Martha Munyoro Katsi


Martha Munyoro Katsi works on communications in Practical Action's office in Harare, Zimbabwe

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Posts by Martha

  • A tonic for development

    June 27th, 2017

    Lack of access to modern, affordable and sustainable renewable energy services for the rural population remains a challenge in Zimbabwe.

    According to the World Energy Outlook 2000, the country currently has a national electrification rate of 41.5%. Mashaba schoolWhile electricity has reached 79% of urban households, rural electrification is still below 19%, and only 32% of the population has access to modern energy.

    With such statistics, having electricity in rural areas like Gwanda District is like a dream.

    In 2015, Practical Action in partnership with SNV and the Dabane Trust, with funds from the European Union, the OPEC Fund for International development and UNDP GEF Small Grants Programme are implementing the Sustainable Energy for Rural Communities (SE4RC) project in Gwanda District in Matabeleland South Province to provide sustainable energy in the area.

    The project has established a solar powered mini-grid generating 99 kilowatts.  It is based on the premise that energy is a requirement for the development of rural communities and a precursor for meeting national and international development goals such as the sustainable development goals.

    This mini grid is expected to benefit at least 10,000 people, powering Mashaba Primary School, Mashaba Clinic, as well as three irrigation schemes and two business centres.

    Delight Ncube, age 12 from Mashaba ward 19 in Gwanda applauds Practical Action for the mini grid project.Delight Ncube

    “Before the SE4RC project, we used candles at home for lighting and this made studying difficult, but this is the thing of the past now,” he said. “We now have access to electricity at school and this is helping us a lot when it comes to studying.”

    Ncube’s friend and classmate, Letwin Sibanda, adds: “I am very happy that we now have electricity at our school. I had never used a computer before, but now, we are using them thanks to Practical Action.”

    Without a doubt, the power being generated by the solar mini grid is transforming the lives of most, if not all, communities in Gwanda.

    “The establishment of the solar mini grid in this area has turned dreams into reality.” says Mashaba deputy headmaster, Obert Ncube.

    “Students now have unlimited access to electricity and this enhance education. Villagers are also using solar powered irrigation to feed their families. I believe the solar mini grid will provide a test case to demonstrate that decentralised energy systems can tackle energy poverty in Zimbabwe and ensure that off-grid rural communities have access to sustainable energy to improve their lives through increased production, better education, health and improved incomes.”

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  • Zai pit technology increasing yields in Mutasa

    December 15th, 2016

    Enneta Kudumba is one of the many farmers in Mutasa district, Manicaland Province who have successfully employed new farming technologies and methods to enhance their harvests given the detrimental effects of climate change.

    54 year old Enneta from Nyachibva Village explains.

    “I have been growing maize on large pieces of land for years, but with limited satisfaction due to erratic rainfall patterns. However, I am happy that the zai pit technology has brought fortunes and my productivity has improved.”

    Enneta Kudumba showing her harvestZimbabwe, like most Southern African countries, has experienced the worst ever El Nino induced drought that left a number of farmers in Mutasa and other parts of the country counting their losses after a poor harvest.

    Located at the heart of the high veld region, Mutasa District has variable agroecological zones with maize farmers at the other end of the area experiencing rainfall shortages. This has affected the agro-based livelihoods both socially and economically.  The area also boasts small to large dams that are utilised by the farmers for their horticultural activities.

    The Zimbabwe Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP) introduced zai pit technology in a bid to arrest the problem of hunger in areas experiencing massive crop failure.

    “Zai pit technology, introduced by the Zimbabwe Livelihoods and Food Security Programme, changed my life,” said Kudumba. “I am very happy with the results. This year, for instance, I managed to harvest a tonne of maize. Prior I would till acres of land and harvest less than a tonne of maize”

    Kudumba said she dug 400 pits, with one pit accommodating six maize plants and managed to grew 2,700 plants on her one acre piece of land.

    What is a zai pit?

    ennetaZai pits are infield conservation works which are being adopted as a climate smart way of farming in view of the threat of climate change induced drought. The zai pit is prepared well in advance starting in July soon after harvesting. The zai pit measure 60 cm x 60 cm by 30 cm deep. You can plant six to eight plants in the pit. You need to apply 5 litres of well decomposed manure and a cup of compound D in August-September to give the soil adequate time to react with the manure. When the effective rains come in November and December you then plant and maintains the plots. You can use the principle of mulching in Zai pits and herbicide usage is encouraged.

    Despite the practice being labour intensive, it has proved to be an effective weapon against hunger. Zai Pit technology is one of the most popular ways of conservation farming that keeps moisture in the soil for a longer period and also helps prevent soil erosion.

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  • Make handwashing a habit

    Goodall Ave, Harare, Zimbabwe, Harare
    October 17th, 2016

    So many global days are commemorated and at times you ask for what? After understanding the background, you will learn to appreciate why.

    On Saturday it was Global Handwashing Day – a campaign to motivate and mobilize people around the world to improve their handwashing habits by washing their hands with soap at critical moments throughout each day.

    handwshing in Zimbabwe using a tippy tap

    This simple action of handwashing, when practiced religiously can reduce the risk of illness and death from diarrhoeal diseases. With 1.7 million children dying from these causes each year, I certainly think that is a great reason to celebrate the day!

    In Zimbabwe we have continued to experience recurrent water and sanitation related diseases outbreaks despite efforts by various governments and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to educate the community. In Bindura, Practical Action Southern Africa has used podcasting technology to raise water and sanitation hygiene awareness (WASH) and reduce diarrheal diseases.

    Through Practical Action’s WASH work, students and community members have been taught the importance of handwashing. Some were with the excuse that handwashing needs soap, but they were taught to use ash as it produces the same results as soap.

    students in Zimbabwe handwashing

    Health clubs were also formed to help spread the messages using podcasting, dramas or word of mouth, which have improved hygiene practices at individual, school and home level.

    Huge successes have been recorded on handwashing. Health club members together with family members now wash their hands before engaging in any activity; for example, before eating and after visiting the toilet. Washing hands using soap has now become a habit to many. People are no longer using the traditional method of washing hands in one dish. The use of jugs, soap and running water is now the order of the day.

    Water is poured over each person’s hands in turn and is then thrown away to avoid cross infection. Many of the participants from health clubs now know the correct handwashing practices.

    Most children used to miss school due to sickness like diarrhoea and Malaria, but after some teachings from school health masters on the importance of handwashing, this is now history.

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  • Ground breaking ceremony for Sustainable Energy for Rural Communities (SE4RC) project

    Mashaba, Zimbabwe,
    September 3rd, 2015

    On 27th August 2015 I witnessed a memorable event for Practical Action Southern Africa.Zimbabwe`s Minister of Energy and Power Development Dr.Samuel Undenge and Chief Mathe of Gwanda District broke ground for a 99Kw solar energy and livelihoods project.This project will demonstrate how sustainable energy is key for sustainable development – schools, a clinic, irrigation schemes, agro-processing and other small businesses will benefit from the establishment of a solar mini grid managed by a public private partnership.

    Dr.Samuel Undenge and Chief Mathe breaking ground for SE4RC project

    Dr. Samuel Undenge and Chief Mathe breaking ground for SE4RC project

    The SE4RC project is being implemented, in line with the objectives and plans of the governments of Zimbabwe and Malawi, by Practical Action in partnership with SNV, Dabane Trust (in Zimbabwe), Hivos, Environment Africa and CARD (in Malawi). This four year project is funded by the European Union, with additional support from OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) and UNDP GEF Small Grants Programme.
    SE4RC ground breaking

    The project is contributing to the attainment of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) goal that aims to ensure universal access to modern energy services in rural areas and to improve access to modern energy services that contribute to better well-being (economic and social) of rural men and women in Malawi and Zimbabwe. The project promotes productive energy end-use through enterprise development and will benefit at least 30 000 beneficiaries in the two countries.

    The Regional Director for Practical Action, Kudzai Marovanidze commended the Mashaba community for the successful inception of the project, their commitment in working to ensure its success and also working towards their own development.

    The Guest of Honour, Energy and Development Minister, Dr. Samuel Undenge, gave the keynote address. He acknowledged the collaborative efforts by the different stakeholders involved in the project.The Minister also noted that the SE4RC project is strategically in line with the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset)

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  • Hard work pays off for Himalaya community

    Mutare, Zimbabwe, Mutare
    May 13th, 2015

    It was not an easy job for the communities benefiting from the Himalaya Micro Hydro Scheme, in Zimbabwe’s Manicaland province, but their sweat will soon yield results.

    The Himalaya project started in 2011 under the Rural Sustainable Energy Development in Zimbabwe (RUSED) project which is being implemented by Practical Action and Oxfam. On 8th April 2015 the project was officially opened by the Minister of Energy and Power Development in Zimbabwe, Dr.Samuel Undenge. This has indeed marked a new era for the community of Himalaya situated 35 km from the city of Mutare in Manicaland province in Zimbabwe.Commissioning

     “I have been waiting for this day since day one, and today it has been made possible. I am so happy with all the progress that has been made so far. Our hard work has finally paid off. This official commissioning is a blessing from the government of Zimbabwe we can now start working on producing results,” said an ecstatic Constance Mawocha, a 54 year old Himalaya resident.

    Access to electricity by rural Zimbabwean small-scale agricultural communities is very low as electricity is largely confined to the energy-intensive sub-sectors of commercial and industrial enterprises as well as high-income urban households. The only power utility company, Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) has suffered immensely under the current global economic recession and the Zimbabwean economic meltdown since 2000 and is struggling to deliver on its mandate. It has thus not been able to provide a constant electricity supply to urban areas let alone scale up the rural electrification programme, which has managed to supply less than 25% of rural communities with electricity.

    IMG-20150430-WA0012For the Himalaya community having access to electricity was a fantasy. The area is located in a mountainous area and is very far from the national grid. Having seen the predicament of most rural communities in Zimbabwe, two international development organisations, Practical Action and Oxfam with funding from European Commission saw the potential for addressing the energy poverty using the abundant water resources and feasible terrains through facilitating the establishment of hydro- electricity mini grids.

    This Himalaya micro hydro system generates 80kw and 150kw of electricity at full capacity. The electricity generated at this scheme will be used to power an irrigation scheme, a grinding mill, a saw mill to process timber, and an energy centre which houses a hair salon, lantern charging kiosk and refrigeration just to mention a few.

    Grace's dreams being fulfilled“As women we have been empowered, I can’t wait to buy my electric machine and start sewing clothes for sale. I enjoy farming and the coming of electricity has made our farming very easy, from the training that we have had I am now taking farming as a business and this will come to reality with the electricity in use. Also I have 6 children and 8 grandchildren that I live with meaning I have to frequently visit the grinding meal so that I put food on the table for these little kids. Before this was so difficult for we had to travel quite long distance to get our maize pounded. But now I walk less than 500m to get my mealie meal and I am so grateful.”  Grace Muyambo 45.

    The coming of electricity also meant diversified possibilities for value addition in agriculture and agro-processing.

    “We used to lose a lot of fruits and vegetables whenever there was a glut due to absence of refrigeration facilities but now the shelf lives will improve for usually perishable goods. Besides that, the social life of families is going to improve since we will be connected to the global village through the Television and internet.” said Eutias Chirara secretary of the Himalaya Micro Hydro Association.

    The people of Himalaya may well celebrate, this was not an easy job. Men and women worked so hard to achieve the progress to date. Women assisted by carrying stones, river sand, cement, and digging of irrigation canals. Men were responsible for carrying heavy penstock pipes , laying the electricity grid and all other hard work.

    ”I almost gave up because the work was so hard, but as  a community we had told ourselves that the project belonged to us and we had to contribute in any way we could so that we see the results. Here we are today, we are so happy to have reached this day and celebrate with the whole of Zimbabwe,” said Eutias Chirara secretary of the Himalaya Micro Hydro Scheme.

    Once the project is completed communities in Himalaya will be able to use of the energy, to improve their livelihoods and therefore ability to pay and sustain the scheme through various enterprises.

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  • Building HOPE for women farmers in Chikwawa

    Chikwawa, Malawi, Chikwawa
    November 14th, 2014

    In September, I spent a few days in Chikwawa, in Malawi’s lower Shire region. My mission was to collect case studies on the current situation facing farmers before the implementation of the Sustainable Energy for Rural Communities (SE4RC) project.

    Esnath WillisonDuring this process, I got to hear and witness some of the difficult situations women in the area face. Indeed women can do anything to ensure that there is food on the table to sustain their families.

    Thats the story of Edith Willison, a smallholder farmer in Chikwawa. She is a single mother and she is responsible for fending for her family. Life has not been easy for her and her children. She wakes up very early every day and walks up to four kilometres to fetch water for her family’s domestic use before she goes to the fields. She grows maize, cassava and vegetables which she sells to get money to buy food and to pay for her children’s school fees and upkeep.

    For the crops to grow well she uses a treadle pump to irrigate the crops. This is no easy job especially on an empty stomach given there are times when there will be nothing to eat in her house. She spends about five to six hours pedalling the treadle pump in order to water her plot.

    Edith is now suffering from back pains because of all this hard work. When she gets tired from using the treadle pump, her 11 year old son Musani takes over this task.

    Chikwawa-2This system of pumping water which Edith and other farmers in the area are using is not reliable. As a result, Edith had low harvests and is struggling to provide food for her children. During these hard times, she resorts to borrowing from colleagues who also do not have enough so at the end of the day the family can retire to bed with empty stomachs.

    Practical Action will be introducing solar powered irrigation to farming areas in Zimbabwe and Malawi. The areas which the project will be implemented from are so poor and remote. They are not connected from the national electricity grid and unlikely to ever be connected because of their remoteness. Even if they were, the cost of the electricity would be exorbitant. However, using the abundant, free resource of the sun for solar voltaic panels to power pumps, water can be drawn from significantly deeper depths than a treadle pump. Instead of spending up to six to seven hours incessant pumping to irrigate their farms per day, Edith and other women can be using this valuable time to do other things like household chores, start small businesses, and attend to their children. Furthermore children can also attend school. With this technology the farmers can be sure of a viable and consistent supply of water for their crops.

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  • Inequality in Energy Access in the Education Sector in Malawi

    October 16th, 2014

    For many rural schools in Malawi, access to reliable energy sources remains a pipe dream. It is estimated that only 7% of the population in urban areas has access to electricity, whilst in the rural areas, only 1% has access. The situation is the same in many countries within the southern Africa region where lack of access to electricity remains a major barrier to social and economic development. One of the sectors that has been adversely affected is the education sector. Without access to electricity, children often do not have the light required to study properly. They also have no access to computer-based learning resources that would enhance their learning opportunities. Why then should this issue of inequality in energy access in education sector be addressed?

    • Students from rural schools always lag behind when it comes to technology. Those in urban areas are always ahead of times. Most gadgets that may assist school children needs electricity in order to operate for example computers and internet.
    • Students need lights in order to read and study at night or even during the day when its cloudy and dark.
    • Teachers are limited in terms of teaching aids/resources. They do not have access to computers, projectors and the Internet among other resources. These assist to give quality education to the students.
    • Schools fail to attract well trained staff because they shun places without electricity.
    • Teachers cannot plan their work during the night most of the work has to be done during the day hence leaving other areas to suffer.

    It is therefore evident that the issue of in equality in energy access in the education sector has to be addressed. All pupils deserve the best education in a good environment possible. It is encouraging to note that energy access initiatives being implemented by Practical Action are providing hope for schools in rural areas through micro-hydro schemes. In Malawi in Mulanje District, the Bondo micro hydro scheme has transformed the community in that area.

    Utilising the vast water resources which are abundant on Mount Mulanje in Malawi, the micro hydro scheme is generating electricity using water from Lichenya River. The scheme was constructed under the Catalysing Modern Energy Service Delivery to Marginal Communities in Southern Africa project implemented by Practical Action Southern Africa in partnership with Mulanje Renewable Energy Agency (MuREA).

    The micro hydro scheme is now providing electricity to households, businesses and social services such as schools and the health centre. Kabichi Primary School which serves Bondo, has an enrolment of at least 1,700 pupils. The electricity grid from the micro hydro scheme has already been installed at the school and wiring within the classrooms is underway. The teachers and pupils at the school are excited by the prospect of having electricity at the school.Electrification of the school will enable pupils to have access to computer based learning resources resulting in improved pass rates.

    “We will also have improved lighting for the classroom which will also facilitate evening classes”, said Jonathan Marimbo, the school headmaster. “More importantly, the coming of electricity will ensure that the school will be able to attract and retain teaching staff”, he added.

    Charity Richard a standard seven pupil at the school could not contain her joy. “I cannot wait for the lights to be switched on, at our school. This is encouraging and I believe that some girls who have left school will be motivated to come back because of this development”.

    Access to electricity is also expected to spur economic development and growth for Bondo through initiatives that promote productive use of energy.    

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  • A brighter future for the Himalaya community

    September 16th, 2014

    Cornelius MayengamhuruThe children in Himalaya community in Zimbabwe’s Mutare were all smiles after witnessing the hard work their parents went through during the construction of the Himalaya micro-hydro and irrigation schemes coming to fruition.

    “At first I thought this was a joke but now I can see that it is real. I was so happy to see the lights being switched on for the first time at the powerhouse when the engineers were testing the scheme”, said Cornelius Mayengamhuru, a 13 year old form 1 student at Himalaya Secondary School.

    He added, “I used to think that my parents were wasting their time and energy coming to work at the project site almost every day. It was so much hard work but they soldiered on. I am so happy because I am seeing the results of my parent’s efforts with my own eyes”

    Since 2011, his parents, along with other community members from Himalaya have been working on the construction of the Himalaya micro-hydro scheme and two irrigation schemes in the area. This work was done under the Rural Sustainable Energy Development project being implemented by Practical Action in partnership with Oxfam with funding from the European Union. The four year project, aims to increase access to modern, affordable and sustainable renewable energy services for the rural irrigation communities in Gutu (Masvingo province) and Mutare (Manicaland) districts of Zimbabwe.

    children from Himalaya with irrigationEven though the children were not participating in the project activities, they know about the project and the benefits it will bring to the community. They witnessed all the effort their parents went through to get the project to where it is today. The terrain in Himalaya is so hilly and this makes it even difficult to do any sort of construction work. Women had to carry sand, cement; stones on their heads up to the top of the mountain where the weir was being constructed. Men worked on the more labour intensive tasks such as lifting and laying of  heavy penstock pipes , hauling electric cables to erect the electricity supply grid and digging trenches to lay irrigation pipes amongst other tasks.

    Despite this hard work, the community was driven by the spirit to develop their area and also secure a future for their children  Even in doubt as been said by Cornelius above, they still had hope.

    “I am so happy with the project because it will also help generations to come including myself. I wake up every day and walk to school 5 kilometres from my house. It is far but the fact that I want to be educated and become someone in life keeps me going. Before I go to school I eat sadza and any relish available that day. I hope my parents will start to grow potatoes now that there is plenty of water being powered by electricity, so that I will be able to eat healthily before I leave for school in the morning. I study agriculture at school so when I grow up I want to be a farmer, own a piece of land here and develop my community. This project just came at the right time”.

    micro hydro turbineThe project is promoting the use of micro-hydro in Manicaland and solar energy in Gutu by rural people around the irrigation schemes. By promoting the use of micro-hydro and solar energy in the targeted remote communities, this project will enhance the accessibility of rural communities to modern renewable energy for productive use.  Energy plays an invaluable role in social and economic development as it is a critical factor of production, whose cost impacts directly on other services and the competitiveness of various enterprises. Every productive sector in the economy relies on the provision of energy, and agriculture being the back-borne of the economy in Zimbabwe, is no exception.

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  • Building relationships – the key to improved services

    February 12th, 2013

    For the residents of Sakubva in Mutare, living with heaps of uncollected waste at illegal dumping points had become the norm. These sites had become a health time bomb, exposing the residents to outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and dysentery.

    “We were faced with a serious health hazard and despite our calls to the Council for the implementation of efficient waste management services, the situation was not improving”, said Llyod Chikonzo, a resident in Sakubva.

    Llyod Chikonzo’s dilemma is similar to that of many others throughout Zimbabwe who have been sidelined in local authorities’ planning processes for years. This has resulted in poor service delivery including erratic water supplies, failing waste management, poorly maintained roads, chronic sewerage blockages and unresolved tenure issues.

    But Practical Action’s People Up project has made these problems history by promoting community participation in urban planning . 

    Community based planning empowers communities, especially vulnerable socio-economic groups and their leaders, to participate actively in development interventions that affect their lives.  This participatory system engages poor and vulnerable urban and peri-urban communities to improve the quality of their plans and services and to influence resource allocation.  It also increases the participation of poor urban residents in the governance of basic municipal services.   Through their influence on resource allocation this project aims to ensure that communities will have access to support and extension services required for improved crop and livestock production. 

    “It feels great to be consulted when there is development which needs to happen in your ward, long back there were no consultations like this and we never saw progress”, said Mrs. Mary Maphosa of ward 3 in Epworth.

     “We had never been consulted by council when it comes to development in our area. Approaching the local board was such a daunting task. The coming of the project has helped us a great deal. There is now dialogue between us and the local board”.

    “As a result of the CBP process, we have, as a community, developed ward plans in our various wards. These plans have our priorities which we then take to the local authority for consideration. As a result, one of the priorities of opening up access roads was taken up by the local board and we now have roads that were opened up in our ward”, said George Goremusandu a resident of ward 1 in Epworth.

    According to Sam Chaikosa from the Civic Forum on Housing, all the ward plans developed by the Epworth residents have been incorporated into the strategic plan for Epworth.

    “This process has empowered the communities to be drivers of the development initiatives. It’s a process which has brought dialogue between the local authority and the residents. The priorities and the aspirations of the Epworth community are now encompassed in the local board’s plans”, said Chaikosa.

    While local authorities in Zimbabwe still face challenges in delivering services to citizens, the People Up project, which is funded by the European Union, has aptly demonstrated how the transition from top-down to bottom-up approaches in planning equips communities with the skills to understand and participate in the municipal planning process. 

    The project has successfully tested a framework for promoting partnerships between local authorities, residents and private sector initiatives for the delivery of infrastructure services in under – served low income urban settlements.  The successes and lessons generated will provide an opportunity for replication and scaling up, not only in other local authorities areas in Zimbabwe, but in the Southern Africa region as a whole.

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  • Water problems know no gender

    Harare, Zimbabwe, Harare
    November 1st, 2012

    During a recent conversation with Reckson Matengarufu, one of our Project Officers working on water and sanitation projects in the Gwanda District,  I was amazed with the way the community has been transformed by this project, with women now taking an active role in water and sanitation issues.

    Zimbabwe’s rural populations are largely conservative.  Men take a leading role in most activities. But, this is changing in the project’s target wards, where, in the past, women were only responsible for fetching water and taking care of household chores. It was taboo for them to be seen getting involved on issues to do with borehole repairs and maintenance as it was considered a men’s job. Now,  that migration from rural to urban areas has increased in Zimbabwe, and particularly in Gwanda where  men seek greener pastures in neighbouring South Africa, women have been left to fend for themselves.

    In a very dry environment like Gwanda, water is scarce, broken water points mean that women and girls bear the brunt of walking long distances to fetch water for daily domestic use.

    Faced with these challenges, do women really have to wait for their husbands to come back home during the holidays and service the boreholes? NO!, women in Gwanda have been empowered and are now able to carry out borehole maintenance tasks and repairs  efficiently.  Men and women can now work together for the benefit of their communities.

    Water is scare in rural Gwanda

    Mrs. Mary Mufiri (52), one of the women who has taken a new role as a pump minder is a mother of four. Her husband has been working in South Africa since 1998.

    She told me, “I am very proud of this role that I now have within the village. Before this, some of our water points had not been working for very long periods. This meant that we has to walk up to 5 kilometres to fetch water or use unprotected sources.”


    This work is a result of Practical Action Southern Africa’s three year project  “Enhancing Community Participation in Governance of Water and Sanitation Service Delivery in Rural Gwanda District” which began in August 2011, funded by the European Commission.  The project seeks to contribute towards democratising the management and governance of communal water and sanitation  infrastructure in Zimbabwe, demonstrating inclusive and replicable approaches for the delivery of basic water and sanitation services.  You can find out more about Practical Action’s water and sanitation programme here.

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