Takunda Maodza Manicaland Bureau Chief
THE African Development Bank (AfDB) has released US$24 million for the reconstruction of areas damaged by Cyclone Idai last March in Chimanimani and Chipinge.
The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) is the project manager (implementing partner).
The funding by the AfDB complements Government efforts at rebuilding the two districts, at the epicentre of the davastating Cyclone Idai.
The reconstruction of the two districts will enable them contribute to the national economy in a significant way.
Chimanimani and Chipinge are rich in timber, tea, coffee and fruits ranging from pineapples, avocados and macadamia nuts.
Part of the funds will support the revival of irrigation schemes in the two districts.
On Wednesday AfDB executive directors that included Dr Judith Kateera and Mr Mbuyamu Matungulu toured a number of areas in Chimanimani where the bank is funding the construction of four major bridges in place of those damaged by the cyclone.
The tour was for the board members to appreciate the scope of works.
They toured Nyahodi Bridge No. 4, Nyahodi Bridge No. 5, Nyahodi Bridge No. 3, and Kopa where the South African National Defence Forces and the Zimbabwe National Army constructed two Bailey bridges last year.
At Kopa the AfDB intends to construct two major bridges — one across Nyahode River and the other across Rusitu River linking Chimanimani East to Chipinge.
It is UNOPS’s view that the two Bailey bridges are temporary.
The project has four phases with construction of the bridges expected to start next year.
In an interview with The Herald during the tour, UNOPS country manager Mr Djibrilla Mazin said funding was approved in September last year.
Funds were released in December of the same year.
Some quarters feel UNOPS is moving too slowly in implementing the project.
Mr Mazin told The Manica Post there were a lot of pre-construction activities.
UNOPS has to mobilise, recruit consulting firms, come up with detailed designs of the bridges, and recruit contractors.
“UNOPS is an agency that is mandated by the UN General Assembly for infrastructure, project management and procurement. We have been called here to support Government as well as the African Development Bank in response to the Cyclone Idai and the project is more than US$24 million that was dedicated and granted to Zimbabwe by the AfDB,” said Mr Mazin.
He said the project aimed to improve agricultural productivity by ensuring construction of resilient infrastructure for easy movement of produce and inputs.
Mr Mazin explained why physical works have not started.
“We started with our inception phase. You must understand that this is not a humanitarian project. This is an infrastructural project and it has a lead time that is different from a humanitarian project. It’s not patching and rebuilding quickly. It is taking stock of the events ensuring that we understand the impact and the reasons why it happened and we build back better, meaning that we re-design with resilient criteria that will allow the infrastructure to last,” he said.
“We mobilised UNOPS in September last year. I think we have been pretty fast in analysing the needs, in detailing the different actions that we can propose to Government for them to come up with the final list of priorities.”
Mr Mazin said needs surpassed available resources.
“You know the impact of Cyclone Idai is US$700 million to US$1,3 billion and we only have US$24 million. Obviously we will need to prioritise and see how we can support. These funds were dedicated to Chimanimani and Chipinge districts and purely to infrastructure which will enhance agricultural productivity and livelihoods of the population,” added Mr Mazin.
At the moment priority is on Chimanimani district.
“Mainly it is the bridges but what is important to note again is we are not building what was there before. We are re-building with resilient criteria. We are re-building stronger and in some cases it requires re-alignment of roads and so that takes time. I know people are very anxious that after one year where is the physical construction we cannot see it today?” he said.
Mr Mazin said UNOPS will not be rushed into action.
“I think it is also important to recognise that you do not want to rush and build something that will be destroyed by the next rains. The funds were released to UNOPS in December last year. We are looking at four main bridges,” he said.
UNOPS will also attend to irrigation schemes, water and sanitation improvements in Chipinge and Chimanimani.
Dr Kateera said they were happy with UNOPS.