Guest blogger Martin Wayman, Corporate Responsibility Manager at ISS, is currently visiting the projects ISS helps to fund in Malawi by supporting One Drinks. Here’s a write-up from day 2 of the trip.
Our second day kicked off with a fascinating talk on how One Water and its local partners are harnessing the power of digital technology to keep pumps in working. Fisherman’s Rest is an inspiring organisation that works tirelessly on One Water’s behalf under the visionary and passionate leadership of Wiktor Chilowski to get clean water flowing in villages.
Their latest endeavour is the Madzi Alippo app, which enables NGOs, repair teams and local communities to quickly and conveniently log information on the location, working condition and maintenance history of pumps right across Malawi. This information enters onto a database, which is freely available for anyone to use, and provides remarkably detailed monitoring which means that pumps get the care and attention they deserve. It’s the first app of its kind and is growing its users at a rate that would make Silicon Valley proud. It has unlocked a raft of useful benefits, such as better coordination between NGOs and preventing theft of pump parts by unscrupulous neighbouring villagers.
After breakfast we hit the road again and we ventured into a noticeably poorer rural area. The rattling of the van over the pockmarked clay track was the first sign, as the landscape opened up into a series of valleys that were denuded of trees and scattered with small mud brick cottages and outhouses. There were small plots for maize, groundnut, beans and other vegetables in a sea of scrubland. It was clear that we were in a world where people farmed just to survive. Just as striking was the lack of vehicles on the roads. Most people were walking along the side of the road, often laden with big loads.
We eventually reached our first stop for the day- Ikhalamba village, and, you guessed it, a non-functioning pump. The story here was downright sad. Within a year of it being installed by another NGO in 2012 without a sustainable programme and community training, it had been stolen in the middle of the night and all the village was left with was a hole in the ground. We soon set about putting that right and within two hours a new pump was up and running for the village. They were fully on board with Viktor’s ethos of taking personal responsibility for their well and handed over their first payment for parts there and then. Great stuff.
Our next stop was Kholo School just down the road and another non-functioning pump suffering from the same issue. The story here was downright infuriating. I’ve now seen how important it is to invest in sustainable projects and do more for these communities to help them gain the skills they need to look after their precious pumps. The villagers had to trudge up and down a hill every day to fetch water from an open well. They had been doing this for the past two years. I don’t think I could tolerate a broken tap at home for even two days. It was very humbling to see.
Being surrounded by a throng of little children with beaming smiles and inquisitive looks in their eyes was all the encouragement we needed. We made much quicker work of this pump and were starting to learn the ropes from the repair team, even if the stench of the glue for the piping did get a bit much! After the water emerged, we spent fifteen minutes feeling like the Hollywood A List by taking selfies with the kids and their roars of delight as they saw their own faces on my phone screen is a memory that will stay with me forever.