In the third and final part of our diary recounting the recent trip to Malawi with the One Foundation, Heather and Rory visit communities where lives have been saved from the addition of fresh water pumps.
The population of Malawi in 2016 is nearly 18 million – an increase from 12 million in 2005. At least 80% of this population (14 million) inhabit rural Malawi and live in varying degrees of extreme poverty. Today, with that sobering thought in mind, we spent the day with another NGO supported by One Water – Concern Malawi. Massa and Rhodric were our hosts for the day.
Leaving Fisherman’s Rest at 7am we headed west to the Mozambique border through endless stretches of tea plantations. Our first stop-off was at Mpeni village where the borehole had been drilled and water pump installed in May 2014 (the month and year that Isaac was born). This pump supplied 740 families. Within Malawi the average family size is 5. This water pump therefore supplied over 4000 individuals!!
Once again the welcome we received was overwhelming. With my own emotions running high we learnt that the pump was originally intended to be positioned in the neighbouring village of Semu. Unfortunately when Concern had come to drill the borehole they had been unable to find water, so an agreement had therefore been reached to relocate to Mpeni. The chief at Mpeni is female and unusually the borehole committee are also made up of 10 women.
The role of women is Malawian society is challenging (to say the least). They are responsible for fetching water and harvesting food, as well as bringing up their families. When we visited Mpeni the men were away looking for piece-meal work. The village had a female chief and a predominantly female borehole committee. Needless to say the pump looked in great condition, the committee appeared to operate well and their stock of fast-wearing spare parts was impressive.
The women were keen to show us where the two villages sourced their water prior to the installation of the pump. With singing and dancing all around us we followed the group first down a steep slope (difficult to walk on in the dry season wearing shoes even without carrying 25l of water, so goodness knows what that addition would be like) to what can only be described as a filthy pool of water. Rick had warned me this would happen and he was right – tears started to pour – these incredible, resilient, smiling, warm women collecting this water to give to their families was devastating. We learned how prior to the pump the village had suffered with cholera and other deadly waterborne infectious diseases. This had pretty much stopped since the pump had been installed and the women were so very, very grateful to us and the One Foundation.
Walking to the next village the story was very similar – an even steeper slope to navigate, but this
time the water hole was at least fed by a spring, and so looked a little cleaner. The women in this village (prior to the pump) woke up at 3am to queue for the water. The problem with this source was that it did not fill quickly enough to provide enough water for those who relied on it. Whilst we were there it had filled by no more than 1 or 2 cupfuls. We were told that it could take an hour or more to fill a bucket! As we left the spring I tried carrying a full bucket of water on my head. Whilst initially the weight was ok there was absolutely no way that I would have been able to scramble up that slope without losing balance and more importantly all the water!! My admiration for these women cannot be described but if ever I feel that life is treating me badly I have vowed to remember these women and their sheer tenacity.
Before we left the village there were plenty more photo opportunities, with women and children laughing at themselves as they realised what they looked like! We also all took the chance to fill a bucket (25l) with water using the new pump. This again was by no means easy – we take it for granted at home that we just turn on a tap! When asked what would make their lives easier though their request was for additional pumps. This pump supported 4000 people and at times the queues could be long with fights breaking out over who’s turn it was. Each pump costs approximately £4,000 to provide, and on hearing this, the tears came again. This cost is so small in the whole scheme of things but the result and difference these pumps make to communities in Malawi are truly life changing – and I feel privileged I’ve now seen this with my own eyes.
YOU CAN HELP TOO! Visit The One Foundation website www.onedifference.org, and pick up a bottle of One Water next time you’re thirsty.