Who Owns Water? (Malawi Part II)

One question that we constantly ask ourselves at the Salvation Army International Development Office is ‘who owns our projects?’ If the answer is ‘The Salvation Army,’ we will most likely fail. If the answer is ‘the community,’ success is attainable.

Take for example boreholes, some estimate that around 50,000 boreholes in Africa are out of service. One reason for this is that few boreholes are replaced after their ten-year life expectancy. Another broader problem is that when the pumps fall into disrepair, the donors or politicians who drilled them are nowhere to be found. The community is not trained in maintenance and feels no ownership over the pump, so, sadly, another investment in clean water is lost.

Enter the village committee! Many of our community-based projects are built around village committees who manage, govern, and implement our projects. Last week in Malawi, I met with the committees that are part of our large Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Project.

New borehole in action

New borehole in action

Malawi WASH works in 50 communities in Malawi to provide them with safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, improved agriculture, and capacity building.  Each village has a water, sanitation/health, and agriculture/nutrition committee, formed of five males and five females from the community. The committees are trained by government officials in the three respective areas, and throughout the entire process the committees are reminded that they are the owners of the project.

In keeping with the theme of the post, I’ll let you read about the committees in their own words.

Dorothy using the new clothes washing station that keeps dirty soapy water away from the drinking source.

Dorothy using the new clothes washing station that keeps dirty soapy water away from the drinking source.

Dorothy Gunde – Water Committee Chairwoman

As chairwoman, I call for meetings, guide the meetings, and identify problems with the pump. Our committee decided that every household must contribute 150 Malawian Kwacha (50 US cents) per month, and this money will be used to purchase a spare part if anything goes wrong. We explained to the community that the payment was for their benefit, so they are willing to pay. They are very happy with the water and feel as though they own it and the pump.

Mavice Hararwe – Health Committee Chairwoman

After the health training, we called a village meeting and explained to everyone about using latrines and hand washing. Then we went door-to-door in the village visiting each household and surveying which have latrines and which did not. When we sensitised the community, we asked what their major health problems were, and we discovered that it is malaria and diarrhoea. Another group distributed medicines to fight these two diseases. We also checked that all children have been vaccinated and that mothers are taking children to the clinic.

Mavice sharing about the health committee.

Mavice sharing about the health committee.

George Gunde Agriculture Committee Member

The WASH project has changed us very much. The agriculture aspect in particular has changed my life. I now grow maize crops with the new methods we learned and now there are three pieces of corn on my stalk but before there was only one per stalk.  From the agriculture and nutrition classes we learned how to prepare potato leaves into a juice as well as papaya juice. We are now doing this in our household.

George Gunde showing off his three ears of maize.

George Gunde showing off his three ears of maize.

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