By Josephine Mugiyo, Diplomatic Correspondent
THE Matabeleland North community is excited with the progress made in the construction of the Gwayi-Shangani Lake, which will boost food security by creating a green belt while also solving the perennial water challenges in Bulawayo.
Working round the clock, the contractor has covered significant ground as the Second Republic is pushing to ensure that the project is complete within the set time frames.
First mooted in 1912 after failing to take off for over a century, the project seemed like a pipe dream for both the people of Bulawayo and the surrounding rural communities.
A visit to Nabushome Village, which is a few kilometres from the construction site, revealed a community whose hopes have been rekindled.
The ZBC News crew caught up with Sekuru Mbewe at a local borehole as he came to fetch water for his animals.
He was quick to show his worn out hands, saying that over the years he has tilled the land, but the harvest has not matched the work put in as the soaring temperatures often compromise the yield.
He sees the construction vehicles moving up and down daily to and from the lake project and this has given him hope that sooner, rather than later, he will be able to irrigate his crops.
“You see my hands, they are like thin because of the hard work in tilling the land, but sometimes it’s for nothing. But when the irrigation comes I will work really hard to till my land,” he said.
He is also excited about the prospects of catching fish in the lake.
To him and other community members, this signifies food security in more ways than one, with the frequent visits by government officials to assess progress augmenting their hope.
“Next year, we will be catching the tiger fish when this dam is complete. We see the ministers’ cars passing going to assess the project. It seems the government is really now serious about this project,” he said.
Another villager shared the same optimism.
He has heard about this project for years and seeing it shaping up at such a quick pace has given him a glimpse of a better future.
“I heard about this dam a long time ago and we had actually lost hope that this would take off, but now these men are really working,” he said.
As the construction workers weld and drill to create the dam wall, the communities once ravaged by drought have reason to believe that better days are coming.
For Bulawayo, which faces perennial water challenges, the completion of the project has over the years been dubbed as the ultimate solution to their water woes.
Contractors have already started work on sections of the pipeline.
A green belt is expected to be established along the pipeline from Gwayi to Bulawayo.
The Gwayi-Shangani Dam is part of the numerous government projects that have been prioritised by the Second Republic as it seeks to improve the livelihoods of the people.