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In perched rural Matabeleland North, renewable energy is vital




Under partly cloudy skies, Lydia Mlilo, 56, fetches water from a communal tap in the sparsely populated village of Singeni.


Any clouds are unusual in winter in this semi-arid land with nothing but teak forests, and to Mlilo they are not a sign of rain.

The water in this Nkayi district village in Matebeleland North province, 168km northeast of Zimbabwe’s second-largest city of Bulawayo, is pumped from underground using solar energy and stored in huge tanks.

It is then carried by pipeline in the village, supplying water to villagers as well as a nearby school.


Mlilo uses this water for all her domestic needs.

The mother of six still recalls the predicament of not having clean and safe water in the 2000s and early 2010s.

“It used to rain [so] that I could get water in the wells at my household, but that changed almost two decades back,” Mlilo said.


“The water tables are now so low that we cannot even access water. We used to get water at about 12m, but now maybe at more than 50m.

“I had to fetch water from open wells on the shores of a nearby river.

“It was dirty but we had no choice, we had to drink it. We could, however, get stranded in summer when the river runs dry.”


German charity Welthungerhilfe installed solar stations in Mlilo’s village and the village of Ngabayide as part of its Matabeleland Enhanced Livelihoods Agriculture and Nutrition Adaptation (Melana) project, which is running in four districts in Matabeleland.

The project started in 2016 and ends in 2022, and is part of the wider Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund (ZRBF) programme.

These water sources benefit more than 350 households, as well as the owners of more than 4 000 head of cattle, who use them for drinking water and to dip their livestock, according to ZRBF-Melana project head Kudzai Nyengerai.


Singeni village head Nathaniel Ncube (66), says there were outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid in the village in the early 2010s.

“Most of the households do not have toilets. Open defecation is common here,” Ncube said.

“With water being a menace in the village, we lost a number of our villagers from the outbreak of diseases.”


Mlilo is a smallholder who grows drought-resilient crops such as millet and sorghum.

She also rears cattle and has 10 that she dips at a community dip tank. They drink water there, too.

Villagers in Nkayi district are limited in terms of how they can earn a living because climate change has made agriculture unviable.


Some survive on remittances from the diaspora, as family members were forced to cross the border to neighbouring South Africa or Botswana to search for work during Zimbabwe’s economic crisis in the mid to late 2000s.

The roads are rugged and the villages difficult to access.

There is a lack of infrastructure such as electricity, internet, television and radio signals.


Rachel Dube (29), from Singeni village, says she did not believe it was possible for a community deep in the thick forests to have a tap.

“I thought tap water was only for people in the cities,” Dube said.

“ I did not know it was possible for us. This solar technology has done wonders.”


The mother of three says she can now practise the maximum levels of hygiene recommended by nurses when looking after her children.

Nyengerai said the solar stations ensure that villagers have a perennial source of water.

“The two communities in question here have since established nutrition gardens. Even the nearby schools have benefitted by establishing their own gardens, and issues like livestock poverty deaths and time poverty have been reduced.”


Sukokuhle Khabo, 30, from Indibe village in Gwanda, is among the 2 100 households that benefit from the solar-powered irrigation schemes in this district in Matabeleland South province.

“I am growing onions, tomatoes and carrots for family consumption as well as for sale in Gwanda town and Bulawayo. We have been using the flash irrigation method to water the garden but we have since changed to drip irrigation, which saves water,” she says.

The mother of three says she uses the proceeds from her garden to buy other essentials for her family and pay her children’s school fees.


Like Nkayi, the Gwanda district is semi-arid and poorly developed.

“Drip irrigation has less labour and is critical in conserving water,” says smallholder Musa Moyo (75) from Indibe.

“Drip irrigation uses less water on a large piece of land. We rotate our crops [and use] mulch to conserve the much-needed water.”


Melody Makumbe is the project coordinator for Resilience Enhanced through Agricultural Productivity, run by development agency Practical Action.

“We use green energy to pump water as [opposed] to dirty fuels,” Makumbe said.

“ We facilitate access to markets, increasing access to finance, rehabilitation and support with infrastructure for irrigation as well as capacity-building for management structures of the irrigation schemes.”


In Nkayi, residents have established asset management committees that oversee any operational or maintenance issues with the solar stations.

Nyengerai says villagers have set up a revolving fund to pay for any issues that arise with the equipment.

“Singeni village went on to have fundraising initiatives that fund the maintenance of the scheme, for instance, cattle sales.


“These two projects have been run by the community since 2018 without any problem,” she added.

Mlilo hopes the initiative will expand to support other schools nearby.“Some schools in this village do not have clean and safe water,” she said.

“We are not yet safe from outbreaks if some nearby places such as schools have no water.” – New Frame


This story was published with the support of the British Council as part of COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

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Chinese-funded power plant expansion project in Zimbabwe set for commissioning





Zimbabwean Energy and Power Development Minister Soda Zhemu said here on Monday that prolonged power cuts are “now a thing of the past” in Zimbabwe following the completion of Hwange Thermal Power Station Unit 7 and 8 expansion project.

Chinese firm Sinohydro undertook the project, adding 600 MW to Hwange Thermal Power Station, the country’s largest coal-fired power plant.

The project will be commissioned by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday.

Zhemu said at a press conference that recent media reports predicting a return to prolonged power cuts after August were false, as Zimbabwe is now guaranteed adequate power supplies in the short-to-medium term.

He said Unit 7 is already feeding into the grid after the successful completion of tests in June and is now commercially available for operation. Unit 8 is also undergoing a similar test and is expected to be available commercially by August or September this year.

“So there is no way that we are going back to the past where we used to experience long hours of load shedding,” Zhemu added.

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Five die in Binga traffic accident





A Stallion Cruise bus overturned in Binga on Sunday morning killing five passengers on board, police have revealed.

According to witnesses, the bus which was travelling to Bulawayo was reportedly speeding when the accident happened.

National police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the bus overturned and landed on its roof in the Sikalenge area between Siabuwa and Binga centre.

“The ZRP confirms a fatal road traffic accident which occurred on 16/07/23 in the morning near Masumo Bridge, Samende area, Binga in which a Stallion Cruise bus travelling from Siabuwa to Binga overturned,” Nyathi said.

“The ZRP confirms that five people were killed whilst the number of injured is yet to be ascertained.”

The bus reportedly veered off the road at a sharp curve near the Masumu River bridge at around 7AM.

The accident comes barely a week after the same bus caught fire in Mutare on July 11 and all passengers escaped unharmed.

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Zimbabwe declares its own load shedding over, but locals are sceptical





Zimbabwe’s government on Tuesday announced a sudden end of blackouts that have crippled businesses and left millions of households without electricity for up to 19 hours a day.

The information ministry said a cabinet meeting had “noted with satisfaction” that the power utility “has announced the end to load shedding as a result of the interventions implemented” by the government.

The statement did not give details of the steps taken to end the load shedding.

The southern African country has for years been reeling under severe power shortages.

They worsened late last year when the main electricity supply, a hydro plant at the giant Kariba Dam in the north, suffered very low water levels caused by recurring droughts.

In March the power utility company said it had launched a new 300MW coal-fired unit with Chinese finance in a bid to ease repeated power outages.

But Zimbabweans greeted the news of the end of outages with scepticism, as some said they were sitting in the dark as the announcement was made.

One Zimbabwean @sammie541 tweeted “funny (be)cause we actually don’t have…(electricity) now”, adding her Harare neighbourhood had been without power since Monday.

Other Zimbabweans questioned on Twitter if the announcement was not strategically timed ahead of national elections due next month.

The country goes to the polls on August 23 to elect a president and legislature.

Eighty-year-old President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who replaced strongman ruler Robert Mugabe in 2017 after a military-led coup, is seeking re-election.

But he faces a disaffected population that is battling hyperinflation, poverty and high unemployment.

Official figures placed inflation at 175.8% in June, up from 86.5% in May, but Johns Hopkins University professor of applied economics Steve Hanke believes real inflation in Zimbabwe is more than 1 000%.




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