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The Power of Community in Malawi
Local communities are the heart of change. Their involvement is integral to the success of Orant’s programs, including the Water & Sanitation Program. No one exemplifies this better than Agatha Yosef, village chief for Mzimuwakana village.
Agatha is inspiring in more ways than one. First, she is a female leader in a country that, like all countries, has historically pushed women to the margins. Second, she is a good leader. Her efforts created a blueprint that we hope other villages will follow.
Agatha’s village’s borehole serves 50 households. It was constructed on October 20th, 2020 by Orant. “When we were using a hand-dug well,” Agatha explains, “there were a lot of diarrhea cases. But now I have noticed that these cases are few. And we no longer travel long distances to neighboring villages in search of clean water.”
The village borehole also lessens the burden on women and girls. Before the borehole, girls were late to school. They had to fetch water in the mornings for their families. When they got to the closest well, they had to wait in a line. Sometimes, the water level was low. If this was the case, the girls had to walk another 1km to the borehole in Fulatila, a neighboring village. Because of how much time this labor took, some girls chose not go to school. But with Mzimuwakana’s borehole, this has changed. “Girls are no longer late for school because of water. There is always water available now,” Agatha says.
Agatha wants to maintain the fruits of this change. As a part of Mzimuwakana’s Water Point Committee, she has been proactive in mobilizing her community. “In our village, we believe that when a person has given you shoes, you don’t have to ask the same person to give you socks for the shoes. So, we decided to help ourselves in whatever way we can to take care of the water point which we have been given.”
Her Water Point Committee established bi-laws to assist with water point maintenance. Each household contributes a small monthly payment of 200 kwacha (25 US cents). For further funds, the committee members do piece work in people’s farms. All funds pay for the maintenance of the community’s water point.
In addition, the committee created a schedule to keep the water point clean. Each assigned household assists in hygiene efforts. “We have a very hardworking committee,” Agatha says. The committee has raised over 230,000 kwacha. They will use the funds for borehole fence rehabilitation and Afridev pump spare parts.
Agatha’s leadership inspires us. With strong community involvement like Mzimuwakana’s, sustainable change is possible.