Ecstatic!! Is the best way to describe what the community of Ngololweni under the Sandleni Inkhundla is currently feeling. This is because the residents of Ngololweni are set to benefit towards the construction of a multimillion earth dam.
The ESWADE SMLP has pumped an amount of 12.5 million funded by the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and the Global Environment Fund (GEF) towards the construction of an earth dam that will provide socio-economic gains that include water availability for domestic, environmental and agricultural purposes.
The erratic climate change patterns being experienced in the country are proving to be problematic as communities can no longer cultivate their fields due to the scarcity of rain. Many fields at Ngololweni are lying idle as the harsh weather conditions destroy all that they try to cultivate and this has been happening for several years. With the earth dam construction underway, the people are very excited because this project is set to be a good initiative in restoring what used to happen in the past where every household would be able to cultivate their fields. This is about to change and bring back improved livelihoods for the people under the Ngololweni Chiefdom.
A contractor is already on the ground to implement the works of this big project and the people of Ngololweni are so excited that they cannot wait to see this beautiful project come to completion and start to benefit from the same.
Mr. Bhekisisa Mkhonta who is the SMLP Project Engineer highlights that the building of the new earth dam has been designed to address needs of multiple users as the project looks at the current uses by the community and then integrates them with the future aspirations of the community.
According to Mkhonta, the Mntjuzalala stream was found to be used for domestic and livestock purposes. ESWADE then proposed to construct the dam for safety but continue to provide the activities that were carried out in the community. These include but are not limited to drinking troughs for livestock, water for domestic purposes and agriculture activities.
An already existent scheme, the Thandanani Association that produces conventional vegetables for commercial purposes on 11 hectares of land and consists of 23 members is already producing for the market and has been facing irrigation challenges. In some instances, the scheme would not be able to meet the market requirements and standards due to water scarcity as they could not irrigate their production and this would result in the association not meeting the standard and quality required by the markets hence, they were losing on profits.
Mkhonta goes on to mention that the group has been formatted, a structure is now in place and that the beneficiaries have been capacitated on social cohesion aspects. He goes on to report that there is a manual that is being followed and profitability of the scheme will be determined by their capability. Amongst other things, the community will benefit in using water sourced from the dam to fill their dip tank. Residents highlight that at times cattle would not be able to go tot the dip tank because there would be no water available. New innovations and aspirations that touch on the future of the beneficiaries include the establishment of a dairy project. The farm also has space for expansion as it can be extended to about 20 hectares. The community has also benefitted from the fencing of their wetlands.
Mrs Ntombifuthi Dlamini, Bucopho of Ngololweni under Sandleni Inkhundla highlights that the Ngololweni Chiefdom was on the verge of losing the wetland due to its degraded status. The Ngololweni wetland is about 30 hectares and for many years livestock used to graze from the wetland while local women over harvested the grass. As a result, the wetland was losing its spongy effect of storing water. Livestock was also lost as it would be trapped and stuck in mud and later die without being realised. She appreciates that ESWADE has assisted by providing material to fence off of the wetland as this prevents livestock from grazing and drinking from the wetland and that the livestock has a dedicated area that allows for this. She also goes on to appreciate the construction of the dam as she says the community is set to benefit as there will be clean water for drinking, washing bays that will be used by the community as they are set to continue with their chores and activities and also many households will now be able to grow nutrition gardens that will grow a variety of vegetables to promote the nutrition aspect.
“Fencing of the wetland has permitted for nutrients and the restoration of water availability since the wetland has been recharged allowing for improved biodiversity and ecosystems. The community is able to participate in activities such as farming because the volume of the restored water surface now allows for irrigation even before the construction of the dam. For now that the dam is under construction, the community has stalled its farming operations.
Another fruitful intervention is that of being able to harvest the different types of grass that now grow well in the conserved wetlands. These grasses include lihlonga, lutindzi, likhwane, imphepho and incoboza.
“Women in the community are now able to produce grass mats that they sell to secure an income, she says”. Since restoration of the wetland, the amount of grass has improved and they are able to make more bunches than they did before, generating more income. The women produce grass mats and also sell the grass to vendors who participate in commercial selling such as the Satellite rank flea market in Manzini. Harvesting of the grass is allowed yearly through a directive from Inner Council and guidance is obtained from Natural Resources Management Committees and Chiefdom Development Committees.
“The restoration of wetlands has brought about positive change to some community members she says”. This is because they are now enthusiastic protectors of their natural sites which is a highlight that their attitudes and behaviour have changed for the better.
Dlamini says she is grateful to ESWADE SMLP because they ensure that the community is educated about the benefits that are derived from the wetland and how it can improve their lives. As a result, ESWADE has supported with 100 fruit trees that include pawpaw, litchie, citrus, mango, peaches, water berries and avocado trees. These will provide us with extra income since we will be able to sell the fruits commercially.
Having appreciated all the good efforts Dlamini highlights the challenges that they still face as a community. She mentions that the wetland is in a relatively good condition but there is still a part where it is still encroached by people and livestock. She says this deters the wetland from operating fully, liyadvuba yet the surface water downstream assists them to irrigate their crops. She said, as a community they are looking forward to the completion of the earth dam that ESWADE is constructing because there is so much that the people of Ngololweni will benefit. She also said they are also looking forward to the drinking troughs that are yet to be constructed because they are safe and hence livestock will continue to be protected.