Urban Agriculture magazine number 20 september 2008
Bulawayo water
Bulawayo is the second largest city in Zimbabwe. The city has a
population of approximately one million inhabitants. Situated in
a dry part of the country, Bulawayo receives less than 800 mm of
rainfall every year in the summer season, (from November to
March). Maintaining a sufficient water supply has always been a
challenge. The city’s supply dams rarely fill up, and water levels go
down during the dry season, making them insufficient to meet
demand. Therefore, municipal authorities usually put water
rationing measures in place to limit the residents’ water usage.
The city’s average water demand per day is 150,000 cubic metres,
while the dams are currently only able to supply 130,000 cubic
metres. Domestic plots, for example, receive 450 litres of water
per day from the local authority. In 2007 rotational water cuts
were also put into place, whereby a suburb’s water supply could
be cut off for a period of time.
Water Supply and Urban
Agriculture in Bulawayo
Irrigation with municipal wastewater is practised in
many urban and periurban areas of developing
countries. In Zimbabwe this has largely been restrict-
ed to pasture irrigation (Chimbari et al., 2003).
Wastewater is increasingly being used for irrigation
in urban and periurban agriculture, thereby sup-
porting the livelihoods of (particularly poor) farm-
ers. There is a need to identify practical, affordable
health safeguards that do not threaten the liveli-
hoods of those dependent on wastewater.
Takawira Mubvami
Percy Toriro
Maintaining a sufficient water supply has always been a challenge Bulawayo
Boreholes around Bulawayo
The city provides wastewater
for irrigation
Urban agriculture
The city has resorted to using various sources of water for urban
agricultural purposes. These include boreholes and treated
wastewater. The city has a policy that guides use of clean water,
stating that the primary use of water in the city is for domestic
use. This applies especially to borehole water. Where a borehole is
made available, the first priority is for domestic uses such as cook-
ing, bathing, and drinking. Other uses such as watering of plants
and animals are secondary. The boreholes are locally managed by
the communities in which they are situated.
The city council has been able to provide treated wastewater to a
number of farmers in various locations. At a pilot project site at
the Gum Plantation, RUAF has provided funding for improving
the water supply through lining of the main irrigation canal to
avoid water losses through seepage.
Nine garden allotments, which are managed by the social services
office in the Department of Housing and Community Services,
use treated wastewater. The beneficiaries are mostly the elderly
and the destitute, who grow vegetables mainly for domestic