ZEPHANIAH Phiri Maseko is a well-known pioneer of what has come to be known as “water harvesting” and is the founder of the Zvishavane Water Project.
A visionary with no fear of hard toil, he has over many years transformed his family plot in Msipani — an “Area 5” dryland — into a veritable “wetland” agro-ecosystem.
Having faced many struggles in his life, (which are beautifully documented in a book called The Water Harvester: episodes from the inspired life of Zephaniah Phiri by Mary Witoshynsky), Phiri began his experiments by creating sand traps and water infiltration pits in his fields and yard.
He sought not only to prevent soil erosion but to harvest and plant the water that fell as rain or ran as surface runoff on his land.
Looking for a “poor man’s method” that would be useful to himself and other small farmers in the community, he experimented with various ways of capturing water.
THANKS to his own great endeavours and compelling innovations, Phiri established the Zvishavane Water Project in 1987 and has since supported the local community in replicating his successes with water harvesting.
This year in June, the first “Phiri award” will be announced. The award is a new programme launched by a new organisation, The Phiri Award for Farm and Food Innovators Trust.
Inspired by the work of Phiri, the award aims boosting recognition of and support for farm and food innovators and their contributions to food sovereignty.
I, for one, am looking forward to the announcement of a winner and learning more from the local heroes and heroines of the food system.