There is a great need to encourage and facilitate active participation of the youth in Zimbabwe in water resource management as it can make a difference huge difference since young people constitute over 65% of Zimbabwe's total population.
Zimbabwe is driven by the maxim "Water is Life, Every Drop counts." This maxim fully captures the fact that there is no substitute for water and due to its finite and fragile nature it should be conserved from over exploitation and protected from pollution so that it can enhance our economy through its efficient use in all production sectors.
While the Zimbabwean Government led by the sterling ministry of Water Resources Development and Management, has made great strides in the promotion of water preservation and conservation, it has however been saddening to note that Zimbabwean youths have been dormant in the participation of water preservation.
There is serious need for education on water resource management with the aim of affecting behavioral change is therefore no longer an option but a bare necessity.
The government is playing a crucial role in supplying water to the public it is important to increase water literacy and education especially to young people in schools so that they grow up with a water conscious mindset and protect the little water resources we have.
While a lot of youth organizations working on the environment have sprouted, none is working exclusively on water resource management. Water resource management is only being tackled as an arm of the environment organizations. This has prejudiced the water sector in Zimbabwe of Active youth participation.
However despite the absence of youth organizations working exclusively on water related issues , young people in Zimbabwe have been very vocal in the media on the need to preserve the little water resources at our disposal.
Feature articles and Opinion pieces by young and upcoming students have been prevalent in both print and broadcast; youths have been able to air their views on the best strategies on sanitation and preservation of water related issues.
As such there is need for the government of Zimbabwe and all key stakeholders to continue take the lead by encouraging young people to take up careers in water resource management. The focus of this intervention should lead to a growing interest in young people taking up careers in water and studies in the water sector. This will eventually lead to increase water literacy and promote behavioral change on water use and water value.
The greatest challenge that this Zimbabwe faces is severe skills shortage and there is need for all stakeholders to unite and engage in dialogue and action a plan to overcome water problems.
A pipeline approach that addresses water resource management at government level, organizational level, youth level and school level is strategic in changing the skilling patterns prevalent in the water sector.
There is a serious need to instill water consciousness in young people at grassroots level and it is fundamental in educating and empowering youths on the value of water and our rivers so that the future generations will access safe and clean water.
The Ministry of Water Resources Development and Management led by the capable Hon Sam Sipepa Nkomo has performed amazingly in raising awareness of water and climate change issues to young people who are the custodians of the country's future.
The next conflict that is set to affect the word is a water crisis and in order to ensure that we avoid that crisis there is need to develop and implement water resources information, monitoring systems and tools to track progress at district, provincial and national levels and work with relevant partners in producing a regular report on water resources status in Zimbabwe.
The government should also recognize the gender and youth aspects of water resources development and involve women in all decision making processes so that policy, strategy and practice reflect gender sensitive approaches to water resources and initiatives
Government and International donor agencies should work hand in hand in establishing specific public sector budget allocations for water resources development programmes and to also solicit sponsorship from the business community thus strengthening partnership between government and private sector to fund water programmes.
There is an urgent need to engage key stakeholders interested in water resource promotion initiatives, Development Banks, International Donor Agencies and the Government of Zimbabwe should work to increase financial and technical support for water resources development programmes in schools.
Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) has also contributed significantly to water management in Zimbabwe. For more efficient and effective water management, the country has been divided into seven catchments based on the major river systems in Zimbabwe. A catchment council is in charge of water affairs in its respective catchment and it consists of elected representatives of the various water users within the catchment. This is has led to the effective water distribution by the catchment council.
But still what role has been played by young people?
The widespread view is that Government has a lone actor with young people contributing little to water resource management. As such it is important to include the youths in key water resource management programmes so as to broaden channels of communication and enhance the discussion of youth related issues with particular focus on water issues.
Once we recognize the contributions young people make to our societies and build upon their imagination, energy, vibrancy and talents success is inevitable. Once that is achieved Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole will be able to squarely address the factors which threaten its development.
Compiled by Leslie Phiri, Coordinator of Youth for the Environment Zimbabwe