56-year-old Sharon Sibanda is a single mother of four children and a grandmother of three from Patana village Ward 24 in Gwanda District, Southern part of Zimbabwe.
Raising a family of eight as a single mother has never been easy for her, she struggled to put food on the table and take care of her family’s daily needs. All she could and knew to do was faming however the planting seasons had not been generous and the changing climate made it worse.
“Before the solar water came in, we depended on rain fed agriculture and it was difficult, we would plough and plant expecting the rains but the rain would not come, our crops would get burnt”
In an effort to supplement for the failed crops in the field, the irrigation scheme which Sharon is a part of had been heavily reliant on diesel engines for water pumping however this was not without
“We used to have six diesel engines but all are no longer working, they died. It was difficult and expen- sive for us with the income we get to maintain and pay for the repairs”
Without reliable access to water for irrigation both their dry land and irrigation plots suffered and were not able to produce a harvest. “Due to the changing climate, the rainfall became even more less reliable, we suffered from starvation, we survived on social welfare and food aid from donors” said Sharon.
Through the Sustainable Electricity for Rural Communities’ project, Practical Action in response to the food need in this community was able to install a solar power system which is now powering water into the irrigation canals.
“It had been 15 years since we left this irrigation scheme but now we are back, when the solar system was installed we had to clear ten hectares of land to open up the field for cultivation” said Sharon.
Where the 68 hectares of an irrigation Scheme used to be, had become a thick forest but now it has been cleared up. The solar water pumping system has been able to bring back the life and passion farmers of this community have in food production and
“This Solar system has helped us a lot, it is less Labour intensive and more reliable, the engines would break down often and where very expensive to fuel and maintain for us” said Sharon.
“While in the midst of our challenges, we have found joy, we now have something to look forward to, we now have food. We were at home doing nothing, but now having access to water has given us the strength and capacity we needed to produce food. My family is happy; we now have something to live on”. She said.