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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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France’s HDF Energy to develop Zimbabwe’s first hydrogen plant




Zimbabwe’s state-owned electricity distributor has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with French independent power producer HDF Energy (HDF.PA) to develop the southern African country’s first green hydrogen power plant, the companies said in a joint statement on Thursday.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa witnessed the signing of the MoU worth $300 million between the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) and HDF Energy, Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Information said on Twitter.

“The plant will produce green power 24/7 feeding into the grid… The annual electric production will be 178 GWh, providing electricity to more than 220,000 inhabitants,” the statement said, adding that it will be located in southeastern Chipinge district.

HDF said it expected to reach a financial close on the project and start construction in 2024-2025.

The signing of the MoU comes amid Zimbabwe’s bid to diversify its energy mix, following reduced power generation after a big drop in water levels in Lake Kariba.

“This is an encouraging milestone for ZETDC as it comes at a time when the government is encouraging the transition to renewable energy,” engineer John Diya, who was representing the distributor’s acting managing director, said.

Zimbabwe’s government has also set its sights on producing over 1,000 megawatts from solar energy to help narrow the severe energy deficit currently being experienced in the country-Reuters 

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Binga man brutally murders mother over witchcraft allegations





Kamativi police has arrested a 34 -year – old Binga man who axed his mother to death after accusing her of practicing witchcraft. 

Police in a statement confirmed arresting Sumayili Juma off Simbala Village in Binga for a crime that he committed on Tuesday. 

The accused allegedly struck his mother on the head and shoulders, killing her instantly at the family’s homestead. 

“Police in Kamativi have arrested Sumayili Juma (34) in connection with a case of murder which occurred on 21/03/23 at Kilima 19, Simbala Village, Binga,” police said. 

“The suspect struck his mother with an axe on both shoulders and head after accusing her of witchcraft.” 

Meanwhile on Sunday, police in Gwelutshena station in Nkayi arrested Prosper Ncube (33) for a murder case in which he allegedly struck Polite Hlabangani on the abdomen with a brick after a misunderstanding during a gambling game at Gwelutshena shopping centre on January 27. 

The victim died upon admission at Nkayi District Hospital and since then, the accused had been on the run. 

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Malawi floods disaster, Zimbabwean government steps in to offer aid





Zimbabwe has formed a Disaster Relief Committee to assist the government of Malawi following Cyclone Freddy storm that claimed over 400 and caused extensive damage to homes and social services infrastructure. 

The pledge,  at it’s final craft plans, was presided over by president Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday while Local Government and Public Works ministry was mandated to lead the lobby. 

In the aftermath of the storm, thousands of victims suffered injury and displacement, while the affected areas were rendered impassable. 

“In response to the appeal for assistance by Malawian President His Excellency Lazarus Chakwera to his fellow SADC Heads of State and Government, Cabinet has constituted a Disaster Relief Committee led by the Minister of Local Government and Public Works to draw up a comprehensive assistance package for disaster-stricken Malawi, ” post cabinet minutes read. 

“The Committee will liaise with the Government of Malawi on modalities for conveying the relief package.”

Cabinet directed that the mobilization of relief assistance should commence immediately and include 10 000 metric tonnes of mealie meal; cooking oil; blankets;  clothing; construction material for cabins; sanitisers, detergents, bath soaps, stationery and other learning materials.

“To widen the scope of donations to Malawi, the government is encouraging the private sector, national institutions and citizens to donate generously to this worthy cause.” 

According to the United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs, the devastating toll of the floods in Malawi has continued to rise, with at least 438 deaths reported, 918 people injured and 282 missing as of March 17.

The report says that nearly 345 200 people, almost half of them being children, were displaced and sheltered in over 500 camps across flood affected areas, where the risk of cholera in overcrowded camps is high. The Malawian government’ search and rescue operations have continued with more than 1,000 people evacuated by 17 March.

A report by the United Nations Satellite Centre indicated that in an area of 5,000 km² flood waters had increased by about 60km² between March 14 and 17.

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