Construction of a dam in Zimbabwe (IRIN News)

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Dam project displaces hundreds of families in Zimbabwe

Several thousand people in southeastern Zimbabwe’s drought-prone Masvingo Province have had to leave their ancestral homes and villages in exchange for plots of undeveloped land lacking any infrastructure, in order to make way for the construction of a dam.

The Tokwe-Mukosi dam is being built by an Italian company, Salini, with funding from the Zimbabwean government, to provide irrigation to the local communal area of Chibi, which is vulnerable to recurrent food insecurity due to the area’s low rainfall. The dam will also supply water to the city of Masvingo, where severe water shortages have been experienced in recent years.

Construction began in the 1990s but stopped a decade later when Zimbabwe’s economy experienced hyperinflation, and only resumed after the formation of the Government of National Unity in 2009. If successfully completed, Tokwe-Mukosi is set to become the largest inland dam in the country, with a capacity of 1.8 billion cubic meters and a flood area covering more than 9,600 hectares.

“No choice but to vacate”

In October 2013, about 400 families (equivalent to about 2,500 individuals) were moved from their village in Chibi district to Nuanetsi Ranch in Mwenezi district, some 100km away, where each household was given a four-hectare plot of uncultivated land and between US$3,000 and $8,000 as compensation for their previous property. Many are complaining that the money is not enough to compensate for the loss of their homes and livelihoods, and that the area lacks schools, shops, and even toilets.


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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