Govt, partners reclaim wetland in Chimanimani

Blessing Rwizi Post Correspondent
THE Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with development partners, has successfully restored Chieza wetland, which had long been devastated by animals and human activities over the years.

Chieza wetland is situated at the foot of a mountain in Cashel Valley (Ward 1), in Chimanimani East.

A non-governmental organisation, SAFIRE and the Ministry of Agriculture carried out assessments in the area last year under the Scaling up Climate Change Adaption (SCCA) and realised that the mountain had enough water to sustain thousands of families around the area.

Through funding from the United Nations Development Programme, they managed to fence six-hectares of the mountain, to save the soil from animal hoof marks and human activities like laundry and deforestation. Community members provided labour and locally available resources during the restoration of the wetland.

Barely a few months after the fencing of the wetland, green vegetation started sprouting and more water collected in Nyambeya River. Smallholder farming activities along the river increased visibly, as most farmers engaged into horticultural activities.

Chieza village headman, Steven Sigauke said people around his community did not know the importance of wetlands.

“We never knew that this mountain was indeed a wetland but we lost so many cattle in the wet-muddy soils around the area. People used to do their laundry in the area and planted their beehives in the thick vegetations. I have summoned everyone to remove their beehives and stop walking around the area to improve the ecosystem,” said headman Chieza.

Chimanimani District Agriculture Extension Officer, Mr Tiripano Chikukwa said wetlands could change livelihoods in the entire district if taken care of and used in a more sustainable way.

“Wetlands are important in the natural ecosystem and it is crucial for these areas to be protected so that they produce more water to benefit the surrounding communities. Villagers should not cut down trees in these particular areas because this reduces rainfall patterns. If we preserve and restore our wetlands, this will improve apiculture, aquaculture and agricultural projects, hence improving our livelihoods. It is therefore wiser for us to use them in a more sustainable way,” said Mr Chikukwa.

Wetland restoration refers to the re-establishment or repairing of the hydrology, plants and soils of a former or degraded wetland that would have been drained, farmed or modified.

The goal of restoring wetlands is to closely approximate the original wetland’s natural condition, resulting in multiple environmental benefits that include the improvement of surface and ground water quality by collecting and filtering sediment, nutrients, pesticides and bacteria in runoff.

Besides restoring soil organic matter and promoting carbon sequestration, it also reduces soil erosion and downstream flooding by slowing overland flow and storing runoff water, provides food, shelter and habitat for many species as well as enabling the recovery of rare or threatened plant communities.