Where there is water, there is life

The impact of water and rural infrastructure rehabilitation in Mozambique.

By Magali Marguet and Mawira Chitima

Yumma used to walk 3km, five times a day, to the nearest Limpopo river to fetch about 125 liters of water for her family. Normally, the five 25 liters containers needed per day were transported on Yumma head one by one, but over the last two years, her life has changed completely. Thanks to her community’s new multifunctional borehole, this morning she watered her family garden and later she will work with the other women of the village at their art and craft group.

Yumma, 40, lives in Matxinguetxingue, a semi-arid region in the Gaza province of southern Mozambique. It’s a small village of 89 households that depends on the subsistence farming of cattle and goats. She has four children and her eldest son helps tend the animals. Like most men in the community, her husband is a migrant worker in South Africa.

For years, growing vegetables to supplement the family diet was only possible in the wetlands 5 km from the village. But life for Yumma and her neighbours has changed radically. A borehole with 81 meters underground and a solar-powered pump is now supplying the village with up to 18,000 liters of fresh and clean water a day. The system has five water points: two for domestic water supply, one for family gardens, one for clothes washing and one the village’s animals. The community and its Water User Association (WUA) has been empowered. 
It all started with the idea of upgrading the borehole and constructing new water points to increase the community's resilience to drought, to manage water sources more effectively and to supply it to the animals’ drinking troughs. In 2012, the IFAD-funded Pro-poor value chain development project in the Maputo and Limpopo Corridors (PROSUL) was set up to address climate resilience, land tenure security and gender equity. The project effectively started three years later, encompassing horticulture, cassava and red meat value chain development, with the construction and rehabilitation of hydro-regulators in irrigation schemes. Other interventions include: the construction of multifunctional boreholes, shade clothes for year round horticulture production and the establishment of cattle fairs.
Being the animal husbandry activity the main source for income generation for almost all the household in Matxinguechingue village, the water supply reliability, and availability for cattle is seen by the beneficiaries as a boost to increase red meat production and hence increase the local community well-being.

Yumma's case illustrates the benefits gained with the upgrading of the Matxinguetxingue borehole. With the upgrading of the borehole, Yumma and other women are able to save some time which is used to generate new income from arts and crafts, but the advantages go far beyond this. Access to a reliable supply of water is priceless, as is the reduced gruelling labour for women and young girls and the corresponding increase in health and lifespan.

The rehabilitation of the Matxinguetxingue borehole also highlights the link between domestic and commercial water supply. Rural infrastructure interventions like this can have major implications on smallholder livelihoods, land management and resilience to climate change.

In fact, the situation has changed very quickly and positively in the districts covered by the PROSUL. The project has been such a success that the demand for similar borehole stations has increased. From the 14 achieved so far, it has now been significantly extended with a further 28 due to scaling-up. In the local currency, that will represent a total cost of 3.7 million Metical (USD 52.857,14) – approximately $105 per person, taking the example of the number of people and cattle in Matxinguetxingue.
A water through for cattle drinking in Matxinguetxingue
The PROSUL project is now at half-way of its implementation and itis already clear that its success must be evaluated from a wider perspective. Water and rural infrastructure interventions have significant impact on people’s livelihoods, their health and their resilience to climate change. And on a very personal level, for people like Yumma, it really is life-changing.

Mozambique - Pro-poor value chain development project in the Maputo and Limpopo Corridors (PROSUL) mid-term review mission – December 2016