When Cyclone Idai hit parts of Chimanimani and Chipinge districts in Manicaland in 2018, it left a torn people in its wake.
The trauma of losing their loved ones, their homes, property and the normalcy that they had gotten used to has been a big burden that communities have had to live with for almost two years now.
While recovery efforts are still ongoing, some communities are still struggling to regroup and recover while waiting for Government and its partners to support them.
However, villagers in Muwango, Chipinge have taken it upon themselves to rebuild their lives, leveraging on the support that came their way after the disaster.
The community was a beneficiary of a programme implemented by the Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI) which sought to enhance the outcomes of post Cyclone Idai reconstruction through building resilience. The programme had special inclination towards enhancing communities’ ability to work together for reconstruction.
Using the ‘Power of Vision’ community conversation facilitation tool, Muwango villagers united and worked together to complete the construction of a makeshift bridge that will make the village accessible once the rains begin in earnest.
The original bridge was swept away by the cyclone along with many other bridges in the area. Since the area traditionally receives a lot of rainfall, lack of a bridge means that villagers cannot cross Mutsamaire River once that happens.
Primary school children benefited a lot as they use the make -shift bridge to access their school.
Village head Mr Shingirirai Muwango said after receiving training on the Power of Vision, the community understood that they could bring positive development to their area using locally available resources.
“We had a vision as a community to see our children have access to education so that they can have a better life and uplift their families, the community, the district and ultimately the country. So the bridge had to come first,” he said.
Without any assistance from experts, the community picked the brains of its villagers to come up with a design and site for the simple bridge they wanted to put up.
Big treated poles were lined carefully on the bottom and joined together using nails before smaller poles were laid on top to make a steady landing that can sustain the weight of people and even vehicles.
Only locally available materials were used.
The gum poles were sourced from the Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe which has a plantation in the area, rocks and stones were carried by the youths from a nearby village while members of the local community contributed money to buy the nails.
The most important input was their time, which they all willingly gave to make their vision become reality.
Mr Muwango said the bridge was a shared vision among all villagers and this was why it had been successfully done.
“If we had not worked together, everyone would have suffered ultimately. Our children would not be able to attend classes at all and no vehicle would be able to transport people and goods in or out of the village once the rains start. With this bridge, everyone wins,” he said.
Villagers are also working on another bridge that leads to the secondary school across Musirizwi River which was also swept away by the cyclone.
The cyclone did not only leave infrastructural damage on the people, it left emotional scars that affected people differently.
Mrs Tshiyiwe Sibhula-Mhlanga, said the community had faced psychosocial challenges as a result of the cyclone.
Gender based violence was rife and many other negative reactions that often manifest after a disaster of such magnitude strikes a community.
But after the community decided to work towards their vision, Mrs Mhlanga said they had a unity of purpose, which drove out the negatives and left them focussing on positives.
“We had to find a shared vision. A vision that we all believed in and once we decided to work together to make this vision a reality, GBV became a thing of the past, even dependence on donors for food became less. We now know that if we do not work, we will not eat or achieve anything. We could only achieve this because we worked together as a community,” she said.
Other villagers also expressed pleasure in the concept of working together to achieve a common goal, which was a step towards the development of their community.
REPSSI country director Mrs Sibusisiwe Marunda said the community had breathed life into a tool that was being used to support them to recover from the disaster they met with.
“This tool has been a theory for us all along. But we have seen what it can really do when properly implemented. It would not have been successful if the communities were not willing to put in the work for their vision. They have decided not to remain down after cyclone Idai disrupted their lives; instead they rose and took their future into their own hands.
“When we started working in the communities soon after the cyclone, we saw some very painful scenes, we saw a broken people. So when we see these communities rising from that great defeat, to build something that will benefit everyone, it shows resilience. It is our wish to foster resilience in the communities we work with and we will try to continue supporting them so that they can give life to more visions,” she said.
Cyclone Idai, the tropical storm that killed hundreds of people, destroyed crops and livestock and battered eastern and central parts of the country in early 2019, was the worst weather-related disaster in more than hundred years in Zimbabwe.
Official and UN reports indicate that more than 270 000 people were affected by the tropical cyclone which struck the country causing extensive damage estimated at US$622 million.
More than 50 000 households were destroyed, directly affecting 270 000 people, including 60 000 who were displaced.
Zimbabwe estimated that it would require up to US$1,1 billion to support recovery and restore damaged infrastructure and livelihoods.
The storm caused catastrophic damage in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi killing more than 1 300 people and leaving many more missing.
More than 2 million people were displaced nearly two decades after another cyclone ripped through the region with devastating force.
Cyclone Idai destroyed homes, crops, bridges and roads bringing untold hardships to the affected communities.