Assessment of conjunctive use of small earth dams and boreholes for sustainable rural livelihoods in a semi-arid area: Case of Lilongwe West Rural Groundwater Project area, Malawi
Kambuku, Dwight Davison
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Semi-arid Africa is well known for its unpredictable rainfall patterns, increased cases of drought and dry spells, high evaporative demands and increasing population which put pressure on water resources. Local experiences in SADC show that conjunctive use of surface and groundwater would cushion these pressures. This study was aimed at assessing water demand and availability paradigms, and water allocation process as functions of conjunctive use of small earth dams and groundwater (shallow wells and boreholes) for small scale agriculture in the study area for a period beginning April, 2005. Assessment of conjunctive use of surface and groundwater for sustainable livelihood was carried out on 10 earth dams and 23 boreholes and 5 shallow wells of 22 villages in Traditional Authorities Kalolo and Khongoni in Lilongwe district in Malawi. Traditionally, shallow wells, ponds, running rivers, swamps or marshes have been supporting the rural masses and their livestock as sources of water for drinking, domestic use and small scale agriculture. It was revealed through focus group discussions and interviews that less than 28% of the households use water from dams and boreholes/shallow wells for small scale irrigation conjunctively while 30% of the total households use shallow wells as the main source of water for small scale irrigation. 11% of the total households use water from boreholes with 31% using water from small earth dams for small scale irrigation. Presently, villages surrounding Kamanzi dam experience water shortages 93% of the time in dry season, with supply meeting only 26% of demand. However, inclusion of water from boreholes to total supply helps the system meet 31% of demand. By 2039, the villages around Kamanzi dam will experience shortage about 100% of the time with supply meeting only 11% of demand. Village Development Committees (VDC) control water allocation process and customs and traditions form basis for this process. Water Poverty Index (WPI) showed that it is resource and use based and that conjunctive use of small earth dams has advantage on both environment and people’s livelihoods in the area. It is thus recommended that conjunctive use of earth dams and boreholes/shallow wells be encouraged for small scale irrigation in order to curb resource depletion and maximize resource benefits for the betterment of local people.
small earth dams