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Script 75.3

Notes to broadcasters

The flowing river water in South Africa is slowly drying up. Experts say that by 2030 there will be no more running rivers north of the Vaal River. This has severe implications for the Northern Provinces that rely heavily on their huge nature reserves such as Kruger National Park, that generate income from tourism.

The following program is about one of the success stories that has emerged in an attempt to solve the water storage problem. In 2002 the Mahashe School Rain Harvesting Project in the Limpopo Province, near South Africa’s border with Zimbabwe, won the overall prize for the best emerging project at the annual Nedbank Green Trust awards in South Africa. The project successfully combined water conservation, education and development.

Limpopo Province, where this story takes place, is one the poorest provinces in South Africa. It is part of the Inkomati system, an international drainage basin that stretches across South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique. The town of Mahashe falls within the Sabie River catchment, which is the last of the five rivers flowing eastward through the Kruger National Park to have maintained its perennial status. The central region of the catchment is heavily populated with about 176 people per square kilometre, and has few available economic or natural resources due to its apartheid homeland legacy.

Script

Host 1:
Water is becoming more and more scarce in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. Many people and institutions are suffering from lack of water. For example, approximately half of the schools in the Limpopo Province don’t have enough water.

Host 2:
Today we are going to talk about one school in particular the secondary school in the town of Mahashe. The school experienced daily hardships due to lack of water. The toilets did not work. Children could not even wash their hands!

MUSICAL BREAK (5 seconds).

Host 1:
Some students and teachers wanted to do something about the problem. So they put their heads together and devised a plan for the school. They called it the Rainwater Harvesting Plan. And the plan was to harvest water from the roof.

Host 2:
Now I wondered how the school could even get started with such a project. To start, they needed information about the roof, the rainfall and the price of storage tanks.

Host 1:
Fortunately, it was a school, so these were questions that could be answered. For a start, the science teachers asked their students to calculate the size of the school roof.

Host 2:
The geography teachers asked their students to find the average annual rainfall in the region.

Host 1:
The economics teachers asked their students to do research about the price of water storage tanks.

Host 2:
The students and teachers calculated that the school roof, with suitable guttering and storage systems would be able to capture some 300,000 litres of rainwater every year. 300,000 litres a year!

Host 1:
It seemed that harvesting rainwater really could make a difference to school life. With this in mind, the school made a budget and submitted it to the regional development agency.

Host 2:
And they did receive money for this project! They had done their homework so well that they soon received a small amount of seed money. Personally, I think it was well deserved.

Host 1:
I agree. And the money was put to good use. The school bought guttering and downpipes, and suitable storage tanks. They constructed a rainwater catchment system and now they are able to catch water from the roof and store it in storage tanks until it is needed.

Host 2:
Everyone has benefitted from the rainwater project. There is now water for washing hands, and cleaning classrooms. Some water was used to make bricks for the construction of three new classrooms. And, even some of the younger learners started a school vegetable garden, and this became a became a part of the home economics classes.

Host 1:
It’s true that rainwater from the roof is a supplementary source of water – it can’t provide all the water needs. But still, the Mahashe school proved that a school roof of some 400 square metres, with suitable gutters and a storage system, can capture some 300 000 litres a year. And that’s enough to make a big difference to school life.

Host 2:
I think there is a message in this story for many of us. What we can learn from this is how an innovative water conservation scheme can create teaching opportunities and providing water in such a dry area. And at Mahashe Secondary School learners have collected a wealth of stories about water spirits, rain gods, and clever children that saved a school from dying of thirst. They have learned that ‘Water is life’ and they will never forget it.

– END –

Acknowledgements

  • Contributed by John Van Zyl, Executive Director, ABC Ulwazi, Radio Training and Production House, South Africa.
  • Reviewed by Friederike Knabe, Consultant Specializing in Dryland Issues in the Context of Sustainable Development, Ottawa, Canada.