The Pungwe Programme introduces environmentally friendly methods, for using the river water in a sustainable way.
Photo: Klas Palm
Pungwe River - a common water resource for millions of people
The water around Joao’s plastic tub in which he stirs the small and medium sized stones, becomes golden brown, almost red. Rinsing off the soil from the stones to extract gold is done in many water streams in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, where gold is in abundance. But the mud that is stirred through the panning process pollutes the river water that the neighbouring residents use for crop irrigation and washing clothes. In some parts of the rivers sediments settle out, which results in rivers and streams clogging up completely. This is the reason why Joao no longer stands in the river, but in a pond that has been constructed below the stone pit where the gold mine is situated. The water he uses does not flow back into the stream.
Joao pans for gold at the Pungwe River. Nowadays,
he and the other miners do it in a special pond to prevent
the dirty mud to destroy the river.
"I carry the crushed stone from the stone pit and pan it here in the pond. I don’t bring it to the river, because panning there makes the river dead, which is why I pan in the pond. There is a big difference from before, and the people living in the area are happy now, he says."
The 32-year-old Joao lives with his wife and three children near the Pungwe River in Munena, a village in northern Mozambique. He has been earning a living from gold panning for several years. Joao is a member of a local ”asociaçao”, a federation organising gold-washers in order to improve their conditions. The association also has representatives in a committee connected to a water administration programme, supported by Sweden – the Pungwe programme.
Since 2002, the programme has worked toward a better and more sustainable joint management of the Pungwe River for Zimbabwe and Mozambique together. The river flows through both countries and more than one million Mozambicans and Zimbabweans live along its shores. The water quality is vital for these people. Many of them use the river as their only source of water. It is also used for irrigation, in small and medium sized farming and in the agricultural industry.
Keeping a check on the amount of water to predict floods and drought, that’s crucial for the security of the residents living along the river and for the farmers to maximize their crops and not lose their seed. The soiling of the common watercourses, for example through gold panning in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, is one of the problems that the programme is aiming to resolve. Through the programme, gold-washers are trained in using the new technique and learning about its advantages.
"We now encourage others in the village to use the same method, not to pan in the river. I have received information and will transfer it to others, Joao says."
The Pungwe programme has encouraged the gold-washers to organise through associations. Using environmentally friendly methods benefits their status, both towards the public authorities as well as towards the residents living in the vicinity of the river.
"Through the association, I now have a more secure income at the end of every month, to support my family, he says and wipes his hands off the red-coloured Obama t-shirt, the colour probably being different originally."
He then leaves towards the mine shaft with his plastic tub full of crushed stone for further panning in a machine, where the gold is ultimately collected.
Facts about the Pungwee programme:
• An estimated number of 1.2 million people live along the Pungwe River, flowing through northern and eastern Zimbabwe and central Mozambique. A joint and sustainable management of the common water resources is a prerequisite for health, agriculture and the environment.
• The Pungwe programme is carried out by the regional institution Administração Regional de Águas do Centro in Mozambique and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority. The financial support comes from Sida and from the two countries.
• Between 2001 and 2007, Sida contributed with 30 million SEK to the programme. Sida has decided to finance a new phase of the programme, with a slightly changed focus. The support will amount to 117 million SEK, for five years until 2012.
• The programme has enabled the creation of systems to mitigate the effects of drought and floods, through better land and water use. The results also include better possibilities for expansion within agriculture and industry and better food safety as well reduction in conflicts between water users on national and bilateral level.