Community members celebrating.
Image: WaterAid / Dennis Lupenga

By Ulemu Mbengwani

Access to clean water continues to be a challenge in Malawi, with 37% of Malawians in rural areas still lacking this life-altering resource (UNICEF, 2018). One such community grappling with this issue was Dick Village, located just a few kilometers from Zomba City.

Until recently, the scarcity of clean water cast a shadow of hardship over its residents. However, a community-driven initiative, led by the Village Borehole Committee with support from Titukulane Programme, has not only brought clean water to the village but has also empowered the community to take control of their destiny.

Women at a borehole in Ngilengile village, Zomba.
Image: WaterAid / Ulemu Mbengwani

Mercy Kalitela, the vice chairperson of the village's borehole committee, vividly remembers the hardships they experienced before the intervention. "Before the intervention, we encountered a multitude of difficulties. Some of our family members lost their lives while hoping for a development like this. Our primary water source was a remote puddle, leading to health problems, especially diarrhea, particularly among children."

"Women's long water-fetching journeys caused marital strife and suspicions of infidelity among men. In the midst of scorching summers, we found relief by pouring water on our feet, to cool them down on our journey back home. Growing long hair was a distant dream for many women, burdened by carrying heavy buckets on their heads, hindering proper hair growth," added Kalitera.

According to Boyce Nyirenda, the WASH Manager for the programme, the overall goal of the programme is to achieve sustainable, equitable and resilient food and nutrition security for 723,111 individuals in the hanging in, stepping in and stepping out households and communities in 20 Traditional Authorities in Mangochi and Zomba districts.

To ensure optimal benefits from nutrition-specific interventions, Titukulane’s Theory of Change (ToC) aims at increasing the proportion of households with sustainable and improved basic drinking water supply and with improved sanitation and hygiene practices.

Rosby Wochi, 78.
Image: WaterAid / Dennis Lupenga

Rosby Wochi, 78, is another community member who shared her past experiences when access to water was a challenge. “Raising my eight children was a monumental task. Meeting their water needs for bathing, washing their clothes, and preparing meals was incredibly challenging. Thankfully, we had the strength to persevere through those times.”

“I am thrilled about the borehole we now have. In the past, we had to undertake arduous journeys just to obtain water. We would depart in the morning and return home around lunchtime. It was years of enduring hardship, balancing heavy buckets on our heads, and before the arrival of buckets, we had to carry clay pots.”

“Now, with this hygienic facility, it feels like a newfound freedom, and words can't adequately convey my gratitude. It's as if Providence has been looking out for us, striving to improve our lives. All I can say is that we take immense pride in having this facility.”

Solomon Chirwa, WASH Infrastructure Specialist, emphasized that the boreholes they are currently maintaining and constructing are designed with climate resilience as a top priority. This is especially crucial considering that boreholes in areas impacted by Cyclone Freddy were previously damaged, and they are keen on preventing a recurrence of such damage.

Furthermore, they are taking measures to safeguard these boreholes by erecting protective fences around them. This not only enhances security but also promotes hygiene practices. Unprotected boreholes are vulnerable to contamination from livestock, which can significantly compromise the water quality.

Since the borehole installation, the only issue they had was that some people were reluctant to clean it during their turn. To resolve this, the community leader called a meeting, and the community agreed that those who did not clean would pay a K1,000 penalty. Since then, everyone complies, and this is no longer a problem."

Community members celebrating.
Image: WaterAid / Dennis Lupenga

As a way of ensuring sustainability, community members were advised to establish vegetable gardens to fund borehole maintenance, aligning with K200 monthly household contributions. The garden proceeds, combined with contributions, create a fund for borehole spare parts. This initiative safeguards against water scarcity by ensuring a steady fund for borehole maintenance.

Access to clean water alone does not guarantee that everyone adheres to proper hygiene protocols. Recognizing this challenge, Titukulane has introduced a hygiene promotion program called the Waliwali Ukhondo Campaign. This initiative offers essential guidance on adopting optimal home hygiene practices.

"The comprehensive training provided by Titukulane through the Ukhondo Waliwali program has equipped us with valuable insights into maintaining the highest standards of hygiene within our households. These practices encompass essential steps such as dedicating a waste disposal bin, ensuring the toilet is equipped with a lid, establishing plate racks, and maintaining a hygienic kitchen. These measures ensure cleanliness starts right at the heart of our homes," highlighted Kalitera.

A father teaching his son proper hand hygiene practices after using a toilet.
Image: WaterAid / Ulemu Mbengwani

So far, Titukulane has provided 57,457 people with access to safe, clean water by rehabilitating 150 boreholes and constructing 20 new ones. Titukulane has also supported training of 179 water point committees, in Community Based Management. The project has also trained 12 Sanitation Entrepreneurs who have since embarked on sanitation as a business

The Waliwali Hygiene campaign has been widely embraced, resulting in the adoption of safe hygiene practices, including the construction and utilization of household (HH) latrines across the 10 targeted Traditional Authorities (TAs) in Zomba and Mangochi. To date, the Waliwali Clean Campaign has trained 401 Hygiene Promoters.

The transformative impact of community-driven interventions like the Dick Village Water Project cannot be overstated. Beyond the mere provision of clean water, these initiatives empower communities to overcome adversity, foster resilience, and take control of their destinies. By addressing the fundamental needs for clean water and hygiene education, we not only improve health outcomes but also promote social harmony, economic stability, and environmental sustainability.

The Dick Village Water Project serves as a shining example of how targeted efforts can bring newfound freedom, hope, and dignity to communities, ultimately paving the way for a brighter and more prosperous future for all. Such interventions are a testament to the profound positive change that can be achieved when communities, organizations, and individuals come together in the pursuit of a common goal – a world where clean water is a right, not a privilege.

Titukulane is a five-year Resilience Food Assistance Activity (RFSA) funded by USAID through the Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA). Care is leading its implementation in a consortium comprising Emmanuel International (EI), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi (NASFAM), Save the Children, and WaterAid.