Published in September 2022

The hardships inflicted by water scarcity can harm communities and drive them apart, as people's health and resilience are pushed to the limit. As we learn from a community member from Sifanjani, in Zimbabwe, sand dams can help to prevent the issues that plague dryland communities and bring them together to strive for a better future.

Ananias Moyo is a 78-year-old community member from the Sifanjani Village in Gwanda District, Zimbabwe. He is married and lives with his wife, two grandchildren, and one great-grandchild who is only two months old. Moyo underwent major surgery in 2007 after being diagnosed with a serious medical condition, after which he found it very difficult to carry out household duties such as fetching water and watering livestock. Their nearest water sources were more than 5km from his home, sometimes even further during the dry season when these sources dried up and forced Moyo to herd his livestock further downstream in search of water.

Ananias Moyo from Sifanjani Village - Zimbabwe"The situation was especially bad around here in the dry season. I had to either constantly dig scoop holes or walk about 7km in search for water for my livestock. This started becoming a danger to my health as I usually experienced severe stomach pains afterwards."

Ananias Moyo, member of the Sifanjani Village community, Zimbabwe.

Moyo was among the many community members who placed metal drums inside river scoop holes as a way of harvesting and storing water for long term use. Unfortunately, this practice often caused disputes between the community members after livestock started drowning in the drums.

Moyo recalls an incident when one of the community members’ cows fell into a water drum that he had placed. The owner subsequently demanded payment for the damages this caused, at a time when Moyo had no money to spare or savings set aside for emergencies.

Moyo recounted the story saying: "The owner of the cow was so furious. He simply wanted payment and nothing else. I had to slaughter a cow and sell the meat. The money from the sale was not even enough to cover what was demanded, so I was forced to get a loan to top up what I had received."

According to Moyo, water shortages were amongst the major reasons for squabbles within the Sifanjani village community. When Dabane Trust (our partners in Zimbabwe) first came along, locals were hesitant to work together due to the animosity among some community members because of water shortage disputes. However, Moyo tells us that once the project was explained in full, "Everyone was excited about having water and people were ready to work."

Following the construction of the Nathi sand dam near his home, Moyo set up a fruit and vegetable garden a mere 80 meters from the riverbank on which the sand dam lies, where he currently grows vegetables such as kale, onions, tomatoes, and beetroot. Moyo has since been able to grow these vegetables for both household consumption and selling.

"My two grandchildren would go and sell my garden produce at a place called Tuli." Moyo explains."I used most of the money they earned to buy groceries in preparation for Christmas celebrations and to pay for one of my grandchildren’s hospital bills, as she had just given birth and had been admitted to the hospital."

Moyo currently draws water for his livestock and his family from one of the pumps that were installed during the construction of the Nathi sand dam. The pump is located only 1km from his homestead. Walking for only a kilometer has immensely improved Moyo’s health as he no longer experiences the health issues that were triggered by the long and challenging trips to fetch water.

Ananias Moyo from Sifanjani Village - Zimbabwe

"I have never been more grateful for what Dabane Trust have done. Our community has gotten more than just water from this project. It has helped me significantly improve my health."

Ananias Moyo, member of the Sifanjani Village community, Zimbabwe.

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