The Centre for Natural Resources Governance (CNRG) has been working with the Communities in Hwange since 2014. Projects varied, from enhancing the capacity of women in communities affected by extractives to training on Participatory Action Research and Social Economic Rights.
CNRG targeted mostly women from both urban and rural Hwange, whose lives have been grossly affected by the environmentally toxic coal projects by Hwange Colliery and other mushrooming coal miners and Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC).
Situated in the North Western part of Zimbabwe, Hwange Power Station is the largest coal-fired power station of the country, with 920MW installed capacity which comprises of 4x120MW and 2×220 MW units. It is the 14th largest thermal station in the Southern African region and is adjacent to Wankie Colliery Open Cast Mine. A US$1.5 billion 600 MW expansion project for Hwange Thermal Power Station is underway. Although in 2013 government unveiled the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate Change, so far there has been little policy initiatives aimed at minimizing carbon emissions as well as raising awareness on climate change. The fact that Zimbabwe has been a net importer of food since 2001 is a strong evidence that climate change, due to environmental degradation and deterioration of soil, air and water quality and aided by other factors such as land reform and the general economic decline, is contributing to food insecurity.
It is imperative that Zimbabwe starts developing alternatives to coal by investing in renewable energy. However the starting point is awareness raising and convincing both the citizens and policy makers that there are alternatives to coal. Against this background CNRG targeted various stakeholders within and around Hwange colliery. On its pilot project in Hwange supported by WoMIN in 2014, CNRG targeted women as they are arguably the most vulnerable group to climate change due to their connection to agriculture and limited employment opportunities for women at the colliery and ZPC. CNRG also targeted duty bearers (local authorities-councillors) as well as rights holders (community members- men women and youths) for awareness raising on coal and alternatives.
The Hwange women who have undergone PAR training by CNRG have managed to generate knowledge through action research on the effects of extractive industries on rural and urban women in their communities. These women have managed to create female-led community groups that advocate for alternatives sources of energy that create economic opportunities for women. They are now able to use the evidence gathered to challenge Zimbabwe’s heavy dependence on coal vis-à-vis climate change, exposing the risks due to perennial fires and disruption of the water table linked to coal mining. An encouraging outcome has been the enhanced ability of the women to engage with stakeholders to the extent of being able to influence legislative and policy reforms leading to reduction of carbon emissions through investment in renewable energy solutions and agriculture. This was evidenced by the increased quality of contributions from the PAR trained women during the Mines and Mineral Amendment Bill Consultative meeting by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy in Hwange. The committee was told about the effects of coal on the community and the environment.
Issues that have brought out by the women through PAR include mining-prompted, structural and physical domestic violence, environmental degradation and pollution, workers’ rights abuse, increased health deterioration and community social fabric decay. The perennial underground coal fires have resulted in the drying of huge swathes of forests and deadly injury to wildlife and humans.
The limited community understanding on how coal projects in Hwange are contributing to the declining economic well-being of households in the colliery has traditionally been of great concern for CNRG . Apart from the comatose state of Hwange Colliery, most community members’ only hope is to get employment with the coal mining companies or Zimbabwe Power Company in Hwange. This is mainly because, over the years, Hwange Town has developed around the colliery which provided everything from jobs, water, electricity, infrastructure, housing, education and health. The community has not known any other source of life apart from coal-related jobs.
CNRG, in partnership with Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), jointly implemented a one year project focusing on enhancing the capacity of communities to defend and advocate for their socio economic rights and strengthening the capacity of local government councillors to start community dialogue on alternatives to coal. The project was implemented in Hwange, Bikita and Mutoko districts.
Outcomes : the rights based approach has capacitated local authorities to demand that, in as much as communities bear the costs of mining, they must also share the profits. Hwange inhabitants benefited from this project because the community is now using every platform and opportunity to propose solutions to their economic hardships. The culture of stakeholder demand and engagement is slowly becoming a value in the Hwange Community. Exchange visits made by some community members with their counterparts from Bikita and Mutoko to do a comparative analysis on the impact of the mining activities revealed an effective learning process for both councillors and villagers, as they realised that extractive industries behave the same everywhere; hence mining-affected communities also need a coordinated response to extractivism. It is against this background that CNRG has started connecting communities through exchange visits and conferences. This is a very exciting and promising development as it is building solidarity and synergies among very distant communities.
Climate change is taking its heavy toll on Zimbabwe’s poor who have little or no adaptation options. The impacts are more severe in mining areas where a combination of land grabbing, water grabbing and pollution of rivers are reducing food security. Government’s over-dependence on fossil fuel for energy generation, particularly coal powered Hwange Thermal Power Station is a major contributor to climate change. CNRG has begun working with communities in and around Hwange Colliery to raise awareness on the dangers of relying on fossil fuels. There has been lack of awareness raising on the fatal effects of coal and carbon emissions on climate change. More work need to be done to develop localized responses to climate change. There is need to do community based knowledge gathering on climate change in mining communities. This will result in co-production of climate change knowledge that involves community driven adaptation measures which can be used to lobby the authorities to be included in the national adaptation mitigation and implementation strategy by the relevant Ministries.
Environmental Impact Assessment – Ongoing
With support from the International Coal Network, CNRG has commissioned an independent environmental and social impact assessment of Hwange. This is aimed at independently evaluating the effects of various coal projects on the local community as well as on climate change. Findings of the EIA will be used to advise policy makers on strategies which government can explore to reduce the effects of coal. The EIA report will also be widely distributed in the community to ensure everyone understands the dangers of coal and carbon emissions. There is need for a groundswell of disapproval of coal at community level before this starts to be reflected in national policies.
Results from the EIA conducted in Hwange will be published soon in our website!!