WWF staff member Melissa de Kock visited south-west Zimbabwe earlier this year to speak to villagers benefitting from a borehole that WWF has installed in their village to assist them to cope with the erratic rains and to address human-elephant conflict.
The day I went to Mlagisa Village it was raining. A rare occurrence of late in this village in Tsholotsho District, south of Hwange National Park, in Zimbabwe. It was the end of the rainy season and the rain was welcome, but this downpour was too late for the villagers’ crops, which were now failing because there had been virtually no good rainfall the entire season said locals.
The villagers face a number of challenges to their subsistence farming activities, two prime ones being water and elephants. WWF is working with communities to help them cope with both these problems.
Sometimes elephants come out of the park and eat the villagers’ crops. Rainfall has also become unpredictable, which has led to crops failing and livestock struggling.
– Some days we receive a great deal of rain in one day, and then we receive no rain for a month, said Fanwell Sibanda, a member of the community who also works with the government agricultural extension unit.
– We used to plant our seeds in November, now because the rains are late, we can only plant in December or even January, said Patrick Nyoni, the local Councillor.
– And the season now is much shorter, so our drops cannot grow.
Solar water pump installed
The community used to have access to water through a hand-pump at the borehole,
but it was very time and energy consuming to pump water for the more than 2.000 livestock in Mlagisa and its two neighbouring villages, and for the 384 households using the borehole. In response to this, WWF funded the installation of a solar water pump at the local borehole. Now the solar pump fills the two tanks and enables people simply to turn on the tap to fill their buckets.
The irregular and erratic rains means while the villagers plant their seeds, there is not always a crop to harvest, as the plants dry out and die. Now however, the women are able to grow vegetable gardens.
– Even if the elephants eat our crops, or the crops die because of lack of rain, we can still have food on our plate and a small amount of money, said Pathisiwe Sibanda, a local woman.
WWF has also installed a weather station in the village, which measures precipitation, soil moisture, wind speed and temperature. This information will be downloaded, and cialis oq e displayed, at the local school so all community members can prepare according to the weather in their area. It will also start to show weather and eventually climate trends.
Boreholes running dry
It is not only the people struggling to cope with the limited rainfall. In the adjacent Hwange National Park, the elephant population relies on designated boreholes to provide water for them during the dry months. This has been the case since 1938.
However recently, the timing of when the boreholes are switched on has changed. In the past, they only ran from April to November as the rainy season usually begins in November, but last year, because the rainy season started later than usual, the park management had to keep them going into December because the rain was so late. So despite the water shortages from lack of rainfall, the elephants continued to get water, but it is another example of how climate change is creating real, everyday life issues for wildlife as well as for people.
Another, more serious challenge is that some of the boreholes are now running dry, which ultimately means less water available for the elephant population. WWF, in conjunction with Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, is about to embark on a study to understand the state of the ground water in the park, supplying the boreholes.