New Self Supply Project in Zimbabwe

In 2016, Africa AHEAD  in Zimbabwe completed some formative research initiated by Unicef  ESARO (East and Southern African Regional Office) working with Skat Foundation, a leading research organisation based in Switzerland.  This study evaluated the sustainability of Upgraded Family Wells (UFWs) which had been constructed over 20 years ago in Makoni and Buhera District, to see how they had survived. The findings showed that Self Supply using UFWs was a sustainable low cost model and there was evidence that improved most upgraded family wells were still operation and had been maintained. Furthermore it was clear that when Upgraded Family Wells were combined with Community Health Clubs, (as was the case in Makoni District, where some of the first CHCs ever started) this  had led to market gardening and other income generating activities. This study has led to the adoption by the WASH Sector to prioritise UFWs to assist with the supply of water to communities where other models have failed. Africa AHEAD has now been funded to  partner with Skat who will be monitoring  to kick start the Self Supply Programme again in Zimbabwe. A pilot project of 60 UFWs will be constructed in a six month programme costing US$35,000, including all management costs. This will therefore provide water to a household at US$563, or per person at US$97 per person.

  1. Background to the Project

The Zimbabwean economy has for the past decade, been experiencing an economic decline that has resulted in a high inflation rate and an unemployment rate of over 90 percent. Past research (Munangagwa. C. 2009) has concluded that the economic decline of Zimbabwe has mainly been caused by poor monetary policies and failure of fiscal policies to control the budget deficit. This economic breakdown has resulted in the collapse of service provision and, as a direct consequence, there has been a significant spike in morbidity and mortality rates owing to water and sanitation related diseases.

The weak WATSAN situation can be reversed through reforms which would encompass the following:
Building Capacity of Village Leadership through role allocation,
Improving sector governance and stakeholder consultation; S
Shifting government’s role from that of implementer to facilitator;
Filling key policy gaps and amending policies to improve sustainability;
Assisting service providers to become financially viable;
Improving donor-government alignment;
Putting in place sector monitoring and annual review processes.

Having hit rock bottom, the country is now promoting self-supply with government taking a clearer leadership role. Recently at the National WASH Coordinators meeting following the presentation of the Self Supply Study report, the government has put Self-Supply (SS) on the priority list for 2016-2017. However, there are currently no resources to trigger this noble initiative.

It is against this background that Africa AHEAD is seeking start-up funding to trigger a national response in favour of SS and to implement Upgraded Family Wells (UFWs) in support of self-supply water systems in Manicaland Province of Zimbabwe. According to the ZimVAC report 2 (2014) 30% of the people in Zimbabwe do not have access to safe water sources and 86% of the households did not treat their water at all. This situation renders a significant proportion of households vulnerable to water borne diseases such as diarrhea and typhoid.

In 1995 Anthony Waterkeyn, (now the Director of Programmes for Africa AHEAD) and Dr Peter Morgan (then at the Blair Research  co-founded Mvuramanzi Trust, with support from WaterAid, in order to roll out the Upgraded Family well programme. This hardware solution was augment when Zimbabwe AHEAD, (now Africa AHEAD) added the software component, in the form of a Community Health Club. These two organisations pioneered the use of UFWs and then rolled-out the technology which continued very successfully until the economic downturn of the early 2000s that is still raging on to this day. Since that time the safe water coverage has been gradually decreasing until the economic crunch of 2008/2009 when the government systems finally ground to a halt and water supply and maintenance was largely abandoned. There was then an unprecedented cholera epidemic which broke out throughout the country with 100,000 cases and over 4,500 deaths.

A Self Supply Study 4 conducted by Skat Foundation (Switzerland) and Africa AHEAD in Zimbabwe in 2015 revealed that since initiation of Upgraded Family Wells around 1994, rural communities across most of Zimbabwe have kept digging and upgrading their own water points but the quality of workmanship has unfortunately been deteriorating while technical support from government has all but disappeared.

However, the commitment and zeal of rural householders to keep improving their own water sources is more than evident, especially in light of the benefits of the self-supply water points like ready access to water, improved multiple uses of water including gardening, livestock watering and other domestic uses. The study revealed that issues around water quality monitoring have ceased and thereby predisposing the community to water and sanitation related diseases even when there is self-supply water systems in place.

2. The Action
Africa AHEAD swill be working with the full participation of the community, to refresh the demand for safe water by promoting ‘safe-water- chain’ knowledge within the communities, train well-diggers and masons, involve local private partners in rural water supply including water supply project management and documentation for villagers, and, most important, monitoring water quality in the old and new water points as well as ensuring water safety through promoting household water treatment. Communities will use the trained masons and well-diggers where they will pay for their own UFW construction. Targeted subsidies will be given to vulnerable households (child-headed households and the very poor and disabled community members) as demonstration units where the other community members will be able to copy and replicate.

3. Activities

Fourteen  Environmental Health Technicians (EHTs) and 30 masons will be trained in well siting, digging and lining. 60 wells will be dug and lined at targeted householdsbelonging to vulnerable members of the community. The identified target households will serve as demonstrations and models for the capable households. Self-Supply will be promoted and linkages to hardware suppliers established for windlasses, lids,cement and chain/ropes. The trained masons will provide construction services while the EHTs will have technical oversight on the project. 60 households supported with subsidies are targeted to have safe water supply. As was clearly established by the Self Supply Study in Makoni District (2015), an average of 4 households share a single water point. Therefore, with 240 households (60 UFWs x 4 HHs) with an average of 5 people per household, will amount to about 1,200 rural people benefitting from sustainable safe drinking water within the first year of this project.

Munangagwa, C. L. (2009);The Economic Decline of Zimbabwe; Gettysburg Economic Review: Vol. 3, Article
Olschewski et al (2015): Review of Upgraded Family Well Programme in Makoni & Buhera districts, Manicaland Province, Zimbabwe funded by UNICEF-East and Southern Africa Regional Office, Kenya.
Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee, Rural Livelihoods Assessment Report, 2014, FNSC, Harare,Zimbabwe
WHO (2009): Global Task Force on Cholera Control. Cholera country profile: Zimbabwe. Geneva, Switzerland: Accessed 17 May 2013.