a community garden reservoir. (The dip tank prevents tick-borne diseases in cattle and protects more than 2,000 head of cattle owned by some 600 households).
WFP’s PAC programme provides food rations to those who are food insecure while they work on community projects that promote self-reliance, reduce disaster risk and support climate change adaption.
Dominique Dingane (58) – among many villagers affected by irregular rainfall this year – is a participant in the PAC programme.
“The sun that has scorched other people’s fields because of El Niño is the same sun that these solar panels converted to electricity to pump water,” says Dominic. “This allows us to irrigate our crops, and fill the troughs and dip tank for the cattle.”
WFP, working in partnership with World Vision International, also helped rehabilitate the tank and troughs which had not been maintained for some time. For six months, participants received food assistance from WFP as they worked on the rehabilitation projects which have since been extended to the surrounding villages.
In addition to boosting the livelihoods of those dependent on livestock, the solar-pumped water system has made it possible for a community garden to flourish nearby. This was created in 2015 as part of the PAC programme. Previously, villagers had to travel long distances to access nutritious produce. The solar water pump now sustains the garden, which benefits 32 households, each of which has its own plot that grows different varieties of vegetables.
“The technology has improved things for my family and the rest of the community around,” says Dominic. “We now have vegetables to eat and can sell the surplus.”
The projects in Mabale were made possible through the support of the United States Agency for International Development. (USAID) which has been the largest donor to the PAC programme and continues to be the biggest donor to WFP’s El Niño drought response in Zimbabwe. Its contribution of more than US$ 60 million to WFP since the start of the drought has ensured timely emergency relief to those most affected whilst helping communities like Mabale achieve self-reliance in challenging circumstances.