By Sally Rangecroft
After the two days of workshops we felt much more prepared to go into the community and introduce our project and start our research. However, the first thing we needed to do was to meet the chief and his group of ‘elders’ and be granted permission to work on Folovhodwe, a right of passage. Although we felt more knowledgeable about the area, I was taken by surprised by the surreal experience of meeting the chief at his ‘kraal’ (his palace/kingdom/house). We were welcomed by his elders and invited to sit on some old plastic school chairs in a circle in the front garden/yard/parking. There was a lot of getting off and on the chairs and kneeing on the red dusty ground as a sign of respect for multiple occasions. The chief and his group listed to the project being introduced by Anne with a simultaneous translation into Venda by Prof Edward, before a series of questions which opened some really interesting discussions (such as ‘what is meant by “Creative”?’ and ‘what do you actually mean when you refer to the “future”?’). The chief was very welcoming to us and it was a relief to hear that he was more than happy for our project to go ahead in Folovhodwe! Success.
We were then lucky enough to be shown into the upper catchment by a number of the elders to gain information and understanding about the headwaters of the Nwanedi river that flows through the village. After some lengthy negotiations to get us into the nature reserve (where we returned on Sunday for a game drive and saw giraffes, impala, and a zebra!), we drove through some questionable terrain to reach the weir where water is piped off for 4kms as part of the irrigation scheme in the community. We then drove even further upstream in the nature reservoir to visit the two dams that are the main storage of water for the area. We quickly learnt that currently they are at around 90% full, but this time last year they were at 15% due to the 2016 drought.
The following day, we picked up two of the elders early in the morning and they showed us around the irrigation canal, a wide number of springs that lay along a geology boundary (between Archean sedimentary / metamorphic and Jurassic volcanic!) which are sources of water during the wet seasons, and we visited the old boreholes for water abstraction around the village and the current borehole. When we saw the current borehole (99m deep!) we walked up the hill to the cement storage tank which holds the water for treatment before it is distributed to across the 6 sub-villages (this exploration also involved Anne and Eugine climbing up the 6m storage tank and Anne climbing into the inside to check it out).
Storage tank for drinking water
We were also able to see for ourselves how the different water sources are used in the village – with the river being used for car washing, brick making water and fishing, the irrigation canal being used for laundry and bathing before irrigation, and the borehole water being treated and distributed to communal taps for domestic use. Being able to explore and see the catchment ourselves has significantly contributed to a deeper understanding of the catchment and the community.
What has stood out the most has been how welcoming the chief, his elders and the community have been to us and the CreativeDrought project – the enthusiasm received about our presence in the community, and the generosity of time given to us by those participating in the interviews and transect walks to help us understand the area. It has been a delight to get to know the ins and outs of the community, despite melting somewhat in the baking temperatures (Friday reached 37 degrees C!).