Thanks to the water, we can support our families, says Margarita Losse Dzogo. The village where she lives is part of the Sida-funded Pungwe programme, which focuses on improving the management of water from the river Pungwe.
The little village of Nhamburo lies at the foot of the Serra Choa mountain, and here tomato plants and leafy plants lay in beautifully neat rows, divided into identical squares. Water runs between them in small channels and the red soil is permanently moist. Margarita Losse Dzogo deftly tills the soil between the plants with the use of a hoe. She is 39 years old and has always lived on and cultivated the land here in Nhamburo. Margarita has eight children.
“This water is extremely important for us as farmers. We have both cabbage and tomatoes. Everyone sells so that their family has an income,” she says, gesturing towards the irrigation channels.
Since a few years ago, the village has had access to the irrigation system through the Pungwe programme, which is supported by Sida and which focuses on improving management of the water resources from the Pungwe River. The water is vital for approximately one million people who live alongside the river which runs through Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The water is used for irrigation, both for small and medium-scale agriculture and large agricultural industries. The river is often the only water source; those living along its banks bathe and wash their clothes in it. Monitoring the volume of the water in order to predict floods and drought is crucial, both for the security of those who live by the river and in order to adapt the agriculture so as to maximize the harvests and not lose the planted seeds.
In Margarita's village, it was difficult to source sufficient water. There were often conflicts with the villages which were located closer to the river and used up the resources. Through the Pungwe programme Margarita and her neighbours, who have formed a cooperative association, gained access to a new irrigation system and training in the improvement of farming methods in order to increase crop yield. The association has now also divided up fields into several allotments, one for every family. Everyone is responsible for their own bit of land, but the water which flows through the small channels is shared.
“We sell our produce and can see an increased financial gain. If we didn't see any financial gain we would have given this up a long time ago,” she says.
But Margarita is not satisfied. She speaks passionately, on behalf of the association, saying that promises must be kept. In the context of the programme, discussions have concerned further improvement of the irrigation system by means of leading it through concrete pipes so that less of the water evaporates or is absorbed by the soil on the way.
“I have hope for the future. I have waited a long time for this,” she says.