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Building dams in the hot sun

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This is a text-only version of an article first published on Monday, 10 June 2013. Information shown on this page may no longer be current.

As the UK attempts to recover from the devastating effects of flooding and freezing temperatures, Thelma Ntini tells Jo Duckles how she is working hard to bring vital water supplies to rural areas of Zimbabwe where there has not been heavy rainfall in a decade.

Thelma met me while visiting the Oxford Diocese to raise awareness of the work she does for the Dabane Trust, a Christian Aid partner.

It was the first visit she had ever made to Europe, in the run up to Christian Aid week and she was excited to see a new part of the world.

She had been amazed to get off a plane and see our rivers full to the point of almost overflowing, in contrast to the arid areas she works in. Thelma (right) helps to provide sustainable water sources to poor communities.

She describes how 85 per cent of the people who use the water pumps the Dabane Trust installs are women and 40 per cent of those are widows, some with HIV and other chronic diseases. Thelma, a mother-of-four and grandmother of three, is fortunate in that she knows where her family members are.

Many mothers do not hear from their children when they leave to find work in neighbouring countries, for as long as five years.

Sometimes youngsters return sick with HIV or other diseases having been unable to find employment.

Similarly their husbands have left to find work elsewhere because of the state of the Zimbabwean economy. The Dabane Trust is based in Balawayo, the second largest town in Zimbabwe and from there reaches out to rural communities.

"We attend district council meetings and explain what we can offer.

If allowed entry into the district we go to the sub-divisions of those districts where there is the greatest need for food and for water and do feasibility surveys with the local community. "She said the Trust will go through discussions with local governments and other stakeholders and Ministries within the areas, particularly the Ministry of Agriculture. "We will use bore holes if there are no river systems and will construct dams if there are rivers.

We used to construct surface dams but with those a large percentage of water will be lost through evaporation.

With sand dams water is stored within the sand.

You dig a deep trench, right down to the bedrock, pour concrete into it and trap water in the sand. "The Dabane Trust is researching the most useful types of water pumps for the communities it works with.

"We are not into engines.

They need a high level of technical maintenance.

We use small, manual hand pumps, recycled plastic pumps fitted into the sand that syphon water from the sand to where it is needed. Thelma, a former teacher is married to an agriculturalist and says she loves to see things grow.

"If you are growing your own crops you have food for your family.

In our culture it is the women that see to it that there is food on the table.

This job means I can help enable the women that I work with to provide that food. "She said that aid, while necessary in emergencies, is not the answer in areas where people can be enabled to manage a situation and become more resilient.

"Some women have graduated from providing food for their families and now have surplus to sell to neighbours or take into town to get a higher price and improve their kitchens, buying pots and pans or even constructing new huts as their families get bigger. "I enjoy this because teaching in a primary school, you tell the children that two and two make four, whereas with this work, you discuss issues from both sides with adults and come up with a solution together. "When asked how Christians in the Oxford Diocese can support her work, Thelma said: "Christian Aid has been supporting the Dabane Trust since 1998.

By supporting Christian Aid, some of the funds you donate are given to us.

We would also really ask that you would pray for encouragement. "The drought is not anything we can control.

Please pray for the climate conditions in our country.

The other challenge, as men and young people leave to look for work in other countries, and find it difficult when they get there, is for our economy. "Please pray for us as a nation.

Our economy went down and our industry collapsed.

Please pray for our economy so that people can come back home. "

Page last updated: Monday 10th June 2013 12:00 AM
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