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Villagers walk 40km to the nearest clinic; outcry as govt stops carbon credits project set to provide relief

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By James Muonwa l Mashonaland West Correspondent


THOUSANDS of villagers in the Nyamakate area of Hurungwe North constituency are risking life and limb walking 40 kilometres or more, passing through wildlife-infested forests, to get to the nearest health facility.

Local inhabitants, who live along what is commonly known as the Game Fence area, deep in the Hurungwe enclave, have to embark on the arduous journey to Chitindiva Clinic, which is the nearest health centre.

Malaria is a common disease affecting locals while expectant mothers bear the brunt of walking long distances to the closest clinic.

In a bid to provide relief to villagers, three years ago one of the world’s largest carbon credits projects Kariba REDD+ rolled out the construction of four clinics at various sites in the expansive Hurungwe North constituency, much to the delight of locals who chipped in with free labour.

Clinics were sited at four spots including Mahwau, Mayamba and Huyo.

However, the edifice at Mahwau, which is 90% complete, has become a white elephant amid clamour by villagers who feel used and abused after the project stalled without opening its doors to the needy rural folk.

Hopes of seeing their first-ever local health facility operational have been dashed after the government, through a presidential decree, halted Kariba REDD+ operations in May 2023 to pave the way for a legislative framework to compel entities to surrender half their revenue derived from the sale of carbon credits.

Mahwau Ward 8 clinic project chairman, Headman Mutungambera told NewZimbabwe.com that community members were furious over stalling of the clinic project having sacrificed their time and resources.

“The clinic is at roof level and almost complete and ready for commissioning, but we heard bureaucracy had forced Kariba REDD+ from finishing what it had started.

“Our appeal to powers-that-be is don’t stifle development but to let well-meaning entities and donors help communities adapt and grow,” said Mutungambera.

 

He said completion of the clinic at Mahwau will reduce cases of child mortality as expectant mothers deliver nearby. Recently, a local woman gave birth in the bush resulting in the child dying before reaching the nearest health facility.

Also, Mutungambera said if the Mahwau clinic is completed cases of human-wildlife conflict cases will drastically fall as fewer villagers walk long distances through the wildlife-infested forests.

Betty Masuka and John Nyaguwa, both Mahwau clinic project committee members, lamented the stoppage of Kariba REDD+ from seeing its projects to fruition.

Only the installation of the solar power system, ablutions, tiling, ceiling and painting remain for the Mahwau project to be fully complete.

Chief Chundu, born Abel Mabsera, weighed in and highlighted the benefits communities were deriving from funded projects such as the clinic’s rollout, nutrition gardens fully installed with solarised boreholes and thriving beekeeping ventures.

“There are quite several projects undertaken by Kariba REDD+ to improve the lives of our communities, some of which share spaces with wildlife. This area has dense vegetation, and grass plains and provides ideal animal habitats. As a result, our communities need conservation education.

“The manner in which Kariba REDD+ was executing projects was beneficial in reducing poaching, deforestation and other environmental challenges and if these projects continue villagers’ mindsets will be changed and they will appreciate why they need to preserve the environment because the projects would put food on their tables,” said Chief Chundu.

Government, the traditional leader underscored, must reconsider its position and allow the benefactor to fully implement livelihood programmes in his area of jurisdiction.

“Our appeal is for partners to be given latitude to continue with their work in various communities. Government, which put a moratorium on activities of these companies dealing in carbon credits, must review its position and give a waiver to those who were doing good in communities,” the chief said.

South Pole, the world’s leading seller of offsets was the carbon asset developer for the Kariba REDD+ project until their agreement ended in October 2023. Kariba REDD+ has operations in Hurungwe and Nyaminyami in Mashonaland West, as well as Mbire district of Mashonaland Central province.

Kariba REDD+ Hurungwe area manager, Jerry Matiza told NewZimbabwe.com that his organisation was now financially hamstrung and lacked resources to pump into the projects following the directive to stop operations.

“Like our situation as being between a rock and a hard place. We would have wanted to pull through and see our projects to fruition, but there was the hurdle that we had to stop our operations, meaning our source of funding was also shut and we no longer have any money to continue pouring into community initiatives we had started,” said Matiza.