Since pre-colonial times, agriculture has always been one of the pillars of the economy and in the past few years, the link between economic performance and agricultural productivity has grown in leaps and bounds.
Indeed, nothing captures the position of agriculture as an indisputable determinant of socio-economic transformation better than the old adage that:“when agriculture catches a cold the economy sneezes”.
Unfortunately however, the position of agriculture as the mainstay of the economy has of late come under threat from changing weather patterns which have seen the wet season becoming shorter while the dry seasons have become much longer. To make matters worse, the short wet season is characterised by below normal rainfall in a number of areas in the country.
Against such a background, it has become more imperative especially for the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) to intensify the implementation of water resources development initiatives so as to strengthen the country’s capacity to maintain agricultural sustainability.
Despite a myriad of economic drawbacks, the Authority has remained faithful to its principal function of planning, developing and managing the country’s water resources as encapsulated in the Water Act (Chapter 20:24)
As a Government agency, ZINWA has overseen the successful completion of a number of water resources projects and the Authority continues to appeal for funding so that many other planned projects such as the Kunzvi – Musami Dam, Lubongo Dam, Muda – Nyatsime Dam etc can take off.
The recently commissioned MtshabeziPipilene, which is set to augment raw water supply to the City of Bulawayo, bears testimony to the Authority’s commitment to guarantee water security. Furthermore, rehabilitation of water infrastructure in Nyamandhlovu, Mvurwi, Mutoko, Hwange and many other areas is currently underway although progress has slowed down due to funding constraints.
Sadly, the situation has been made even more difficult by the reluctance of farmers, local authorities, government departments, industry and ordinary individuals to honour their water debts.
The Authority has always been committed to improving agricultural productivity as thousands of farmers currently rely on ZINWA managed dams to sustain their irrigation activities.
However, it has to be noted that sustainable agriculture is not going to be achieved simply because ZINWA is committed to plan, develop and manage the country’s water resources. In fact, the success of agriculture is now more dependent on the extent of stakeholder involvement in water resources development as well as the preparedness of water users to honour their debts.
Such users include farmers, local authorities, industry, government departments as well as ordinary members of the public.
While the constitutional responsibility to manage the country’s water resources falls under ZINWA’s armpit, it is paramount to acknowledge the integral role and value of stakeholder participation in water resources development.
Until irrigating farmers, local authorities, industry and other water users unequivocally commit themselves to honour their water debts, it will always be a difficult task to alleviate effects of climate change, increase agricultural productivity and guarantee water security.
Sadly, despite the fact that the Water Act provides explicit parameters along which water utilisation should take place, illegal water utilisation, especially by irrigation farmers continues to strain ZINWA’s operations.
The Water Act obligates irrigation farmers to acquire water permits or sign water abstraction agreements with ZINWA before engaging in any irrigation activities and also to pay for irrigation water. Any utilisation of water that is not provided for in the Water Act is therefore illegal and it is important to highlight that agricultural revitalisation is going to be difficult to achieve as long as illegal water utilisation is rife.
Local authorities who abstract raw water from ZINWA managed dams for onward treatment and reticulation also have an obligation to contribute towards the dream of guaranteeing water security by ensuring that they service their raw water debts.
If we are serious about guaranteeing water security and ensuring that water is more accessible, then we have to change our attitude and put as much emphasis on servicing water debts as we do with other not-so-essential services.
Ultimately, just as much as it is impractical to talk about enhancing agricultural productivity while negating water resources development, so is it impossible to talk about human life minus water.
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