HARARE - Zimbabwe received higher than normal rainfall this year, but as the world marks this year's World Water Day, there is not much cause to celebrate. A civic organization that fights for the right to water says a low percentage of Zimbabweans has access to clean water.
The United Nations says it is making efforts to ensure the precious resource props up the country's backbone — agriculture.
For the first time in two years, Zimbabwe has received an above normal amount of rain; but, with that came an outbreak of typhoid in January, and last week cholera claimed two lives.
'Nothing to celebrate'
Program manager Goodlife Mudzingwa works for Community Water Alliance, a civic organization that deals with issues of water governance in Zimbabwe. Mudzingwa said there is nothing to celebrate come World Water Day on Wednesday.
“Basically there is nothing to celebrate in terms of water,” Mudzingwa said. “In terms of availability, there is nothing that has been met. It also relates to fiscal commitment in terms of budgetary provision by the government to realize that right. Our analysis has shown that 0.4 percent (of the budget) has been committed to water provision. So when you look at all those components it is an expression that there is no realization of the right to water.”
The right to water has been in Zimbabwe's constitution since 2013; but, for 36-year-old Chipo Masvinga, enjoying that right is still far away.
Two or three times a week, she says she is about 30 meters down the Mukuvisi River from a busy bridge in Harare. With infant daughter Esther on her back and 4-year-old son Emmanuel nearby, she is doing laundry using river water.
Clean water a must
Upstream, industrial and human waste flow into the river, which organizations like Community Water Alliance have been complaining about to authorities.
Masvinga said residents have no taps so they use the river and for seven to eight years the authorities have not talked about providing water. She said drinking water comes from an open well, but the community would rather get clean water from boreholes. She adds they want good living and access to clean water, since it is the people's source of life.
Water is also the Zimbabwe’ cornerstone of the country's mainstay, agriculture. That is why the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said it is happy that Zimbabwe has received above normal rainfall.
Irrigation system repairs
Southern Africa FAO head Chimimba David Phiri said he is happier than the previous two years celebrating World Water Day. Two years of drought had led the FAO to begin rehabilitating Zimbabwe's irrigation system with funding from the European Union and the Swiss government.
“The history of Zimbabwe is very interesting; there are a number of irrigation schemes that were created, but most of these schemes have gone into ruin either because of siltation over a long period of time, lack of maintenance, or irrigation equipment itself that needs to be changed,” Phiri said.
“The aim of that is to make sure that even in the time when there is no adequate rainfall, the farmers in those irrigation schemes can produce enough for their own consumption and for sale. The other one is to ensure that productivity increases by having two or three crops in a year."
Phiri said the rain Zimbabwe received would not stop the $13 million irrigation project. He says the U.N. agency aims to ensure Zimbabwe improves its livestock and crop production by ensuring that farmers have water throughout the year.