The Harmony Gold Water Infrastructure Project.
A significant number of the workers employed by the mining industry in South Africa are migrant workers from neighbouring countries such as Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique.
Upon completion of their contracts, these workers have no choice but to return home to remote or underprivileged communities that often do not have sufficient access to basic services.
This is especially true in Mozambique, where approximately 70% of the population live below the poverty line and where child mortality rates are some of the highest in the world. According to organisations such as the Child Fund International and UNICEF Mozambique, a substantial percentage of these child deaths could have been prevented if their communities had had access to clean water and proper sanitation in order to exercise good hygiene practices.
Alleviating the circumstances of these communities and helping to improve their quality of life is a key priority of stakeholders in the mining industry. In 2009, TEBA, Harmony Gold mining company and the Mozambican Ministry of Housing and Rural Water Supply established a Public Private Partnership to address the water issue of some of the poorest communities in Inhambane and Maputo in Mozambique.
To obtain the buy-in from the community, the project was rolled out in close consultation with the local village chiefs, leaders and members of the communities.
The project team furthermore facilitated the institutionalisation of their water committees, as well as establishing all the necessary mechanisms to empower the communities to take ownership of managing and maintaining their own water infrastructure systems.
In the long run, this is the most sensible and sustainable solution for communities that are based in rural areas.
The communities in question did not have direct access to a safe, reliable supply of water, which placed tremendous strain on households, especially the women and children, who had to fetch and carry water over long distances.
To ensure such a supply of water to them as quickly as possible, six existing old water infrastructure systems were rehabilitated and upgraded.
To make sure that the communities could plant and grow their own vegetables and grains, the project team coordinated the installation of a system to pump water from the closest river and channel it to the communities for irrigation purposes.
In most instances, water pumps break down due to a the lack of preventative maintenance or incorrect use. The communities were trained on how to maintain their water infrastructure systems, how to determine the capacity of a water pump and how to use it correctly.
Members of the community were informed extensively of the importance of conserving water and taking responsibility for their own water issues. They were also educated on best practices in sanitation and hygiene to decrease preventable illnesses and reduce the mortality rate.
The Harmony Gold Water Infrastructure Project improved water supply to a total of six villages in rural areas.
The everyday lives of the community households are positively impacted as they no longer have to spend a substantial portion of their day collecting water.
In total, around 1 800 community members now benefit from safe drinking water. In addition, a notable reduction in illnesses has been reported since the completion of the project.