A transboundary water project is reinforcing the fight against food insecurity and poverty along the Komati River which flows through South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique.
The project, run by the Komati Basin Water Authority (KOBWA), has brought 66 families together on a collective agriculture project in the northern Hhohho region of Swaziland. KOBWA is an intergovernmental body established by South Africa and Swaziland in 1993 for the joint management of the river.
Sipho Nkambule, the executive director of the project, told IPS: 'KOBWA has established an important reservoir, 332 million cubic metres of water, which it is distributing to local communities to ensure sustainable and effective management of this scarce resource in this part of Africa thanks to the engagement of the governments of the two countries.'
According to Nkambule, the best way to do this was to relocate communities or families around shared agricultural projects. 'This has already allowed for the establishment of large-scale activities and benefits a larger number of people at once,' says Nkambule.
'We relocated from different villages within 50 kilometres of here to set ourselves up in the village of Nyonyane, thanks to this project, and work on production of 200 hectares of sugar cane and vegetables taking advantage of a shared irrigation point put in place by KOBWA,' Luke Kunene, Nyonyane's chief, told IPS.
'The acreage we're now cultivating collectively is equal to the combined area that the families cultivated individually in our villages before we were brought together in Nyonyane. And after covering operating expenses and a contribution to the functioning of the project, the benefits are distributed on a pro rata basis according to the sizes of each plot,' Kunene explained.
According to the chief, previously each member of the community had their individual farms. But these were not viable because of the small size of the plots, which were only large enough for subsistence agriculture. 'Now, we have a much larger project which brings us together and which generates revenue of between 4.5 and 5 million rand (750,000 dollars) each year.'
'For lack of water during most of the year, the ground is more and more dry,' says Henson Lukhele, a bus driver who lives in the area. 'This is the basis of food insecurity, since agricultural productivity has clearly fallen. The project has revived agriculture in this part of the country and restored resources to the families who live there, including mine.'
Lukhele is supportive of the project, and says that effective management of water is an enormous challenge in this part of the country which has become arid.
Environmental manager Sibongaye Mkhatshwa believes that in the context of climate change, the difficulties facing Swaziland are on two levels: access to water and the struggle against food insecurity and hunger. 'This project takes account of the current challenges and provides responses that can be felt in the daily lives of the residents of Nyonyane.'
Mkhatshwa told IPS: 'Water is truly a scarce resource in Swaziland. This means that all waste water should be routinely recycled, purified and redistributed. When one visits the northern part of the country, one realises that the drought is an attack on agriculture.'
He adds that KOBWA has built a 24-kilometre canal which serves the agricultural community of Nyonyane.
'The project has even enabled the construction of two primary schools and a secondary school for residents. But another challenge is that of access to potable water for the entire village. We have water for irrigation, but drinking water remains a rare commodity,' says Phillip Maduna, a Nyonyane resident.
South Africa and Swaziland have contributed 60 and 40 percent respectively to the setting up and ongoing functioning of the project, valued at around 238 million dollars. The project has benefited some 2,000 Swazis and 6,000 South Africans since 2002, in terms of jobs, students attending the new schools and residents of the new communities.
© Inter Press Service (2011) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service
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