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Diving into Water Harvesting

As a result of climate change, Zimbabwe has been experiencing low rainfall year after year. Greater understanding of methods to harness water within the environment are needed by the majority of smale scale subsistence farmers across our country and ourselves as a village. Kufunda Village is therefore wanting to collaborate with Mr Zephaniah Phiri, a recognised pioneer of keeping water in the landscape.

Zephaniah Phiri has pioneered water harvesting in one of the driest regions of Zimbabwe. Mr Phiri has spent more than fifty years exploring the potential of water harvesting in the very dry region of Zvishavane, Zimbabwe. He has achieved international recognition for his work, and last year the Phiri Award was established in his name.

Despite living in one of the driest regions in Zimbabwe he has been able to grow a diversity of crops even in times of drought. His water harvesting work has completely changed the land on which he lives, from barren dry veld to being full of vegetation, and with water throughout the year. Mr Phiri is a charismatic teacher and thousands have people have visited his farm since he started developing his unique techniques in the 1960's.

Nevertheless most people in Zimbabwe have not heard of Mr Phiri and his revolutionary techniques. Members of Kufunda visited Mr Phiri at his home last year and were inspired by his methods of harnessing water in the landscape.

A project to demonstrate and share Mr Phiri's principles at Kufunda Village

The idea developed to bring Mr Phiri to Kufunda so that he could educate village members and youths from different communities of Zimbabwe and help them to construct a demonstration plot at Kufunda for students and other visitors. Mr Phiri's own vision is to turn his land into a learning school. We hope that the development of a plot at Kufunda will play a small part in this dream by introducing more people to his work. We are also looking to bring innovative tried and tested water harvesting techniques to the attention of more small scale subsistence farmers and community leaders in Zimbabwe.

Kufunda Learning Village is visited by well over 500 people every year to take part in a range of activites. Most of these visitors are involved in some form of community development, so they are ideal candidates for spreading awareness far and wide. In one week this March there were nearly 200 people visiting us! So our demonstration plot will bring Mr Phiri's sustainable ideas to so many more people.

Each year the twenty participants on our Sustainable Leadership Course will have an opportunity to spend time getting really involved in the project and to learn techniques to take home to their community after their six months with us.

We can't wait to have this chance to tell more people about these life enhancing ways of caring for our land. We hope to make the project sustainable in the longer term by involving participants on our courses help us with the up-keep of the site. We will also have two trained members of our community on hand to help with any adjustments that are needed.

Those who have not met Mr Phiri would find it difficult to imagine the integrity and charisma of this inspirational figure, while those who have met him never forget him. You can read more of Mr Phiri's work here.

Mr Phiri is now an elderly man, with reduced mobility and impaired eyesight. This makes it vital that we move forward on this project while he is still able to visit the site at Kufunda and to meet with members of the community. We hope to collaborate with members of the Muonde Trust in the initial design of the site as they have spent a long time studying his techniques and have already established plots to harvest water. They will give support to members of Kufunda during this project.

Kufunda's Water Harvesting Project

​​Phase 1 – Visit to Mr Phiri

Fidelis, Admire and Thomas from Kufunda visited Mr Phiri’s plot in Autumn 2014. This was during the dry period of the year in Zimbabwe so although they were impressed by the way that the land was taken care of, and saw evidence of water retention they would like to return to see how things are after the yearly rains and learn more. Fidelis and Admire will spend an experiential training week boarding with Mr Phiri on his land for this purpose.


Phase 2 – Youth Training and Establishment of Demonstration Plot

Mr Phiri has been invited to take part in the next Communiversity Programme which commences in June 2015. He will travel to Kufunda and spend a week meeting with residents and youths to explain his methods, detail his experiences and design a plot to demonstrate his techniques. As Mr Phiri is now in his late 80s he will be accompanied by at least one representative from Muonde Trust, and a family member to live with him.

During Mr Phiri’s visit to Kufunda we would like to invite others to come and join with the team to help develop the plot. If we are successful in this we will invite them to contribute towards some of the costs of the project.

Phase 3 - Long Term Sustainability and Promotion

The Communiversity Programme runs yearly. Each year participants will learn about Water Harvesting by observing and developing the water harvesting plot, so that students have practical experience they can take home to use in their own communities.

Members of Kufunda will develop a range of educational materials and publicity to raise awareness of water harvesting techniques. We would also like to make a short film to document the project which can feature on our website and be used as an educational resource. We will investigate possibilities to run short term courses each year where small scale farmers can visit and learn from Mr Phiri’s

Demonstration Plot.

Mr Phiri’s rainwater harvesting system is a living and adapting system – not just a simple set of techniques that can be quickly installed and need only basic maintenance. It will become part of the yearly role of the Kufunda team to study the system and make small but crucial adjustments so that water flows properly through it. It will also take five years to a decade to fully establish. We recognize that there may be a need to develop a further training stage to this project, where either Kufundees will return to Mr Phiri to further their understanding of the system, or they will invite members of the Muonde Trust to the site to advise. Further funding will be sought in the future if this is necessary.

Background: Kufunda Learning Village and the Communiversity Programme

Kufunda Learning Village was established in 2002 with the intention of building a vibrant and sustainable community which could motivate others to develop positive projects in their communities as well as discover their talents and strengths. The care and nuture of the natural environment is central to this vision. Kufunda runs training programmes throughout the year with a particular focus on youth empowerment. The Communiversity Leadership Programme is a six month residential programme that brings young leaders from diverse backgrounds together to see how they can bring change within themselves and their community. Participants learn a range of new skills from Permaculture and animal husbandry, to herbs and healing as well as leadership, facilitation and project management.

Photos 1 & 2 courtesy of Muonde Trust.

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