Climate/EnvironmentLatest

Chivi: from thick forests to dust, silted rivers and abandoned homes

  • as climate change wreaks havoc

NKULUMANI MLAMBO

CHIVI – While the name Chivi, when literally translated to English means ‘sin’, those who named the now arid district had no idea what it will turn out to be centuries on.

Chivi District, especially ward 2 and 5 in Masvingo Province, now resembles a desert. The rivers are heavily silted compromising the water security in the district.

Although sand poachers tried to get their share of the climatic change spoils, they also left after they failed to exhaust it.

This came out in an investigative story made possible through partnership with the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe and Friedrich Naumann Foundation.

“We have invited companies like, ZADA Bricks, Unity Quarry and Chifen Bricks to help us scoop the sand that is affecting the Huruva Dam, and the rivers that supply water to the dam, but they left after just two months.

“They said it is too far from Masvingo, where they make their bricks and build houses, hence uneconomic.

“We are left with mounds of sand blocking the free flow of the little water that we get during the rain season,” said Ward 5 councillor, Grace Mukungunugwa.

Mukungunugwa said the sand problem is being exacerbated by the fact that the area has no vegetation to help in restricting runoff during the rainy season. This follows years of poor farming methods and uncontrolled cutting down of trees.

The problem has been occurring since independence.

“Chivi District has always been a dry area receiving below to normal rainfall, but the situation became worse after Independence as villagers changed their farming methods,” said 61-year-old ward 5 villager Edmore Mamunda, who was born and bred in the arid district.

“We used to have contours on all the fields, but famers have stopped the practice, either deliberately or out of ignorance leading to serious siltation worsening an already bad situation in Chivi District.”

The district has small holder farms which used to be forested, but are now bare due to wood poaching and poor farming methods.

All the dams in the four surrounding communal small holder farms commonly referred to as, KwaMukomana, KwaMutabheni, KwaHuruva and KwaMuzira whose original owners are all late have dried up.

“Farms like number 5 (KwaHuruva) used to have thick forests until the eighties when we won Independence. Some farm owners started parceling out farm lands for a fee resulting in the degradation of the soil and random cutting down of trees for sale and firewood to people from outside the area.

“Some started settling people in the small holder farms and tree cutting started at unbelievable levels coupled with poor rains, until the situation became worse,” said Eggness Machuve a single mother in her late 40s from Gondo Village.

Machuve was born and bred in the area.

A survey in ward 2 and 5 in Chivi reveals that many villagers are deserting their homes.

This reporter observed that one in five homesteads ae deserted, with people living in search of greener pastures in areas such as Mashava Mindamirefu, Gokwe, Hurungwe, Mazowe and Sanyati.

The migration started in the 1980s and is continuing, according to ward 2 councillor, Sanders Magwizi, who has been a councillor since 1980.

He is the longest serving councillor in the country.

“Some people left from the late 80s when signs of siltation and drought began to be visible,” said Magwizi.

“We have fields that have been lying fallow since 1990 because no one wants to take up farming in the areas and the houses left behind are now resemble ghost houses.

“Most villagers stared going to minda murefu in Mashava from Musorogomo, Mugwere, Ndhluvu, Maramba just to mention a few villages.”

He said the land reform programme, which started in 2000, also opened doors for many people to leave for greener pastures.

“Soon after the land reform program started, floodgates opened, most left for the new farms in droves and the population has drastically gone down as well as the quality of life,” Magwizi said.

“Schools have not been spared as those who left, left with their school going children, reducing enrolment at local schools

“As Africans we find it difficult to just leave our ancestral homes no matter the challenges being faced, but the young ones who should be driving the local economy do not care, they are leaving for greener pastures, either to urban areas or resettlement areas where there are job opportunities and better yields.

“Some are leaving for as far as South Africa and this has its own unintended consequences especially for married couples,” added Magwizi.

Mukungunugwa at one time wrote a letter to the Provincial Education Director calling for action to improve the situation at Chamasvinga Secondary School in order to retain teachers as parents were transferring their children in numbers due to lack of development at the school.

Norman Shoko who relocated from Huruva Village to Mapanzure in the Midlands Province in 1996 said he left because he could not endure hunger because of successive droughts, yet he had the will to work and farming knowhow.

“I tried a number of maize varieties from short term to traditional grains but ndaingopedzisira ndoshuzha (I ended up getting handouts from others).  So, I decided to migrate to Mapanzure where the rainfall pattern is much better,” he said.

“The soil in Chivi is now beyond redemption, its only good for building houses and maybe roads, but not for farming. People did not listen to extension workers to practice good farming methods resulting in siltation.”

Huruva Dam, which services over 30 villages, does not have capacity to accommodate all villagers desiring to do communal gardening.

The dam water is now reserved for domestic animals and home use.

A dam in Mugwere Village in ward 2 is dry. Gudhe Dam in ward 5 is also dry, Huruva Dam left to service the vast two wards.

“We have since restricted the use of the dam as it is over used, we now allow animals only and a few gardens downstream so that it does not dry up quickly,” said a distraught Martin Muzira, who is the Huruva village head.

“Every year we witness children drowning in the dam trying to catch fish for domestic consumption and we are appealing to donors to help us fence off the dam which is the only source of water available for over 30 villages in the area as most water bodies dried up a long time ago.”

A retired Agritex official who declined to be named for professional reasons said some of the dams in Ward 5 and 2 dried up due to siltation.

He said some dams had outlived their 40-year lifespan citing a dam at Farm number 5 in Jenya, Mugwere Village and Gudhe Village.

“These dams need to be desilted and the upstream farmers need to change their farming methods to reduce sand being washed into the dams,” he said.

“The other cause of migration from the two wards is poor farming methods practiced by villagers and random cutting down of trees.

“The poor farming methods led to serious land degradation and climate change. The cutting down of trees without replacement led to the disappearing of the thick forests in Farm 5 Jenya and the other three nearby farms.

“This also contributed to climate change hence families ended up leaving the area for greener pastures,” he said.

He also said drought in Chivi is being recorded more frequently than before due to serious climate change,

“We used to experience drought once in 10 years, but that has since changed to four years of drought and one year of above normal rainfall,” he said.

Census results also show population figures going down in ward 2 and 5, although the population grew in the district.

In the 2012 census there were 8 892 people in ward 2 compared to 6 061 recorded in the 2022.

In ward 5 there were 6 559 people in 2012, but the number has gone down to 4 093 according to 2022 census.

This is despite the district recording an increase in population from 166 277 in 2012 to 208 160 in 2022.

“It is clear that due mainly to climate change people are migrating from the two wards and this is also supported by the delimitation results where ward 5 was decimated,” said retired teacher Samson Gwenda from Gudhe Village, who stays near the Bulawayo-Masvingo Highway.

“It was moved to the area across the Bulawayo Road. Some households were incorporated in ward 2 and others to ward 6 due to few numbers in ward 5 where they voted in.

“These are the effects of climate change at local level, we saw this happening, but I never thought it would come to this. When one takes a drive from Chitowa Business Centre to Mandamabwe Township there not less than 10 households that have been left to collapse by their original owners despite being situated near the main road. There is also a dam by the side, which has unfortunately dried up due to siltation.”

There are also strong possibilities of Sukwe Primary and Chamasvinga Secondary closing down in the not so distant future due to lack of learners as parents are migrating or relocating their children to better schools.

In the 1980s Sukwe Primary used to have an enrolment of over 900 pupils but that has gone down to less than 200, threatening the viability of the school which played as a feeder to Mudadisi, Masunda and Madamombe high schools.

Chamasvinga Secondary School had an enrolment of over 400 when it opened its doors in the early 2000s, but the situation is deplorable as there are less than 100 learners at the once prestigious school, which had brought relief to many learners who were walking for over 8km to the nearest secondary school.

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