Published in September 2022

In the Sifanjani community in Zimbabwe, people have faced great challenges with water scarcity that have sometimes driven them apart. We spoke with local farmer, Varies Banda to find out how the community has responded to these challenges by coming together since beginning their sand dam project, and what impact this has had on her life as well as the lives of her children.

Varies Banda, a 41-year-old mother to two young girls, is a member of the Sifanjani village community in Zimbabwe. She remembers a time when she dug for water on the sandy riverbed that now feeds into the Nathi sand dam, which was recently constructed by the community. Like her, many within the Sifanjani village used to face the daily choice to either walk for seven kilometers to the nearest water point for only one or two buckets of clean water, or instead dig small scoop wells closer to home that would yield contaminated water.

Varies explained the difficulty of this choice to us.

Varies Banda with her crops - Zimbabwe"Most women chose to dig wells along the river because of the many duties that would be awaiting them at home. Walking for long distances to fetch water would mean leaving our homes and children several times a day for long periods."

Varies Banda, member of the Sifanjani community, Zimbabwe.

According to Varies, the daily struggle for water led to divisions between people in the village as community members scrambled for the little water that was available. She recalls a time when one of her goats was attacked by another community member and severely injured, after it tried to drink from one of the scoop wells that they had dug for their own livestock.

When Dabane came to Sifanjani village and the construction of the Nathi sand dam began, the community members were ready to work but were hindered by the distrust created by prior water disputes, affecting productivity and teamwork.

"People had a desire to work, but they were just not ready to work together at first." explained Varies.

As the sand dam construction project began, leadership training was made available to all community members, who then gradually started working together more closely. What they intended to achieve as a group with the help of Dabane started becoming a clearer goal in the minds of the community.

Varies tells us, "Before this sand dam was built, such teamwork was unheard of in this area. No one would water livestock for another person or even work with anyone on any water related issues. It was everyone for themselves".

As sand dam building activities progressed, the project participants also received training on health and hygiene. These training sessions further revived the community spirit in the area, as members formed health clubs which each had at least eight members involved. Varies was among the community members who were excited at the prospect of health clubs, as they helped her to transform her home

"Everything that you see on display in this kitchen was bought as a result of the health clubs, where I learnt the importance of having a clean kitchen and clean utensils." Varies said while pointing to her kitchen unit area.

As a result of the nearby availability of water, Varies has also set up a garden only 50 meters from the riverbed on which the Nathi sand dam lies. With the produce grown in this garden, Varies can ensure that her family is provided with a nutritious diet. Sometimes, she is now even able to give her neighbours some of her produce to eat, reflecting the renewed community spirit that has been witnessed since beginning their sand dam project. Varies tells us that having clean water close to home has been a life changing experience for the community and for her family.

Varies Banda in her kitchen - Zimbabwe"My children eat healthy. They do not have to eat the same type of meal every day and this makes me very happy."

Varies Banda, member of the Sifanjani community, Zimbabwe.

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