By Mark Mhukayesango
GWERU, October 8, 2015 – Sand poaching is an illegal practice, but for women in Vungu it is
their only source of livelihood amid massive job loses which left
their husbands redundant.
Women here have become the sole breadwinners of their families as
their husbands fail to find decent employment.
Sand poaching not easy task as one has to be alert of the
Environmental Management Agency EMA who normally raid the area in
search of merchants of environmental degradation.
Also on their tails everyday are unscrupulous EMA officials looking to
milk the poor, whilst the sand buyers also give pay less for their
Extracting sand is also a strenuous task for women here, but with a
family to feed and fees to pay , the job has to be done.
Whilst some work during the night, the daring ones extract sand from
rivers during the afternoon in full glare of the community.
A truck load is sold for as little as $5 as the toiling women suffer
from exploitation from sand dealers.
36-year-old mother of two Getrude Mawoyo has since 2008 been taking
care of her family since her husband passed away.
Now a widow, Mawoyo has three mouths to feed ,hence entered the sand trade.
With a bucket of river sand on her head, Mawoyo strolls to the river
in anticipation of a good business day, but all she sells is a paltry
“Life has been difficult since the death of my husband , hence i had
to do this strenuous business to feed my family,” Mawoyo said.
Mawoyo added, ” My children are all school going age and they would
curse me if i don’t take them to school. So i have to work extra hard
selling sand in order to give my children a bright future.”
She complained about the meagre amounts paid by sand dealers who hike
the prices when selling to construction companies and individuals in
“Begging on the streets was the last thing on my mind after I lost my
husband. Even if the dealers exploit us there is nothing else to do,”
23-year-old mother of one, Langelihle Ndlovu who is also a school drop
out joined the trade six months ago after seeing fellow women
She said hunger was looming in the are following a season of poor
rains and the only way to raise money to buy maize was through sand
“We do not have any crops to talk about, most of our maize crops
wilted before reaching maturity stage,” she said.
“We have never gotten food relief from government, so instead of
starving we have to do something,” Ndlovu said.
But sand poaching attracts a fine and prosecution, thus women here
engage in running battles with EMA officials who complain about
massive land degradation.
“We always reprimand them for engaging in such activities, but these
poor families have nothing to do,” EMA District Information Officer
Timothy Nyoka said.
“They pay fines for harming the environment, we therefore encourage
people to desist from such behaviour. Those we give licenses to extract
sand , we also encourage them to rehabilitate the land by planting
more trees,” said Nyoka.
EMA has hence embarked on awareness campaigns educating villagers on
the importance of keeping the environment safe.
There has been an overwhelming increase in the number of women who are
breadwinners in their families and coupled with the recent
retrenchments more families are likely to be provided for by women who
go out of their way to take care of their families.