I absolutely loved Malawi. The country is so beautiful, with enormous amounts of green land. And I can say I mostly loved it because I got to walk it. Fisherman’s Rest, the agency that organized the trip I recently took with my boyfriend to Malawi, has developed an app called Madzi Alipo. This app, developed with the support of OneFoundation, tracks status of drinking water pumps across the country. Yet, its biggest value is that it brings many different NGOs into one place. In this app, they can update the status of each water pump (e.g., broken, in need of repair, working) anytime they are by one. In an effort to get as many agencies involved, Fisherman’s Rest regularly monitors pumps in their area and around the country to get the app up-to-date as much as possible. So, we got to walk in the villages and update the app. And it turns out that walking is an amazing way to learn about the country and its people.
Each drinking water pump has a committee. This committee has a chair, treasurer, and other members. The purpose of the committee is to take care of the pump, to gather money to get it fixed. So, as we walked to a pump, the villagers would come. They shared their experiences with the pump, the water quality, and the assistance of a variety of agencies. Many of them communicated a total loss of trust; NGOs would come into their village, install a pump, and disappear, providing no training or follow up. This was a case of many condemned pumps. There was a committee but no resources to the pump fixed.
Some of the pumps were clean; some of them were surrounded by animals and dirt. Some of them served hundreds of people and there would be lines of women waiting their turn to fill up their water jugs. One of the women mentioned coming to the pump at 2 a.m. to avoid the crowd. One was upset that the pump nearby has been broken and that the “white man” never came back, asking if we would fix it right now. One said she heads the committee and that she keeps an eye on the water pump fund so that if anything happens, they have money to call a local handy man. The stories varied from pump to pump, and it was fascinating to chat with the locals about their need for consistent training and support to maintain the pumps.
The aim of the app is to centralize valuable information about each water pump in Malawi so that at any point, locals and various agencies have access to up-to-date data and can make informed decision about training and financial support. I feel very fortunate to have been able to walk through the villages, to talk to the locals, and to contribute to the app update. As I said, Malawi is stunning. It is a beautiful country worth visiting ,and the experiences I had on this trip were truly eye-opening. My boyfriend and I are already researching ways to come back to the region and learn even more.
Martina Sestakova has a B.A. in communication from the University of Maryland. She has more than 7 years of experience in intercultural communications, in particular in multinational clinical trials. An avid traveler, Martina documents her experiences in writing. She is a textile/fashion designer who runs RADOST, LLC and an artist featured at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C.
Disclaimer: This blog is a personal observation and all opinions are based on a 2-week stay in Malawi. The author, in no way, aims to make general statements about the activities of water-focused agencies in Malawi.