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Visit Hamakumo, a village in Monze district, Zambia, and you might get to try the next big super-food. A popular snack in town is chibwali – the delicious leaves of sweet potatoes which are packed with most of the vitamins you’ll ever need.

So it’s no surprise that Rona’s specialist crop – sweet potato seedlings – is in high demand.

“Having water here means life for us,” Rona explains. In the blistering heat of Monze, the sweet potatoes depend on the flow of safe water from the village’s borehole – and so does Rona’s livelihood. “I send my children to school, buy food and some clothes out of my garden,” she says. 

Rona Mweemba and her daughter Lwindi, working in their garden in Hamakumo, Monze district, Zambia.
Rona Mweemba with her daughter Lwiindi in their garden near Hamakumo's borehole. 

The borehole we installed in Hamakumo village in 2007 was built to last – but eventually, years of use put it out of action. In October 2015, rust and damaged rods caused it to break down – and the impact was immediately felt by all.

“Going back to drinking dirty water from shallow wells was the worst experience ever,” explains Knowledge, the secretary of Hamakumo’s water committee.

Within a short time, she noticed a rise in diarrhoea cases, while the daily search for safe water forced the village’s children to be late for school.

But there was still cause for optimism. As part of our work in Monze, we supported the development of Knowledge's water committee, which had been collecting money from local residents for the maintenance of the borehole.

As in many of the communities where we work, the committee is made up evenly of men and women, who have been trained to manage money and make simple repairs themselves.

Everybody in the community pays in some of their earnings (or their maize, which can be sold on) each month, meaning funds are available for emergencies just like this one.

Knowledge Mweemba of Hamakumo Village in Monze, Zambia, stands next to a recently rehabilitated community borehole.
Knowledge Mweemba stands next to Hamakumo’s rehabilitated water-hole. 

The problem with Hamakumo's borehole was too complex for the committee to fix by itself, so a trained water engineer was called out – still, the whole village found ways to help.

"Men assisted in pulling out the pipes,” Knowledge says. “And women provided food and water for those who were working.” 

After the pipe was restored the water committee set about growing its funds by offering small loans, the interest from which will help to guarantee the village’s borehole is checked up on regularly, protecting Hamakumo from any future breakdowns.

With the whole village chipping in to keep the water supply sustainable, Hamakumo's community can continue to grow – and so can the chibwali leaves.

Find out more about our work in Zambia >

This project has been made possible thanks to the generosity of our supporters, including players of People's Postcode Lottery.