Caritas Zimbabwe Archdiocese of Harare is the social development arm of the Catholic Church and a member of Caritas Internationalis – a confederation of 165 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations, working to build a better world. Caritas Harare’s values and principles are anchored in the social teachings of the Catholic church, in which the Church sees God in the poor and marginalised communities it serves, guided by the values of solidarity, sharing, participation, respect, for human dignity, compassion, co-responsibility and common purpose.
In fulfilling the above, Caritas Harare is partnering with Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) in implementing a 3 year project which seeks to building community resilience to climatic shocks, to improve food security, caring practices for vulnerable groups and sanitation and hygiene practices to enhance the nutritional status of rural communities in Eritrea, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The project is funded by UKAID and CAFOD through match funding. Part of the activities being implemented by Caritas Harare involves the preservation of wetlands in line with the Papal encyclical Laudato Si, which is the Popes call for the word to listen to the cry of the earth. The cry of the earth is the Popes plea to the world, to increase environmental stewardship and work towards reversing the effects of global warming which affect the poor mostly.
Wetlands form a distinct ecosystem that is saturated by water and are arguably some of the most important habitats in world and in Zimbabwe they cover at least 793 348 hectares which is approximately 1.5% of Zimbabwe’s total land area. Preservation of wetlands is at the core of our programming because they are critical to long term water supply as well as reducing chances of flooding by virtue of wetlands’ capacity to hold water from flowing downstream. The releasing of vegetative matter also provides an essential amount of nutrients, seeds and other matter going into streams and rivers, not to mention other creatures. This helps to stabilize, rejuvenate or enrich ecosystems in areas around wetlands. The filtering capacity of wetlands also ensures that nearby water is cleaner.
To take advantage of the above, Caritas Harare is protecting Nyamhara wetland which is part of the last surviving wetlands in Uzumba Marambapfungwe (UMP). Nyamhara wetland prior to the MF6 project was under threat from uncontrolled abstraction of water and grazing but due to advocacy and policy efforts, the local leadership resolved to protect this threatened piece of land.
To date, the project has managed to fence the wetland in order to stop uncontrolled abstraction. The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has been engaged as well to partner the community and the project in controlling access and usage of the wetland which is also home to f indigenous trees that are critical to the livelihoods of people, wildlife and livestock.
Caritas Harare commends the Government of Zimbabwe on its increased implementation of the Ramsar Convention also known as the convention on wetlands; which it ratified through progressive policy making, increased capacity building and effective technology transfer. This has been fulfilled by decongesting the agenda from the centre and placing even more emphasis and capacity at district level.
We pride and cherish our efforts that have seen us collaborating with the Forestry Commission and EMA in our fight against destruction of wetlands, however we recommend that wetlands must be at the forefront of the district policy making agenda. We also recommend that more funding be made available by government to enable civic education for the communities including those beyond our catchment area on the need and benefits of wetland protection.
We will continue to work towards the preservation of wetlands and promoting community resilience through caring for our common home.