Thursday, September 08, 2022

Sand Thieves in Zimbabwe

 Sand poachers have wrought huge scars on land across Zimbabwe as they harvest river sand. 

According to the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), Zimbabwe’s statutory body responsible for ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources and protection of the environment, approximately 1694 hectares of land are affected by sand-poaching in the country, with Harare contributing to over 850 hectares of the statistics. EMA statistics have shown that as of December 2019, 9.5 million square meters of land across Zimbabwe had degraded due to illegal sand poaching.

Environmentalists like Happison Chikova, based in Harare, blamed Zimbabwe’s poor economy for the land degradation unleashed by sand poachers.

“These people have no jobs. They think by digging up sand soils for sale, believing they may break free from bankruptcy and poverty, but alas. They only make the environment suffer as they get very little money that hardly changes their lives,” Chikova explained.

For Gavanga and many others, sand-poaching has been a source of income for years.

This patch of land has given us money over the years, and we can’t afford to leave it. We are here to stay, and we are here to turn the sand into money,” Gavanga told IPS.

Gavanga is unfazed by the severity of damage unleashed on the giant swathes of land they have invaded in Chitungwiza. What they care about is money. Gavanga claimed they make at least 30 to 40 US dollars daily from the enterprise.

“We just bring our picks and shovels here, and customers come with their trucks, and we fill the trucks with the sand we sell. Yes, this isn’t our land, but we have to survive from it even though (the authorities say) we are not allowed to mine,” 34-year-old Melford Mahamba, one of Gavanga’s colleagues, told IPS.  “The profits are huge since sand sells for 6 to 8 US dollars a cubic meter. We sell to clients using their own transport,” said Mahamba. The sand poachers, in fact, incur very few costs, and the only costs they have to shoulder are the bribes given to council police.

But that is bad news for the environment. Sand poachers damage vegetation while they dig out wide and deep pits which subsequently get flooded each rain season.

“Sand poaching increases Zimbabwe’s vulnerability to flooding in areas receiving high rainfall, with the practice of sand poaching also threatening wetlands, but sand poaching also affects water availability downstream, which then affects water use for climate adaptation purposes,” Ray Ncube, an environmental lawyer.

Sand Poachers Fueling Environmental Harm in Zimbabwe | Inter Press Service (

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