Water & Food Security 

**Please note: After time spent on the ground at the project site in Chaseyama, this project has been refined in its scope. This webpage and its information is out of date for the moment. We will update the page with the new information as soon as possible.**

This project prioritises the fundamental goal of ensuring water and food security throughout Chimanimani District. Water is increasingly becoming a limiting factor in the region, and for many communities, meeting the basics needs of life is becoming increasingly challenging. The project will empower communities to utilise the interconnectedness of humans and nature to improve their quality of life whilst regenerating the landscape

 

Through effective water management, the PORET demonstration site harvests a variety of crops to support the Piti family and the surrounding community.

Water and food scarcity are ever present and are intensifying struggles felt by many communities in Chimanimani. The region is left vulnerable from a history of socially and environmentally unjust, extractive industry and exhaustive monoculture farming creating dry, exposed and poor quality soil. Extensive yearly drought is interrupted by a single brief, but intense rainy season.  As climate changes, the drought period is expected to extend further into the rainy season, placing further pressures on water availability which limits food production.

Free grazing and conventional farming methods have produced dry sandy soils by reducing vegetation cover which impacts soil cohesion. This soil structure has little capacity for infiltration, causing water to escape the area through gullies during intense rainfall events. The lack of sufficient water harvesting measures places high reliance on the few dispersed boreholes to provide year round water supply.

 

There are few scattered boreholes in the region that many communities are required to travel to each day. The project aims to increase the number boreholes in the area to reduce the distance between communities and a reliable water source. 

The Save River which flows through the region has been a reliable source of water for many communities in Chimanimani, however recently heavy metal and coliform contamination from an upstream diamond mine has limited the river’s capability to support the region’s domestic and agricultural requirements.

Water scarcity is also a factor in the high levels of malnutrition seen in the area. Chimanimani’s variety in climate and landscape give it a great capacity to grow a wide array of foods. However, the push for industry is replacing sustainable small scale farming with a focus on cash crops. Such monoculture methods have exhausted soil nutrients which lowers agricultural potential, require the use of chemical fertilisers,and diminish crop diversity, which is required for a balanced diet.

 

Due to the unreliable rains, the project's goal is to provide a community driven strategy to ensure at least enough water for sufficient hydration and to produce some agricultural yield even when the climate conditions are drier than normal.

 

An inter-related and compounding web of issues

Due to the non linear nature of the problems faced by those living in the Lowveld, we found it best to use an infographic to display how all the aspects compound into an environment that is both socially and biophysically unsustainable.

Many gullies and rivers created during the intense rain events in November and December remain dry in the Lowveld for the majority of the year.

 

As the climate changes, water and food insecurity will intensify, leading to a decline in quality of life with little capacity for change. If soils could be regenerated and water stored, then residents could enjoy self-sufficient, balanced and healthy lives. 

 

 

 

It is therefore essential to provide materials and skills to empower communities to catalyse the regeneration of their soils and the storage of water in order to harmoniously sustain the people and ecology of Chimanimani.

The project intends to embody the principles of permaculture to meet the basic needs of those struggling in the area, aiming to improve quality of life whilst facilitating landscape regeneration. The project will span multiple years according to the “small and slow” permaculture principle, starting with a pilot year to establish the project and observe its capacity on a small scale before applying lessons learned and increasing its reach in the future.

The project aims to leave a self sustaining movement towards biophysical and social sustainability, which could exist without outside influence. 

Action Plan

First, we will conduct a baseline survey in order to understand the biophysical and social state of Chimanimani District.  A map demonstrating the diversity in water supply, access, crops, climates and soils across the district will be created from this research for project planning and educational purposes.  From this map, five of the most water insecure and vulnerable community sites will be chosen for the first year (more sites for future years). 

 

At each site, we will work with the community to construct rainwater harvesting infrastructure, such as guttering and swales, and community storage tanks.  At three of the sites, we will create additional water harvesting infrastructure: boreholes at two and piping for river abstraction at one.

We will facilitate community workshops on the use and maintenance of the infrastructure, the water cycle, sustainable agriculture, nutrition, sanitation and permaculture to empower the community. These workshops focusing on knowledge sharing and skills transfer will be complemented by a demonstration site at the PORET base and exchange visits to examples of homesteads in Chimanimani that have successfully implemented permaculture to meet their needs. The project will train and support two community facilitators at each site who will organise the communities, monitor progress, and extend the training received in the workshops.

Materials such as seeds will also be provided to each site and selected farmers around the district to encourage the cultivation of a greater diversity of crops and to further pollinate the projects ideas through the district. Throughout the project, participatory monitoring and evaluation will aim to reveal any impacts. To further extend the projects benefits, it will work alongside universities and NGO’s to further investigate water quality issues in the Save River and aim to develop an action plan to return the water source to a potable state.

 

We are currently seeking funding for this project and will begin implementation as soon as possible. If you are interested in contributing to this project please contact us.