Long-term water policy key for Zim

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REPORTS that the country’s dam water levels have receded must be serious cause for concern for Zimbabwe, especially farmers who have just emerged from a not-so-pleasant farming season.

Elsewhere in this edition, we carry a report in which the Zimbabwe National Water Authority says water bodies continue to subside posing a threat to irrigation farmers during the lean peak season.

Although generally Zimbabwe does not receive significant rains this time of the year, the situation calls for stakeholders to look at the options that are available for drought-prone Zimbabwe.

A water policy that prioritises dam and weir construction as well as water harvesting is crucial for the country.

These would provide irrigation water for both crops and livestock at ward level. In the past, Zimbabwe received above-normal rains and at times experienced devastating floods and yet all that water flows away into oceans.

Often there is very little to show of the excess water received because there are no reservoirs or small weirs at household and even ward level to ensure smooth agricultural seasons.

It is critical that the government rolls out education programmes explaining the merits of water harvesting, targeting first the drier agro-ecological regions 4 and 5 of Zimbabwe before moving on to the rest of regions 1-3.

Back in January, Hwange – which lies in Region 5 – received a record downpour (139mm), rains that knocked out Hwange Thermal Power Station after coal got wet, throwing the bulk of the country into darkness.

Sadly, all that water was lost and farmers would soon rue the lost deluge when drier periods set in and yet reservoirs could have harnessed the bulk of the excess water.

The dams and weirs in the country are still inadequate and need to be augmented with more reservoirs at homesteads and private farms.

While the government should lead in dam construction projects, private reservoirs at homesteads could be left to individuals but they need technical expertise to ensure tanks and aquifers for the storage of harvested water are not a danger to the very people they are meant to serve.

The major challenge though in constructing reservoirs and other storage facilities for a cash-poor country like Zimbabwe could lie in funding, meaning that the government should come up with funding models for the poorer folks – especially those in rural areas – who may fail to raise the requisite funds. If the government invests in little dams for this critical rural mass, the ultimate benefits will accrue to the State.

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