Exploring domestic water security in Umvoti

2018-06-27 06:00
German PhD student, Karen Lebek and her translator, Enoch Mnikati, who matriculated from Hermannsburg last year and wants to pursue a career in Environmental Science. They are pictured with members of the Mbube community admiring yet another innovative way in which the community collects and stores water.

German PhD student, Karen Lebek and her translator, Enoch Mnikati, who matriculated from Hermannsburg last year and wants to pursue a career in Environmental Science. They are pictured with members of the Mbube community admiring yet another innovative way in which the community collects and stores water.

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GERMAN PhD student Karen Lebek has been spending time interviewing communities throughout the Umvoti District who have no access to piped water.

A hydrologist by qualification, Lebek is currently gathering information for her PhD in Geography at the IRI THESys, Humboldt University in Berlin.

Towards this end, she is convinced that the study of water should not only be limited to the hydrological cycle but also requires the study of people, their engagement and relationship with water, as well as the meaning of water for different groups.

The Upper Umvoti River was selected as an ideal study area because it offers a wide diversity of land and water uses that shape the river basin in a unique and challenging way.

In her current study she asks: “In what way does domestic water security and water sovereignty in rural settlements depend on the type of water source, and the access to this water source in terms of continuity and seasonality?”

To gather information that might help to answer her research question, Lebek and her team members, Thembeka Mhlongo, Enoch Mnikati, and Michele Twomey, conducted a three-week survey during which they visited 65 households throughout Embulwane, Makhabeleni, and other settlements of Ward 1. To cover this extensive area, the team split into pairs of one researcher and one translator per team.

This research was conducted with the encouragement and support of Ward 1 councillor, Mrs Nzama.

The team also attended a meeting at the Dube Community Hall where they met Inkosi Dlomo, Induna Mkhize and Mayor of Umzinyathi Municipality, councillor Ngubane, with whom water matters were discussed.

During their survey, the research team not only collected the data needed for the survey but also had the opportunity to listen to numerous anecdotal stories that taught them how water and people’s lives are deeply intertwined from accounts of how some families rely solely on rainwater, but only drink rainwater that is collected during the day, to another family’s explanation of how they do have a tap close by but still collect drinking water from a nearby stream because they prefer the taste.

Other interviewees discussed how they rise at five each day to collect water from the streams, before the cattle arrive to drink, or those who have no nearby water source in winter so they need to hire a van or take a taxi to the Umvoti or Hlimbitwa rivers to fetch their water.

Armed with a wealth of facts and information gathered in the field, Lebek has returned to Berlin where she is developing practical ideas for community projects to improve the water accessibility situation for rural communities.

It is her intention to return, in the future, to present her outcomes to Inkosi Dlomo and Mayor Ngubane as well put her ideas into practice.

The Greytown lake level this morning — Monday, June 25, is 65.12%.

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