The Environment and Agriculture
by Steven Jacobson, Takaliawa (Matebeleland South), Zimbabwe
Just five years ago, water in Takaliawa was unsafe. It was collected from the local dam or pulled from a deep hole in the riverbed. People, cattle, sheep, goats, dogs, donkeys, and pigs all urinated in these water sources. Disease and death from cholera and other nasty waterborne diseases were common. In 1996 the District Council (with help from outside funding) decided to undergo a campaign for safe drinking water. A campaign was initiated to install five boreholes to tap an underground water source and to construct toilets for homes in the community. The toilet is just a covered pit with a chimney to vent the smell out of the pit. The campaign worked. Five boreholes have been constructed and disease is dropping rapidly. Fewer people are needlessly dying from cholera.
by Robert Joppa, Gumira, Chipinge District, Zimbabwe
The irrigation scheme six kilometers north has greatly improved the lives of many. People once could grow crops only during the rainy season and just enough to subsist. Now people can grow beans, tomatoes, or other vegetables for the commercial market during the dry season and subsistence crops during the rainy season. Some rich farmers will grow cotton and subsistence crops during the rainy season and make a good living, but few can afford the chemicals and labor it takes to grow cotton.
Borehole pump technology has improved the health of people here even though the pumps are unprotected by fencing. Now water is generally as safe as water in the United States. Toilets have also improved health in that they prevent human waste from flowing into the rivers and pans. Unfortunately not everyone has one because they cannot afford to build one. Besides, the cattle and goats go where they please. Cattle, goats, and donkeys are a major problem along the rivers and pans because they contaminate the water and cause erosion.
The [disinfectant] dip tank has improved the health of cattle and people alike, but where do they drain the tank after use? The tank is located not more than 200 meters from the Save River. I hope all those cat fish and carp I eat from the Save aren't laced with chemicals from the dip!
by Christopher Thomas, Masonga/Samhutsa, Zimbabwe
Over the years, the population of the Masonga area has increased and farmers here have begun using for farming more and more of the woodlands that are a part of the catchment area of the Tamganda and Nyamtikwa rivers. The woodlands are located in very hilly areas; as more and more trees are removed for agriculture, soil erosion has increased. To prevent soil erosion, farmers have erected stone contour ridges, or terraces. Some of them have planted a grass along them indigenous to Mozambique, called vetiver grass. But soil erosion is still a problem in the area, especially in gardens planted along the rivers. Soil erosion not only makes it harder for farmers to grow crops, but it also makes the water of the Tanganide and Nyamtikwa rivers less pure.
The local farmers, led by the agricultural officer and the district natural resource conservation group, have begun to address the problem by planting more and more vetiver grass each year and by replacing highly cultivated riverside gardens with fruit tree plantations, which require much less cultivation and cause less soil erosion.