An Interim Report


Dear friends, Donors and Supporters in general,

Since the beginning of the year a lot has happened, we have met amazing people, in and outside Malawi, got phenomenal support, partnered with excellent groups, and in general made significant progress.

From the beginning we have realized that the greatest need in remote rural villages is clean drinking water as a first priority. We have found

• that they will and can work hard to achieve this,
• that the Chiefs make land available to us when required,
• that the women of Malawi are the most positive people you could meet despite the ravages of hunger, ill health, aids, poverty and lack of education,
• that small help can utterly change their lives for the good,
• that they can build dams, store water, irrigate, grow food and become self sufficient with a little help and affirmation, seeds and support, and zero interest micro credit,
• that they want to be independent and make their own decisions,
• that they want the dignity of ownership,
• that they want to succeed and with a little help from all of us we know that they can.


Wells for Zoë is a small, Irish, sustainable development organisation, formed in 2005.
Founded by ourselves, John and Mary Coyne, Lucan, Co. Dublin, it was initially funded and driven by ourselves and the family. We came up with a concept, investigated its viability and got it up and running.

Since the beginning of 2007 we have a charitable status, Ref 17275, people have been generous, funding has come from everywhere, and we continue to pay all expenses, So 100% of all donations gets all the way to the projects, no expenses or deductions.

Our Mission
Our objective is to benefit small communities in Northern Malawi by improving sustainable access to adequate quantities of safe domestic water, using hand pumps, and by enhancing access to dry season water for productive purposes, using appropriate rainwater harvesting techniques and irrigation technologies.

Our Philosophy
Because we believe in the dignity of ownership, we operate on the principal of a “Hand up without Handouts”.
We believe in encouraging people to rediscover their visionary dreams and support them in achieving them.

We believe that Malawi’s problems will not be solved with more and more money, but by a good neighbour syndrome supported by appropriate seeds and simple technology.

We believe that clean water is the first step on the development ladder, and when supported by simple irrigation and organic farming, people can become self sufficient.

We believe in a holistic, cooperative, village, step-by-step approach.

We also believe that storing water and planting trees can impact on local microclimates.

An approach to Development which we aspire to comes from Lao Tsu, China , 700 B.C.

Go with the people
Live with them
Learn from them
Love them.
Start with what they know
Build on what they have
But as with the best leaders:
When the job is done, the task accomplished’
The people will say
“We have done this by ourselves”

Where we work
We work in remote, rural villages around Mzuzu in Northern Malawi and initially where St John of God Mental Health Services have their outreach clinics.

We are now expanding to villages who have seen our projects and want the same.

At present we work with, in excess of, 40 villages.

How we work
Villagers now know that we are focused on clean water so they tell us or write a proposal. What we need is a list of villages, family numbers, existing wells and their status, other water sources, depths and distances.

We evaluate, prioritise and meet their committees, where we fully explain our philosophy.

We find working through the traditional authorities, the chiefs, gets the best results. But as with everything, villages vary and we try and find the best fit. The plan for each village or area is fluid so that it fits the particular situations and can be altered as required. We want a plan to fit the people, not the other way round, as seems to happen.
We survey the wells and decide a starting point.

We then get agreement from the chief to donate a portion of land for the village garden.
Profits from the garden makes a substantial contribution towards the cost of the pumps and dams and inputs over time, and helps to set up their micro credit schemes.


Clean Water
Our primary focus is on providing clean drinking water to remote rural villagers, using a unique plastic pump, which will be manufactured in Mzuzu from (When we get Planning Permission) 2007 at a cost of €1 per person for life.

All the machines, tools, pipe and equipment are assembled in a container in Newcastle, UK, awaiting the green light

Water is rarely stored in Malawi, where they grow one rain fed crop per year, mainly maize.

We are continuing to develop simple methods of dam construction, using concrete, bricks or soil to store water and simple channels to distribute it in the dry season, enabling three harvests a year.

Organic Farming
The cost of fertilizer is beyond the poor farmer.
All our work in villages is based on the premise that everyone digs-in and composts. No compost no help. We also use planting to control pests.

Micro Credit
Because I feel hand outs are intrinsically wrong, we have started a programme of a zero interest credit scheme, with loans for chickens and vegetables, for market, in a co-op, formed 3 years ago, in seven adjoining villages. The area is Ekaiweni area about 15 km from Mzuzu, with a co-op who are working together for the past three years, without any external resources

The group consists of 22 women and 8 men, who were given some lands by the chiefs in order to avert starvation. They come together daily and, half of their produce is for themselves and the rest helps to feed the aged and the orphans.

The maximum loan is about 20€ and they cooperate to borrow more. Our first venture was to get 50 day old chicks for a group of four villagers. They got a two day on the job training course with Harisen, and these chickens are being looked after like prize racehorses!

Other villagers are learning the process now with a view to expansion. The deal is that you borrow the exact amount needed for the time allowed to go to market (7 weeks for chickens), you pay back and borrow again, if you want. One woman has borrowed €2 to grow Irish potatoes! There is a group responsibility for loan repayment.

To get into the scheme you must be producing compost and farming organically. If you want to get chickens you must be growing soya.

We are building links with the Forestry Department, in Mzuzu University to help promote tree planting. We have planted about 20,000 to date and hope to reach 100,000 this year. Mainly Acacia for firewood and poles, but we are researching Moringa and Jatropha for oil and medicines.

Trying to get academics involved in practical work is always difficult, but progress is being made.

New Director of Operations
Since June 1st we have a new man in Malawi. His name is Harisen Amin and he looks after the day to day business on the ground. He is a 29 year old Malawian and is married to Charity with a five fear old daughter Fatima. And he is truly amazing.

He can drive, takes excellent pictures, is an expert on chickens and has now fitted his first pump. He is a quick learner and an excellent teacher. Everyone likes him which is assisted by the constant smile on his face. He has a great attitude to and relationship with the village women and children, which is an absolutely vital part of the Wells for Zoë system. Attitude to women in Malawi needs serious improvement and since we see women as the future hope for the country, Harisen is the ideal man.

In our absence he has introduced the Micro Credit scheme and Fish farming and learns something new every day. He has a great and developing business brain, which he is using for the greater good. He has the respect and admiration of the chiefs and very importantly he is not seen as a soft touch.

Those of you who have been following our daily news slot on the photographic website, will be aware of his achievements and of course his pictures.

Fish Farming
Like everything Wells for Zoë do, this again is a one step at a time progression. The villagers in Sonda have a dam for their irrigation program. So Harisen decided to get 400 small Chambo from the Fisheries, and install them in the dam. These fish, found only in Malawi are doing fine on waste maize husks and should be ready to eat in six months. Others are waiting anxiously to see how things go.

If the fish project is a success, we will add it to our micro credit scheme as an option.

Pump Factory
The site is acquired, the plans are drawn, and we are ready to go. We hope it will be ready before the end of the year.

Richard Cansdale and his crew have loaded all the tools and equipment into a container outside Newcastle, UK and we are filling the 7 cubic metres remaining with other donated items.

The Rotary Club of Clonmel have agreed to fund the building and equipping of the factory and the necessary start up training. They are amazing people and we are so thankful to them for their generosity in raising the €40,000 needed.

The Jeeps
The story began, when Irish times Journalist and Author, John Waters, took a trip to Malawi, in April last, to report on a water project in some of the most remote and poorest areas on the globe.

The project funded and driven by fellow Rossies (well on from Mayo by 100 yards) had intrigued him, and he wanted to see if two people could made any perceptible difference in a place with such obvious need. His Irish Times article relates what he found in this almost forgotten backwoods of our global community.

On his return he got in touch with the Irish Army and within a flash they had agreed, with the consent of the Department of Defence to donate 3 Army Jeeps to the project, granted 1997 models with zillions of miles on the clock. If we had got them from the Air Corps, maybe the transport issue may be solved (!!), but now we have to get them to Malawi, where they will be given a whole new lease of life. So, now, the real fun begins. It looks like we will drive to Southampton, get a ferry to Durban and do a little toddle through, South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique and then just another little run of 1000Km up by lake Malawi to Mzuzu.

The project is at the planning stage, and any ideas, offers of help (be they physical, intellectual, monetary, logistic or other) would be greatly appreciated.

Drip Irrigation
Chapin Living Waters have agreed to support us with our research programme in drip irrigation.

Richard Chapin writes:
Dear John
Thank you for your email, we are partnering with over 2,000 organizations in more than 150 countries, by helping the poorest of the poor to be able to grow vegetables when there is no rain.
I understand the conditions in Mzuzu, as I have been there.
If a lady can get 10 gallons of water daily, she can grow enough vegetables for a small family (she may have to walk 2 miles to get the water).
Thank you for all you are doing for the people of Malawi.
In His service,
Richard D. Chapin

David A. Bender, Ph. D. (Horticulture) Vice President and General Manager Seeds writes:
Hello John,
Thank you for checking out the Seed Programs Inc. website.
With each seed shipment we include a gardening booklet that has step-by-step instructions on how to develop a vegetable garden. The booklet includes a page of instructions for each topic, and a simple picture that can be used by instructors in teaching gardening classes. We can also provide some additional materials and advice if requested. One of our volunteer experts who advises us on international programs is a native of Malawi, and spent 30 years in the vegetable seed industry in Africa and other international locations. He has a wealth of knowledge about vegetable gardening, and a particularly keen interest in Malawi. He also could be of great help in setting up a seed bank, as he managed vegetable seed production in Africa. If you are interested, we could put you in contact with him as a resource for your project.
We are very interested in your project. Your water pumps and systems are making a great contribution to the people of Malawi. Obviously, water is essential for food production, especially vegetables. As you expand your agricultural programs, we would be happy to work with you in any way we can. Let us know how we can partner in improving the lives and nutrition of those in need.

Hi John,
We usually have tomato seeds and a few odds and ends we can donate–send a request on letterhead from your organization to 2278 Baker Creek Road, Mansfield, MO, 65704 attention: Myrna. That way you can save your money for the nitrogen-fixing plants and shrubs.

Caitríona and Mark
Our next door neighbour, Caitríona married Mark on Friday last. The guests had such a wonderful time at the reception that they donated a large heap of money to Wells for Zoë. I’m not allowed to say how much but if this is used for clean drinking water, up to 2000 people will be drinking the cleanest water they ever tasted in the New Year.

Harisen Amin Meets the Government Irrigation people
Harisen Amin, our man in Malawi, gave a presentation to a group of 70 farmers, on the work of Wells for Zoë in the Mzuzu area. The conference was hosted by a Japanese delegation and attended by 4 government irrigation people.

Harisen writes:
We had a good day in Enyezini. The presentation was nice about 70 farmers from different areas came and it was agreed by all that Sonda was the example of best irrigation system as well as compost making.
Their teaching was about canal irrigation , how to make canals with local materials, and composting that’s why we were an example to others. I was given a chance to address the farmers , and I introduced Wells For Zoe to the farmers, and explained how we approach our work. I brought 4 guys from Sonda with me.
They organisers, from the Goverment, have promised to visit Sonda regularly.


Every time I get a new message I feel I’m missing all the fun!!

I often worry about the value of some volunteering work where people collect money to go on a holiday, more or less. But I have no worries if people spend their own money to do anything they want. I have great hope for the idea of Volunteerisms, where people go to Malawi under their own steam, have their holiday and spend a few days helping out. In fact we are positively promoting the idea. At the moment we are seeking Planning permission to build accommodation for Volunteers.

If someone wishes to try out what we do, we can bring them to real villages with real projects and offer them a chance to get their hands dirty. If they can cope and would like to do more, there is endless work to be dome and everyone can make a contribution.

We can also put together a type of franchise, where we will help anyone to copy our system and run with it. In fact we would hope to expand in this way, in order to serve more and more villages. No big organization, just many little ones working together, in a structured and sensible manner and thus avoiding the headless chicken syndrome.

This year we had four amazing real volunteers:

Ian Sutton is a post grad student from Waterford who is doing a Master’s in Cranfield University, Bedford, UK. His thesis among other things concerns well drilling using a selection of techniques. He has become a legend in Mzuzu, not only because of his knowledge on a whole range of matters, but his strength and ability to work. He has brought our water project to a whole new level. Everyone is delighted that he came but very sad to see him go home. The pictures suggest that all the women loved him, and no wonder.

Caitríona Coyne took up where her mother left off, with the special school and the Street children for the Month of June. It took her about two minutes to settle in. Then it was fun and games and work, more work, even homework and they all loved it. She visited villages, did some hoeing, got relieved of her digging duties!!, brought seeds and goodies and generally did the tour of duty and was constantly amazed at how hard the people worked. Official Malawian title: Kart

Caitríona O’Connor who also teaches in Our Lady’s in Templeogue, is a Kerry woman, who took on a fulltime job as soon as she arrived, filling in a maternity leave duty. She worked in the Home Ec. department teaching an amazing array of skills to the group of challenged youngsters in the catering section. The likes of the cooking was never seen before and in the process she has become an expert on nsima, the staple diet of Malawi. She also did the tour of duty in the villages. Official Malawian title: Katie

Kevin Brennan is a Mayo man and teaches engineering in Castleknock Community College. He had a wide range of positions, including; teaching computer skills in the school and the prison! and working with the woodwork trainees in the SJOG workshops. Of course sport got a great boost on his arrival, and the local soccer team is flying ever since. Gaelic football is progressing, but they’re not ready for the championship yet (well maybe in Connacht). He did much of his work in the villages, working with Harisen on dams, fish farming, irrigation and the likes. Officially known as Kelvin, he has become a legend in his time.

All four intend to return, for longer, next year, plus a few additional members. What they have done to lift spirits and affirm the village women is immeasurable. Thank you all on our own behalf and on behalf of the poorest of the poor.


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