Water for irrigation is a fundamental necessity for the winter nursery of CIMMYT’s maize breeding operation in Zimbabwe. During last summer, the 50 m wide dam wall that stores water in the river at Muzarabani, 200 km north of Harare, was washed away in a flood. Since the river flow continued well into the winter period, the dam wall could not be repaired, and so a temporary sandbag weir was constructed to store sufficient water for the winter plantings. This served adequately for the successful completion of the winter’s nurseries. However, this sandbag weir needed to be replaced, and so a new dam wall was planned together with the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority.
Work began on the new dam wall on 15 November. An excavator dug out a 1.5 m deep trench through the boulders covering the river bed, which promptly filled with water from sub-surface flow. Joseph Makamba and Evelot Nyamutowa, CIMMYT field staff in Harare, obtained a portable pump and drained the trench. Then they organized an army of local builders and workers to construct the masonry dam wall. In what seems like record time, the wall is nearing completion. None too soon, as it turns out: the rainy season is about to begin in earnest and the river will begin flowing again.
The building of the weir has presented many logistical challenges: among them, procuring 1,000 bags of cement, two concrete mixers, various small tools, a water pump, and local transport. All was accomplished in the context of general shortages and the establishment of summer nurseries at the Harare station. Thus, this building project has been no small achievement on the part of Evelot, Joseph, and the team of workers. Our congratulations and admiration is extended to them all. We can now look forward to secured water for 2009 and onwards!