Unusual waterscapes and precarious rural livelihoods: Occurrence, utilisation and conservation of springs in the Save Catchment, Zimbabwe
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Springs are an important natural resource in many rural spaces which, if utilised sustainably, can be an important source of livelihoods for rural communities. In Zimbabwe, the social aspects of springs and their waterscapes remain understudied. This includes an in-depth understanding of how communities have shaped their livelihoods around springs, the extent to which they have contributed to sustainable rural livelihoods, especially in water stressed parts of the country and the institutional framework shaping their access and utilisation. Using the sustainable livelihoods framework of analysis, the goal of this study was to investigate the role that springs and their resultant waterscapes have played in securing livelihoods for rural households in the Save Catchment of Zimbabwe. Methodologically, the research adopted the socio-hydrological approach which is a new and emerging discipline that aims at understanding the interactions and feedbacks between the human and natural processes that give rise to community water sustainability challenges. The socio-hydrological approach is informed by both the qualitative and quantitative research techniques of data collection and analysis. Two rural communities (Nyanyadzi and Maturure) of the Save Catchment were randomly selected for an in-depth study. The snowball sampling technique (non-probability) was utilised in the selection of the 100 participants for the questionnaire survey. Purposive sampling was used to select nine key informant interview participants. Secondary data collection was done through a systematic review of scholarly and policy literature. Qualitative data generated from primary and secondary sources were processed and analysed using qualitative techniques such as thematic ordering, systematisation and fine grain analysis. For quantitative data, descriptive statistics, such as frequencies, were used to summarise and analyse questionnaire data. Rural communities in the Save Catchment of Zimbabwe were observed to have developed livelihood strategies that were anchored on springs and their waterscapes. In the studied communities, springs were utilised for both commercial and subsistence purposes and livelihoods constructed around springs included; gardening, tourism, livestock production, brick kilning art and craft making. In the study, springs were also shown to be a very important component of sustainable rural livelihoods. However, most of them were perceived to be declining in both water quality and quantity, imposing complex livelihood conundrums for the rural communities and threatening the sustainability of livelihood strategies that they are supporting. Practices observed to be threatening the integrity of springs were encroachment of settlements, natural environmental changes, soil erosion and population pressure. Limited environmental awareness, poverty, poor implementation and enforcement of conservation laws has resulted in the adoption of practices that degraded springs. Institutions shaping spring utilisation were observed to be ineffective to a large extent due to lack of capacities and conflicting mandates but local traditional leadership and water committees were observed to have deeper community penetration and were the most effective in influencing access and effective management of springs and their related waterscapes.