Catholic Women in South Africa Promoting Rainwater Harvesting amid Scarcity

Catholic Women in South Africa. Credit: Southern Cross

As parts of South Africa face water scarcity, a group of lay Catholic women led by a retired nurse are running rainwater harvesting projects to promote access to water by rural communities served by the Archdiocese of Pretoria.

In a Monday, July 25 interview with ACI Africa, Cecilia Malebo Moloantoa said that she was inspired by works of the Congregation of Sisters of Mercy to start Mmakau Rainwater Harvesting Project, which provides residents of Mmakau village in Pretoria with tanks to harvest water.

The 77-year-old retired Catholic nurse said that she started rallying for donations of water tanks in 2020 to help destitute families headed by mainly grandparents.

 “We have had a water crisis in that village for decades. In the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, I decided to relocate to my home village in Mmakau to help the community, especially the elderly”, said Ms. Moloantoa.

In the post-apartheid South Africa, several communities in rural areas still struggle to have access to water. Following talks with the Tshwane municipality, the community of Mmakau had access to water supplied on a fortnightly basis by the local municipality through mobile water tanks.


With the help of women from the Bryanston Catholic Church Commission for Justice and Peace, in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg, Ms. Moloantoa has received six water tanks for Mmakau villagers.

“The first tank was a donation from the Bryanston Catholic Church. Today we have managed to get six tanks”, said Ms. Moloantoa in the July 25 interview, and added, “With the availability of water, people are encouraged to grow their own vegetable gardens.”

The retired South African nurse and former secretary of the health and educational department of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) said, “Such developments are encouraging” and that together with her team from Bryanston Catholic Church, they hope to “inspire more people to support the initiative”.

Ms. Moloantoa noted that due to the rising levels of food insecurity in the community, the project has “deemed it fit to extend the footprint of its operations to food security.”

She continued, “We have started several home-based vegetable gardening projects with several community members. We supply the community members with vegetable seeds for them to plant and grow vegetables at home in their own home-based vegetable gardens.”

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“The results have been outstanding thus far. The community members and their families are now able to harvest vegetables from their home-based gardens and thus ensure food security for their homes and families. We plan to extend the project on a much wider scale”, Ms. Moloantoa told ACI Africa July 25.

She emphasized that the success of the rainwater harvesting project would “ensure that each home, school and business is equipped with a rainwater harvesting system for consistent water supply all year round.”

In a separate interview, Judy Stockhill, a member of the Bryanston Catholic Church Commission for Justice and Peace, told ACI Africa that the commission has been using Pope Francis' Encyclical Letter on care for our common home, Laudato Sí', to extend help to people experiencing environmental challenges including water scarcity.

“In our parish we have the Justice and Peace ‘Greening the Parish’ project to make the parish more sustainable. We harvest rainwater, which is used for our irrigation system”, Ms. Stockhill said during the July 25 interview.

She added, “Part of the sustainability project that we have at the Church of the Resurrection in Bryanston, is to demonstrate to the Parish and the wider community that it is possible to save water through rainwater harvesting."


Sheila Pires is a veteran radio and television Mozambican journalist based in South Africa. She studied communications at the University of South Africa. She is passionate about writing on the works of the Church through Catholic journalism.