The importance of water

The importance of water

The Southern Africa Livelihoods Project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

Across Southern Africa thousands of communities are still battling to recover from the El Niño induced drought of 2015 and 2016.

The drought affected an estimated 41 million people across the Southern African region. Thembisile Gaehler is a farmer from Manyandza village in Swaziland. She recalls, "during the drought we greatly suffered because we lacked food to eat and lost our livestock. In my family we lost nine cattle, only goats and chickens survived the drought. In the fields we did not harvest anything."

The importance of water


Most subsistence farmers in Southern Africa rely on rain-fed irrigation for their crops, so during long periods of drought they’re left vulnerable and unable to farm. The recent drought compounded by ongoing water shortages has meant many communities are now moving further down a path of vulnerability rather than towards prosperity. 

The Southern Africa Livelihoods Project was launched in 2017 by World Vision Australia and Australian Aid. The project aims to support farming groups to scale up and commercialise their agricultural production. But before many groups can begin transforming their farms into businesses, they must first overcome the major hurdle of water insecurity.

This project is working with community farming groups across Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa to overcome this critical issue. 

Mphilwe Mamba is the project’s coordinator in Swaziland and he believes passionately in the commitment the project is making by investing in water infrastructure.

“We're coming in to improve the efficiency of the irrigation. Because that will have a ripple effect in terms of how much they can grow. So we want to grow their production volumes. We believe that if we supply water to be available throughout the year, they will be able to produce throughout the year.”

– Mphilwe Mamba, project coordinator


In Swaziland, Thembisile Gaehler’s group from Manyandza village had been producing vegetables for 20 years, however the recent drought reduced their production to just small quantities of sweet potato. 

The project has drilled a borehole for the group and they are awaiting piping to begin using the water. The group is exploring how they can commercialise their farming and as a first step they plan to clear an additional two hectares of land to scale up production.

Thembisile can’t wait for the group to access the water from the borehole. “When the water starts running from the borehole we will take manure, till the soil and plant vegetables like cabbages and spinach. We are very happy about the availability of water because water is the reason we stopped producing.” 



The Southern Africa Livelihoods Project’s investment in water infrastructure ranges from drilling boreholes, to building small weirs and dams and installing irrigation piping.

Over the next two years you can follow the stories of farmers like Thembisile to learn more about how the project is growing new opportunities for groups to scale up their agricultural production.

See more stories of how World Vision is growing livelihoods in Southern Africa.