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9th International Rainwater Catchment Systems Conference
"Rainwater Catchment: An Answer to the Water Scarcity of the Next Millennium."
Petrolina, Brazil - July 1999

Section 2: Wordwide Experiences of Rainwater Catchment Systems

Paper 2.1

Promotion of Rainwater Catchment in Southern Africa

Rob Dyer
The Mvula Trust
P O Box 6130, Bishopsgate
Durban 4008, South Africa


Southern Africa is a drought prone region, and has suffered two severe droughts in the last 10 years. However, the use of rainwater harvesting in Southern Africa, even as a supplementary source of water is not generally promoted by government policies and practices in the region.

Regional Rainwater Harvesting Programme

A programme to promote the use of rainwater harvesting, for both domestic use and crop production, has been initiated by 2 South Africa based organisations, The Mvula Trust, a large water and sanitation NGO, and the Disaster Mitigation for Sustainable Livelihoods Project (DiMP), based at the University of Cape Town. The programme is one of three disaster mitigation/risk reduction initiatives being promoted by DiMP with support from the Department for International Development, London.

Goals and Objectives of the Programme

The goals of the programme are

  • To influence community water supply policy and practice in Southern Africa, towards the increased use of rainwater harvesting techniques. 
  • To encourage best practice in the implementation of rainwater harvesting initiatives.  
  • The focus of the programme is on development organisations directly involved in project implementation. 
  • The participating countries are Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Rainwater harvesting in the region

Most rainwater harvesting activity in the region is being promoted by the NGO sector. Domestic rainwater harvesting activities, using above and below ground storage, has been promoted in Botswana since the late 60s. In Zimbabwe, a few NGOs have successfully introduced rainwater harvesting for crop production with small farmers in a few pilot areas. Rainwater harvesting is traditionally practised in several areas in Mozambique, and NGOs are promoting improvements to existing techniques. In some areas in South Africa, particularly the Eastern Cape, households use galvanised iron tanks to collect water from roofs with little external support. In Zambia, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, together with NGOs, supports the construction and rehabilitation of small dams and weirs for small-scale irrigation and water for domestic use.

Organisation of the programme

The programme will run at two levels. Regional activities, to be held throughout the duration of the programme, will be attended by representatives from all participating countries. These will consist mainly of workshops and planning meetings.

In each country there will be a country programme. One of the main activities will be the evaluation of existing rainwater harvesting projects in that country. In addition, there will be workshops that will often mirror the regional workshops.

The approach is to encourage knowledge and skills among development organisations, and to advocate rainwater harvesting at a policy level.


A 3-day regional workshop has been held in Zimbabwe, and a second workshop is planned for September 1999. Country programmes are currently being planned.

PDF of full document (6pp, 30kb)

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