Man on a wire




IMG_0015

Originally uploaded by wellsforzoe

Just looking through pictures and found this from a village in Doroba. Three boys were driving around their latest design. It’s amazing what they can come up with from so little.
We constantly carry bits of wire, cable, bottles and cartons in the jeep, and the reaction is a wonder to behold.

A real throw back to earlier times

Mzuzu thugs emulate Lilongwe colleagues
Wednesday, 18 January 2012 12:04 Austine Jere: Malawi Nation

Just 24 hours after unidentified people in Lilongwe stripped naked women and girls in trousers, the situation was on Wednesday replicated in Mzuzu where women in trousers were chased, booed and undressed.

The harassment paralysed business, shocked onlookers and turned the city into a male domain as women felt unsafe to walk around the city’s central business district.

Mzuzu police spokesperson Edward Longwe confirmed the development on Wednesday morning, calling the practice as barbaric.

“We were informed that some people are undressing women in trousers. So we deployed officers to patrol the streets as we wanted to ensure security of women regardless of whether they are putting on trousers or mini-skirts,” said Longwe.

“Every person has freedom of dressing and it is barbaric for people to be roaming the city and undressing women. They just want to spark commotion and take advantage of it to start looting shops.”

Eyewitnesses said the practice started around 8am at the city centre when a lady dressed in a pair of trousers was jeered and booed at while others attempted to undress her.

This prompted some ladies to run and hide in shops while others bought wrappers to wear over their trousers.

Police officers later stormed the streets to quell the pandemonium which saw Asian businesspeople closing shops prematurely for fear of possible looting.

Police Mobile Services patrolled the city to maintain peace and protect women from the harassment.

However, Mzuzu main market chairperson Juma Umar denied it was vendors behind the violence.

“I have heard that women are being undressed in town, but no vendor is there. It’s just some criminals doing that. They claim that women have gone overboard in dressing so they need to be slowed down,” said Umar.

An observer, who declined to be identified, said the actions were aimed at restoring Malawian culture by flashing out “western forms of dressing”, citing wearing of leggings as unMalawian and disrespectful.

“Women are misusing freedom of dressing. The leggings they are putting on disrespect Malawian culture,” he said.

“These leggings or trousers are usually tight and sometimes transparent. But women put them and start moving in town. What do they want men to do? Such practices have to be stopped forthwith.”

Meanwhile police said the number of women who suffered the harassment in Mzuzu was not known and no arrest had been made in connection with the malpractice.

Village Meeting


Village Meeting
Originally uploaded by wellsforzoe

It may look like a visit to a village in the touristic sense. Go there, meet the village and leave, never to be seen again.
But we just don’t go about our business like this.
Here we see part of a Self Help Group before their weekly meeting started. They began their savings scheme in January 2011, saving small amounts. They began lending to each other in March 2011 charging an interest rate of 20%, which goes back in to the kitty. They are involved in small business and at the end of November had a loan book of 1246 Euro. Now these are some of the poorest women in the area, some are widows and few can read and write. Brian, with the purple shirt, an employee of our friends at St John of God Services, is their mentor, educator and advisor, but they do everything else themselves. All this has been achieved by these 18 women with no financial input from outside. They have achieved all by themselves, a lesson to the rest of the World!!. After working successfully in these small groups, the progress to Community needs, forming a cluster representing 10 small groups
At this stage they presented us with proposals for clean water, preschools and adult education. We are now working with the first cluster on the building of 10 preschools which will double for Adult Education. Training has began is some and we are ahead of schedule.
When I say we, I mean that we support the community, but they do all the work and. In the preschools we supply some cement, and the metal for the roof, they do all the work. We also supply training and for caregivers in the preschools and work with the Ministry of Education for training adult education trainers.
This group have 34 wells/pumps and when we came along only one worked.
Later we will bring training in conservation farming and horticulture.
These now successful business women are ready to drive this agenda, having been empowered by their own success. They are not for turning and they will go upwards and onwards.
An amazing success story against all the odds.

Clean water unlocks HOPE

Wells for Zoë don’t have the money to make a professional video, but if we had, this is exactly what it would tell you.

Restoring Hope, Unlocking Potential… from The Water Project on Vimeo.

We are bringing clean, safe drinking to another 50,000 people this year and it will cost less than €50,000. If you can give just a little, press the donate button, and Wells for Zoë will do the rest. 100% of all the money we get goes to our projects; there’s no middle-man, nothing taken out. Can we get together and do it. Every Euro is another villager on the way to a better life.

You see: Clean Water changes everything
Wells for Zoë – Water for Life – Clean Water

Using failure as an education

Nothing ever fails on us!!! Yes? (Oh yes they do).
Six years ago we went to Malawi with a passion and a sensible plan to enable poor villagers to access clean, safe drinking water. We sought and got help from Professor Richard Carter, who was then working in international water in Cranfield University, Bedford, UK, a veteran of many years working on the African water crisis. He has now moved to Water Aid as head of technical services and is Chairman of RWSN. He is a genius, a very practical academic, a very direct man and a stickler on maintenance and community participation. He came to Malawi for a week in June 2006 and later sent a student, Ian Sutton to do his thesis on our methods. Ian’s report showed that we had opted for the ideal system for the area where we work, that of large volume hand dug wells and of course our own canzee pump. On Sunday last Ian, who is now working as one of the dreaded consultants!!, called with an offer to come to Malawi in May, to do a report on how our water project getting on. We are delighted at the prospect.
Of course nothing would have happened without the genius of another Richard (Cansdale). Richard had worked tirelessly, for years on a pump which was originally conceived in New Zealand. The result of his diligence has given us the Canzee Pump, and as the advert says, probably the best direct, hand pump in the world. What puts it miles ahead of the rest is that it has few moving parts and that village women can repair it when it rarely acts up.
This year we have modified the pump where all the materials are produced in Malawi and where there are less machined parts. After six months of field trials, it looks like a complete success, but constant monitoring is in place.
The Canzee pump, we make and use is most sustainable, it has few wearing parts and its easily repaired. Looking back, our biggest failure was to spend time training various people issues of the pump. We found that we are wasting our time, going the advised route of water committees, chairmen, treasurers… . We now deal with the women who use the pump and collect the water, we train them on how to use the pump, the maintenance, and give them our phone number, so that they are on to us immediately, AND they do.
All work in Malawi is difficult, and once I realised that the pace and urgency is different, I am learning to cope. No matter how I rant, everything will got done at their pace and in their time. Most of what we do on the farm was alien to the workers, like growing carrots or turnips, but when they realised that they can eat carrots raw and eat the leaves on turnips, all is well. You can have any plan you like from Dublin, New York or London but if villagers don’t buy in, it won’t happen long term. So the plan is with them and for them, developed while sitting on the ground, listening more than talking, until there’s an agreed way forward. Those who manipulate decisions into place, might appear to have success and of course in the longer term fail miserably too. If a plan works well, with gradual acceptance by the community, a five year term might be a good result. Anything quicker is a real bonus.
The Aid Business talks about sustainability incessantly, but we now look back at our pumps and dams installed for six years, doing their job as planned and we say WOW, what a great group of people, these Malawians, and they agree with us. The Aid Business has spent 50 years and shiploads of money on short term planning, trying to rush Africans with their, one size fits all plans. Failed plans, seem not to be consigned to the bin but regularly reincarnated. That’s the really sad reflection, but an answer too.
I suppose having a research background helps appreciate the value of trying things. On the farm we have maybe 20 plants that work well, but have to admit that that there are maybe 100 more that the Malawians don’t like, won’t eat.
We grew 5 types of spinach, in an effort to help with anaemia in pregnant women, but have now found a Malawian weed, red amaranth, which ticks as many boxes. It grows anywhere and each seed produces 60000 more seeds which are unaffected by genetic modification or the likes. Of course we had to bring a number of Amaranth varieties from the US to discover that Malawi already had a good variety already. Sounds stupid on our part, but there was no one to ask, who knew its value, but word is spreading fast.
Recently we began working with a Self Help Group, women’s cluster, who made proposals to us on Pumps, Preschools and Adult Education. The cluster has 20 women who represent over 10000 villagers. Their survey indicated that their area had 34 wells/pumps with only one working. This is a sad reflection on the pump and water business and the head in the sand policies of numerous NGO’s, taking place all over sub-saharan Africa. Many of these seem to have little knowledge about pumps and their maintenance. The pumps are contracted out, the boxes are ticked, the water flows (for a while at least), the intern is gone home with the plan B for maintenance (if there ever was one), the NGO is happy, the donors are beside themselves with joy, but few realise that it’s a business of smoke and mirrors and the villagers are soon back getting their water from the swamp again. We see broken pumps every day, and fix as many as we can, having firstly negotiated with the original installers . Of course the donors are blissfully unaware of these failures, that little thought goes into maintenance, that soon one failed pump is replaced by another donor and another, and the donors just pay, read the case studies, and pay again.
Even though I keep away from figures, we probably have given water to 125,000 villagers by now and a plan for 1000 pumps in Zambia will add over 200,000 more in the next three years. Recent advertising suggests that a pump may can be bought for 50 Euros and that a solar pump may cost even less. I would love to hear of such pumps and where we can buy them.
Well anyway, our pump costs us about 30 Euro to make. (Yes we design, make and modify our own pumps in our factory in Mzuzu), the pipes and cement, fuel and our labour costs about 150 Euro, where the communities supply bricks, sand and all labour. If we repair or replace someone else’s pump the cost is less, especially, if the existing well has been properly constructed.
Naturally, a 19 metre deep well costs more than a 5 metre one, but on average, 150 Euro can give clean, safe drinking water to up to 500 people. We deliberately err on the low side and say it’s 1Euro per person. A maintenance programme is more important than the installation.
Our pump works brilliantly in small communities, where no one travels more than 500 metres for water. Sometimes there may be as many as 500 users, but our preference is for less than 200. We listened to the experts talking about water point committees. When we realised that neither chiefs or men ever visit a pump, to collect water (where we work) we admitted failure and now we teach amazing women on pump installation, repair and maintenance which generally requires only one simple tool we manufacture, or three six inch nails or maybe something as sophisticated as an old bicycle tube and a sissors. Poor as Malawi is, some woman will always have a mobile phone! and any time we get a call, we hope to respond to a call within 24 hours. We can do this because our pumps rarely break down. We also give them annual health check whether they need it or not. Admitting failure, not repeating errors and moving on better equipped is a great way to go.

making porridge

Making Porridge


making porridge
Originally uploaded by wellsforzoe

This is an area called Kadambo. Less than a year ago we started helping the community here to set up a preschool. Mary brought most of the community, men and women on board and gave all training on the value of preschool education. The caregivers got one week of training and a weekly visit from our roaming headmaster. We did provide some books and rudimentary equipment, but they do it all themselves, and with very little help they have become very resourceful. It is a wonderful place, this rented church. They are now putting in foundations for a new building which will double as a preschool and an Adult Education centre. It’s amazing what this Bottom Up initiative can achieve, and maybe a new term might be coined, Inclusive Development. Why is the World imposing Top Down initiatives, that continue to fail.
These are the porridge ladies who built their own kitchen and have their rota.
The porridge consists of maize flower, soya, groundnuts, sugar and salt. we are working to reduce the sugar and salt content: not easy!!

Another trip, another development.

Maybe I forgot this one, and maybe others have superseded it, but I’ll throw it in the pot!!

Every trip is an up and down affair. We have successes and failures every day, but we only tend to think of the successes and gain energy from them. When I say failures they are in fact learning experiences for the whole crew. We have a motto, just don’t make the same mistake twice!!

Empowering, inspiring, educating and challenging, poor, rural people, with no history of a day’s work, is in itself challenging. They have to move up from low first gear into overdrive. It rarely happens in a day or a month or a year, buy by being there and sticking with them, particularly the women, positive movement is made. The piece includes a story of very poor women who have made giant leaps in 2011 and who are not for turning. We are really blown away by this success story.

Bringing clean water to villages enables us to meet and engage with villagers. Last year SJOG were selected to deliver a no input, self help, enterprise scheme, in the Northern Region of Malawi, with a population of about one and a half million. Spread over about half the size of Ireland. The programme will be delivered nationally by five organisations and one of these is SJOG. For all intents and purposes it’s a Credit Union, locally driven and managed, without Bankers, Bureaucrats or Ballyhoo. Twenty or so poor women come together, start saving small amounts; begin lending to each other from the pool at a 20% interest rate. The success has been phenomenal in twelve months doing small business. Later 10 such groups form a cluster to look at the needs of their areas, with representatives meeting once a month. We are invited to help at this level because of our expertise in the areas clean water, preschools, adult education and conservation farming. We are delighted to be involved with such a potentially powerful force for the future of Malawi. They make proposals to us and after long discussions we agree strategies on all three areas. We meet and thrash out a strategy for large local inputs so that they have ownership.

Adult education is very new in Malawi and we have seen its success in the groups we work with. We have a broad course covering woman’s empowerment, nutrition, health, literacy, numeracy. To this end we are working with the DEM’s (District Education Managers) to develop a programme, as they have just taken over this portfolio from Social Welfare. While we are working with women we also work with lead farmers to develop and mainstream a approach to conservation agriculture. At the moment, Benidicto and Dave are just about to head off to Ndola in Zambia at the invitation of our partners, Lifeline in Zambia, to study their very successful methods. Alfred and Robert will follow with a view to teaching and spreading the Gospel to about 150 villages we have planned for next year. Support for this approach is coming from the Danish and Australian Governments.

As we say to all our volunteers: Malawian people need their dignity restored, they certainly need a little help but they don’t need the drive by type help that has failed here for forty years. In our new areas, we, as far as is possible avoid districts that have become dependant on free external inputs, and go into the bush, looking for those who have no idea about begging.

Like all projects in Malawi, this will not be easy, but these women’s groups have made a great start just 12 months, and when we support them, on what they need, it will be upwards and onwards. We are working with one cluster so far, 20 women, where about 2500 villagers will be impacted. The area has 34 pumps, (all installed by reputable organisations) but only one worked until we recently replaced three non functioning pumps. The community have dug two new wells as part of their action plan for water.

When we have solved their major problem, that of clean water, a first prayer of every rural woman, they present us with other needs and challenges, like irrigation, seeds, fertilizer, food security and education. So if we are asked what we do now, we say that we do our best to meet needs. We try to Inspire, Educate and Challenge, working with communities who have already made a start themselves, but most of all we don’t do handouts.

Biggest news of this trip is a new Memorandum of Understanding with our most recent partner Lifeline in Zambia. Chris, one of the leading lights in LIZ, has already supervised the installation of a large number of pumps in Katete, Zambia, last year. He appreciated the simplicity and repairability of the pump, its ease of installation, its longevity and low cost. After last week’s meeting we are planning 1000 new pumps in Ndola. Initially we will make the pumps in Mzuzu and then look at a new factory in Zambia. Zambia has a different water need from Malawi, wells are up to 20 metres deep and very large numbers using each. If you like numbers, the next four years should see up to half a million Zambians accessing clean, safe drinking water from one of our pumps. What a frightening thought?

The Birthing Centre has now developed a grander future with the news that the Ministry has approved staffing for a Health Clinic there as well. Lilian and the traditional Authority made the case for a resident nurse and assistant, and got the go ahead.

The community have come to us to assist with cement and the roof, while they will supply the site for the house needed and the extension for the clinic. They will also contribute, bricks, sand, timber and all the labour. They will then take over management of the facility with Lilian, the birth attendant playing a leading role. By now, she has a new metal roof on her house, to keep the rain out!!

Very Latest: We had to buy a new (well, second hand) jeep. The Army tank is just about at an end and guzzling scarce fuel.

New Jeep to replace the old Army guzzler which is on the way out

A wee final note, Harisen’s mum was very ill. They drove to Zomba, (10 hours) to collect her. Charity has been taking good care of her for a week. Now she’s back walking and feeling better. So much so that she’s getting her hair done today.