The Water Harvester by Mary Witoshynsky
Zvishavane, in southern Zimbabwe, lies in arid yet starkly beautiful terrain where small-scale farmers labour in an often fruitless struggle with fragile soils and erratic rainfall. Yet it was here that Zephaniah Phiri cultivated his unique character and vision to transform a resource-starved subsistence plot into a bountiful farmstead.
In The Water Harvester, Mr Phiri relates the challenges that inspired him to combine traditional agricultural wisdom with the scientific land-management schemes mandated by government. In so doing, at times under great duress, he achieved startlingly better returns. His lifelong dedication to soil nutrition and water conservation generated an innovative land husbandry regimen well regarded by agroecologists. These experts are not alone in grasping the significance of Mr Phiri's methods as a basis for coaxing barren ground to yield abundant harvests of grain, vegetables, fruit – and water.
More profoundly, The Water Harvester reveals the family survival strategies of a man of immense courage, perception, patience and generosity. Distilled by Mr Phiri's sage reflection and told in his own words, the story is imbued with his idioms, his rhythms and his experiences. One feels refreshed – inspired by this champion of human dignity; a man whose endurance enabled him to found one of Zimbabwe's first indigenous NGOs: the Zvishavane Water Project. From here he conveys the power of self-reliance throughout the often neglected small-scale farming sector of southern Africa. Far beyond this broad community, The Water Harvester invites readers to celebrate the boundless potential for human fulfilment.
You will never forget the inspiration of Mr Phiri, the water harvester, and after reading his story you will never again see the world in quite the same way.
Mary Witoshynsky is a journalist and researcher who spent four years in Zimbabwe.
Visit the Ashoka website for more information on Zepheniah Phiri Maseko, winner of the 2006 National Geographic Award for Conservation.
2000: (pp: 60) 250 x 185 mm