THE Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) has cut off defaulting commercial farmers in the Middle Sabi region of Manicaland province.
By Herbert Moyo
After an outcry from farmers over high water costs last year, the government ordered the authority to reduce the price of bulk raw water for agriculture and local authorities to enhance agricultural productivity.
However, this has not helped matters in the Middle Sabi as sources within Zinwa told the Zimbabwe Independent commercial farmers who include Chipinge South legislator Enock Porusingazi were not accessing water from the water authority’s Middle Sabi pump station after failing to pay.
“They have not serviced their bills,” said a source who added “this is a huge blow to efforts to increase productivity and mitigate the food security problems currently facing the country”.
Porusingazi confirmed the stand-off on Wednesday, accusing Zinwa of overcharging farmers through their “obsolete billing equipment inherited from the 1970s”.
“They have no proper gadgets to measure the usage of water and they end up presenting us with highly inflated estimates. It’s not only me but many other farmers are also in dispute with them (Zinwa),” said Porusingazi adding: “They charge as much as US$100 per mega-litre of water and we are saying this is not sustainable.”
A fortnight ago, the Independent visited the Zinwa pump station in the Middle Sabi and found only five out of the nine pumps working, pumping water through a canal from the Save River which ironically flows through the farms with farmers not accessing the water.
However, Zinwa sources at Harare offices said the five pumps were adequate for water requirements in the area because it is only ethanol-producing Green Fuel which is accessing water for its vast sugar cane plantations.
“There is currently no need to repair the other pumps because the five are meeting demand by Green Fuel,” said the source who added that “apart from Green Fuel the rest of the water is simply flowing back to the Indian Ocean because Zinwa will not allow the A2 farmers to use it for free.”
The Middle Sabi is an extremely arid area and as a result most farmers grow sugar cane and cotton which are more drought resistant. Efforts to obtain comment from Zinwa were fruitless as their phones went unanswered. Since its establishment through an act of parliament in 1998, Zinwa has struggled with farmers, local authorities and the general public who are unwilling to pay for the water, in addition to deteriorating infrastructure and limited financial support from central government.