Water Crisis in Zoar

Years of sporadic access to water during the unbearably hot summer months, continues to make life hard for the small rural community of Zoar who are reliant on home food gardens for sustenance given the high rates of unemployment.

Every year between October till late March Zoar experiences water cuts, with some areas having no access to water for as much as seven days in a region where temperatures during summer sometimes reach a blistering 47°c . Zoar residents are also concerned about the quality of the drinking water and feel like that the municipality has no solution or sense of urgency regarding the crisis.

Zoar residents believe that the problem with accessing water in the summer months is not because of water shortages but rather that the water infrastructure is old and has been poorly maintained by the municipality. Muncipal officials blame the lack of funding for being unable to upgrade and improve the water infrastructure.

However, the municipality also blames the community for the crisis saying that residents are not paying ratesand are using water, meant for households, for irrigation and livestock instead. This has outraged the community since the municipality understands about 80% of households are meant to benefit from the Municipal Indigent Policy. Zoar also has a very high rate of unemployment with mostly only seasonal farm work available.

Aunt Christine, an activist and small-scale farmer, says “I’m a pensioner. Like many others in this community, I’m depending on my garden to feed my self and sharing with my community. I can’t afford to go the shop buying vegetables that is very expensive, so I have no choice to use the water for my garden. But I’m afraid if the water crisis is going on like this, I soon won’t have a garden.”

The impact of the water crisis is experienced in many ways. The schools and clinic are particularly impacted since learners education is sometimes interrupted due to water shortages or illness from the unsafe drinking water. Pregnant women and those with chronic illness face particular health risks, which places a further burden on health services. The water crisis further threatens the livelihoods of small scale farmers who can’t plant or irrigate food crops and struggle to supply their livestock with water to drink.

The community of Zoar has decided that enough is enough and requested the help of the Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA) South Africa, the Mawubuye Land Rights Movement and the Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE) for assistance to try and resolve this crisis. RWA South Africa also had several engagements with the women in Zoar, small scale farmers and back yard gardeners. These engagements laid the foundations for a water crisis campaign in Zoar which started with a Speak Out in March.

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