Rebuilding Stronger on Renewed Hope

“These same rocks which constantly remind us of that painful experience, are now the building blocks to build stronger structures”

Earth tremors, strong winds and heavy rains brought by Cyclone Idai destroyed community and household infrastructure such as roads, bridges, dip tanks, irrigation infrastructure and livestock pens, adversely affecting livelihoods.

In many parts of the of the affected areas, the cyclone also washed away the top productive layer of soil, exposing sub-surface rocks which have now redefined the landscape of the entire province.

Five months after Cyclone Idai, communities in Chimanimani and Chipinge are slowly, but collectively rebuilding their lives and infrastructure so they can begin earning a living.

Saving the remaining livestock from diseases

Muchira Livestock Dip Tank in the Rusitu Valley in Chimanimani caters for livestock from six surrounding villages. During the cyclone, its roof was blown away, walls collapsed and on-site toilets destroyed. The communities are at risk of losing the livestock they did not lose to the cyclone to disease if they are not dipped for disease causing pests.

Feasibility studies were conducted and rehabilitation of the dip tank started in July 2019. Using the rocks left exposed by the cyclone, they built stronger walls for the dip tank tank and toilets.

Rocks are being used to build back better and stronger

Some 80 km away, Chikore Dip Tank also suffered a similar fate during the cyclone. Unfortunately, this was a repeat of events as Cyclone Eline in the year 2000 had also destroyed the same dip tank.

“After Cyclone Eline, we re-constructed the dip tank using mud, cheap bricks and weak poles. This time, we are building it stronger with better building materials and cement, and bolstering it with windbreaks to withstand future cyclones.” — Margaret Nduku, Project Implementation Team Chairperson

14 villages risk losing over 900 cattle from tick-borne diseases if the dip tank is not rehabilitated.

Margaret Nduku, the Project Implementation Team Chairperson sits in front on the almost completed structure at Chikore Dip Tank.

Restoring productivity in irrigation schemes

Musirwizi Irrigation Scheme in Chipinge provides water for 75 households. Before the cyclone, each household who would get an average income of about $50 USD to supplement other livelihoods.

“When it finally stopped raining and we could get out, the water was up to this level (pointing at the midway point of a tree that is about 30 metres away from the edge of river). It was all submerged. We thought we had lost everything.” — Esnath Mawonde, Musirwizi Irrigation Scheme Chairperson

To their relief, when the water eventually subsided, it was mostly still intact. However they had lost all their crops, some irrigation canals had been damaged, an essential irrigation valve had been swept away and wide gulleys had formed. In addition, the dam had been silted, causing a reduction in the supply of water to fields.

Now the community at Musirwizi Irrigation scheme is working on desilting the dam and using the soil to fill up the gulleys.

More importantly, they have realised the need to prevent similar damage future disasters and are protecting this community asset by using rocks to build gabions to stop erosion and siltation.

In Chimanimani, Shinja Irrigation Scheme also experienced a similar extent of damage. The weir that supplies water was silted, causing reduction in supply to the farming fields. In addition, irrigation canals were damaged and toilets destroyed.

Unlike Musirwizi Irrigation Scheme which receives adequate rainfall, rainfall at Shinji is less consistent, making timely rehabilitation of this community asset an absolute imperative.

In all the rehabilitation efforts, the communities are conscious to build back better infrastructure to make it withstand natural disasters in the future.

UNDP Zimbabwe has partnered with Care Zimbabwe to work hand-in-hand with Cyclone Idai affected communities to rebuild lives and restore community infrastructure with particular focus on making it climate proof against future disasters.

UNDP has invested more than half a million dollars, targeting 50,000 households in eight districts to re-establish lives and livelihoods on a cash-for-work basis. The communities are also receiving support with some of the building material to build back better.