Project Summary

The Soft Foot Alliance is helping to create better access to precious water for communities in a regenerative way. There are too ways of harvesting rainwater, in a tank ‘Active rainwater harvesting’ or in the land ‘passive rainwater harvesting’ Rainwater harvesting is a way of meeting people’s needs and improving the environment.
Hwange national park and the surrounding villages receives an average of 600mms of rain per year. This rain falls during the short rainy season between November and April. Traditionally crops are grown in fields during the rainy season, each year there are more erratic rains with heavy storms and then long dry spells meaning crops often fail.

Access to water for a homestead is very limited, women walk with 20 litre bucket to collect water from village boreholes. In some villages this can mean walking several kilometers to collect water.

Locals fetching water by a donkey drawn cart

A frame to measure the contour, for a digging a swale


The Soft Foot Alliance has introduced the rainwater Jar to our community as part of the evolution of our permaculture strategy. ‘Catch and store energy’ is one of the permaculture principles that we use to design our work towards building a landscape of regeneration. Homesteads and families that have been learning about permaculture and applying regenerative techniques in their homes and villages receive a rainwater jar as a gift to recognize their hard work and to help to continue improving their lives and landscapes.

Local builders have been trained on how to build simple rainwater jars that collect 3500 litres of water from the roof of a small house. We can honestly say that the community is so excited about this and we can’t keep up with the demand! During a storm precious water rushes off of roofs and causes erosion. Using gutters to catch every drop of this into a rainwater jar improves a family’s access to water both for household use and to help with growing food in a small area.

The jar is built by filling a form made of canvas with sand

Project Design

The jar is built by filling a form made of canvas with sand* then chicken-wire is wrapped around it to make the shape of the jar. A thin cement plaster is then applied to the outside and after a few days the sand and form are taken out and the inside is plastered. This uses very little materials and is easy to build and maintain.
As with all our projects, we support local skills development and capacity building, ensuring income generation for the communities that live with wildlife. The first builders were trained by a water harvesting expert. The gutters are made either by local tin Smith’s with sheet metal or by the builders also using chicken wire and plaster.

*We found an easier fill material than sand to be something lighter that still holds the shape, recycling plastic bottles works really well!

Local builders have been trained

Chicken-wire is wrapped around it to make the shape of the jar


The land is the biggest store of water, for this to happen the soil needs to be thriving. Each drop of rain then soaks into the ground, when landscapes are bare and degraded the rain rushes far away taking any soil that is left along with it.

regenerators sharing knowledge about gabions

working together to build a gabion

All actions that we work on are about healing the land, so that the water cycle can meet the needs of all life on this landscape. It is the foundation for every living thing and so the foundation of our work.

Holistic grazing, permaculture design and actions all work towards this restoration and regeneration. There are actions that are help to catch water in the bare hard and eroded landscape whilst the soil is being healed.

gully erosion healed with gabion

the gabion after the first rains

Gabions slow water down in erosion gullies so that this can infiltrate into the land.

Contour swales catch rainwater on sloping land so that the water sinks in.

There is something deeply gratifying in knowing these actions replenish the water table and can bring us towards the dream of flowing rivers and abundant landscapes.