Zimbabwe Water and Sanitation Upgrades: Mutare

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Focus Areas: Water & Sanitation

The aim of the project, which began in 2008, is to provide safe water for communities that could not afford water and sewerage disposal systems. TheFederation secured land in areas across Zimbabwe in order to provide ecosan toilets and temporary water in the form of boreholes. The land purchase price was as low as five cents per square metre. The Federation implemented the project across the country on one thousand two hundred and seventy (1,270) sites. The project has complementary goals as the Incremental Capital Project and overlaps in practice. Sanitation was provided in areas including Chinhoyi (250), Cowdray Park (254), Silethemba (100), Mkomba (71), Kariba (50) and Dzivaresekwa (455). The project includes the construction of ecosan toilets and boreholes for water, free training of borehole maintenance (from a local water engineer) to build capacity within the Federation and the moving of one thousand (1,000) families onto site. One hundred and eighty one (181) artisans have been trained on ecosan construction in one hundred (100) plots. Chinhoyi was the first local authority to permit ecosan toilets, albeit with restrictions.

Location: Mutare, Zimbabwe


Provision of  temporary water in the form of boreholes and eco-san toilets for sanitation for oen thousand two hundred and seventy sites (1,270) sites on land secured by Homeless Peoples’s Federation in Chinhoyi (250), Cowdray Park (254), Silethemba (100), Mkomba (71), Kariba (50) and Dzivaresekwa (455).

In total, four boreholes have been completed and three are in use. The eight hundred and eleven (811) plots in the town of Mutare have now been surveyed. 

Community capacity:

Community participation was through savings, of which there are different types in Zimbabwe. It is important to note is that since the introduction of multiple currency system in 2009, the savings have been gradually increasing. Also, the use of the savings has been changing, during the crisis, people were saving mainly for food but now they are saving for development-related activities including water and sanitation. For some of the ecosan toilets, some of the material utilised to construct them is the community's. They are transporting materials at their own cost. That is, they are using their savings to hire a truck.There are examples of people building exclusively from their savings in Bulawayo. 

Federation teams formed in 2010 and are visiting informal communities to discuss options and possibilities and mobilise participation. New town/cities visited include Bindura, Jerera growth point, Nyika growth point, Bikita, Kezi, Lupane, Dete, Shamva, Gokwe, Epworth, Marondera, Lupane, Shamva, and Hauna. New groups in towns/settlements that the Federation is already operating in have also started. At least 20 such groups have started in Epworth, Chinhoyi, Kambuzuma, Bulawayo, Beitbridge, and Mutare. The Federation is now attempting to give new groups sufficient attention while still supporting older groups.  

The community received training on how to maintain boreholes. The community participated in this project by contributing their labour to construct the ecosan toilets. Furthermore, through international and national exchanges, Federations from other African countries as well as members from the India Federation the Zimbabwe Federation gained new insights into how to engage with government. 


In the case of Zimbabwe, it is not so much a matter of scale, so much as starting activities that had never been undertaken in the country before. The funds provided an opportunity to restart the projects that had come to a stand still after the crisis period. The crisis also proved to be a point for us to realise that we could not carry on developing in the way that we had been before; we could not carry on with the typical sanitation projects, which lead us to discover and explore the ecosan toilets. 


This project was implemented as a pilot and has potential for significant political impact with the government seeing alternative avenues to remedy sanitation problems. Waterless sanitation is a way around water shortages and access problems in the country. In 2012, the City of Harare included a presentation on ecosan toilets in their display at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo. Ecosan technology has sparked national government interest and a number of municipalities have expressed interest in the technology. Ecosan technology and the pilot project has proven attractive in Chinhoyi and Harare as well other areas. This has created a space to discuss minimum sanitation standards with Government, which in turn could have an impact on policy at the national level. Sanitation does not exist as an isolated challenge. 

The government at the National Housing Convention held in Victoria Falls accepted incremental development of infrastructure and superstructures in Zimbabwe's urban areas. The National Director of Housing Forum in Zimbabwe is working on guidelines for incremental development. They have invited the Federation to participate in the formulation of these guidelines. The Federation has come a long way to be recognized as a key player in National Housing Policy formulation. 



SDI Contributions:

SDI contributed US$100,000.00

Resources Leveraged:

The Federation was able to obtain the land for a very low price (5 cents per square metre). The Federation was able to secure technical training elating to the installation and maintenance of boreholes at no charge. The training was conducted by a water engineer.

Furthermore, the Federation is leveraging its new partnerships to lobby government to change its policy to allow incremental infrastructural development to be permitted in Zimbabwe. The lobbying has been taken a step further to involve issues of climate change and how they support incremental development through promoting the use of better and sustainable alternative technologies.


Patience Mudimu patiencemudimu@gmail.com (+263) 470 4027 View Website

Project information updated: 30 November 2015

Project in depth

Detailed Information

This project sees the Zimbabwe Alliance of the Zimbabwe Homeless People's Federation (ZIHOPFE) and Dialogue on Shelter respond to the need for improved water and sanitiation facilitities. Project activity started in 2008. It was introduced in the context of acute water scarcity and sporadic water supply. Exacerbating this was the country’s economic and political crisis, a hallmark of which was extremely limited government resources. At the time this project was introduced waterless sanitation technology (ecosan) was not accepted in Zimbabwe. Provision of conventional, individualized water, and sewer disposal systems had become increasingly expensive and restricted the numbers of families that could benefit from the use of these services. The affordability of shared infrastructure promoted by the UPFI projects meant sanitation projects could resume although in some settlements there were no such activities. Shortage of water is a result of many factors, chief among them being inadequate capacity of the existing water and sewer works, lack of chemicals to treat any available water, as well as unaffordable tariffs for water and sewerage.

Before boreholes can be constructed, the allocated land has to be planned, title-surveyed, and have engineering designs done. This will ensure that temporary facilities will not hinder the installation of reticulated water and sanitation systems at a later stage.  


The Federation submitted proposals to five local authorities to gain permission to put up alternative sanitation units. The intention was to provide ecosan toilets and boreholes across one thousand two hundred and seventy (1,270) sites across the country, including the following areas: Chinhoyi (250), Cowdray Park (254), Silethemba (100), Mkomba (71), Kariba (50) and Dzivaresekwa (455).

Community capacity:

The intention was to build the community's capacity in relation to their savings ability. It was also hoped would encourage non-Federation members to join the Federation as well as re-igniting the spark, so to speak, in old Federation members and getting them to increase their savings. Additionally, the community's (ecosan) construction skills as well as their borehole management capabilities would be improved through training and exchanges.    


The project was meant to be initiated at a national level, with five key areas of implementation namely Chinhoyi, Cowdray Park, Silethemba, Mkomba, Kariba and Dzivaresekwa. 


The intention was that the project would have an impact, firstly, on the lives of the urban poor through the provision of basic sanitation services. Second, the intention was to utilise the projects as evidence for the viability of alternative, low cost and sustainable approaches to thhe provision of basic services particularyl sanitation. 


SDI Contributions:

SDI contributed US$100,000.

Resources Leveraged:

The land was bought at a very low price (US$0.05 per square metre) by the Federation. The Federation was also able to obtain free training on the installation and maintenance of boreholes. 

Dialogue on Shelter. (n.d.). Altering the Urban Development Matrix. [Online]. Available: http://dialogueonshelter.co.zw/news/14-altering-the-urban-development-matrix.html
Frankson, L. (2015). Zimbabwe to Receive $16 Million Water and Sanitation Relief. [Online]. Available: http://www.infrastructurene.ws/2015/10/05/zim-to-receive-16-million-water-sanitation-relief/.
Human Rights Watch. (2013). Zimbabwe: Water and Sanitation Crisis. [Online]. Available: https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/11/19/zimbabwe-water-and-sanitation-crisis

Funding Information



Implementing Partners

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Dialogue on Shelter & Zimbabwe Homeless People's Federation