By Tafara Mugwara,
In southern Africa's Zimbabwe, the Chinese government through its foreign aid agency under the name of China Aid has sunk 1,000 boreholes across the country's six provinces to ease water challenges in mostly rural areas.
Construction and engineering giant China Jiangxi International Economic and Technical Cooperation Co., Ltd. (CJIC) was contracted to undertake the drilling project following bilateral cooperation agreements between Zimbabwe and China since 2012.
In a bid to end water challenges in Rwanda in eastern Africa, the China Geo-Engineering Corporation (CGC) has also embarked on a borehole construction exercise to ease water challenges in the eastern part of the country. CGC, which started operating in Rwanda in 1999, focuses on infrastructure construction.
To date, the project in Rwanda has successfully drilled 150 wells in different parts of eastern Rwanda, with the overall work progress at about 75 percent, according to Chen Jinke, the technical team leader of the project.
Prior to the construction of these boreholes, residents used to face a profound lack of access to safe water for household usage and their livestock. But thanks to the aid rendered by China, water woes are now a thing of the past in Zimbabwe and Rwanda.
Lobunkosi Malila, Councilor for Ward 4 in Lumene village in Gwanda district, Matabeleland South Province of Zimbabwe, said prior to the drilling of a borehole by China Aid in her village, residents used to share a pond of water with cattle and other livestock. Villagers would also dig shallow wells into riverbeds in order to filter the water for human consumption.
"Before we got this kind gesture from China, we had a problem, we didn't have enough water. We were getting water from the river banks...the situation was very bad, but for now, it has improved," she said.
Nothokozo Ngulube, a Lumene villager, said the availability of water at their doorstep has brought convenience to women since spending more time searching for water meant that they had to set aside productive work.
“The availability of water has helped us because now we are able to focus on other household chores. And we have also managed to start our small gardens, so this availability of water near our villages has benefited us a lot because we are no longer wasting time going long distances looking for water,” she said.
Nkosana Ndlovu, District Water and Sanitation sub-committee Chairman in the Umzingwane District of Matabeleland South Province, said the project has also greatly improved sanitation.
“I think this program has done a lot to us as Umzingwane district. We started in 2012 with China Aid giving us support on the water situation. This has really helped the communities, we have improved. A lot of communities have got access to clean and safe water,” he said.
According to Abednico Ncube, Minister of State for Matabeleland South Province, a total of 150 boreholes have been sunk in the province since the program started in 2012. Ncube said the borehole drilling initiative by China Aid highlights the friendship between the two countries.
"The provision of water is going to assist us, the rural communities, including their livestock, goats, sheep, donkeys, cattle, and so forth, so we are going to benefit from the water supply," Ncube said.
Meanwhile, Marambire Mbido Sinaravo, Acting District Medical Officer at Esigodini Hospital, said access to clean water through the China Aid program has enhanced his hospital's fight against COVID-19.
"It really played a great role (the borehole), because with running water, it improved the hygiene. It's different from washing your hands whilst not using running water," said Sinaravo.
As in Zimbabwe, Chinese companies in Rwanda are also stepping in to solve water challenges in rural communities.
Before the construction of a borehole by CGC in Rugarama village, Kazo sector in Ngoma district in eastern Rwanda, residents faced a profound lack of access to safe water.
"In our village, we had suffered a lot due to lack of safe water; people had to walk long distances to other sectors in search of clean water," Jean Damascene Barahinyuza, a Rugarama resident said.
He said due to the water challenges, residents have been consuming unsafe water from nearby swamps resulting in water-borne diseases, and villagers have been struggling to get clean water for their livestock.
Barahinyuza said water scarcity had also affected education because children were sent to fetch water in distant places and often ended up missing classes.
"These wells have shortened the distance people take to get safe water, and the quality of groundwater is better than that of surface water," said Chen Jinke.
For Beatrice Nyirabagenzi, 60, another Kazo sector resident, the installation of a borehole meters away from her home came as a miracle.
"There was a serious problem of water shortage and all we used was contaminated water from the swamp or had to walk distances to fetch safe water. We used to suffer from worms due to drinking contaminated water and children used to miss classes as they were sent to fetch water before being allowed to go to school," she said.
With the new water source, Barahinyuza expects improved health with no more suffering from water-borne diseases.
Having dedicated seven years of hard work toward drilling the boreholes in Zimbabwe, Duan Chuanxiu, the CJIC borehole project manager in Zimbabwe, told Xinhua that the 1,000 boreholes funded by China have benefited more than 400,000 local people, about three percent of Zimbabwe's population.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Country Manager of the CGC Rwanda Office, said the 200 boreholes funded by China, once completed, will be supporting at least 110,000 local people in Rwanda.
Apart from Zimbabwe and Rwanda, China over the years has also funded borehole projects in many other African countries, including Ghana, Zambia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, and Senegal.