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In the lakeside village of Kafuzira, in the Nkhotakota District of Malawi’s Central Region, the water taps are not yet running. In the dry season, the women and girls still trudge five kilometers to Lake Malawi to fetch water for their daily needs. Then when the rains come and fill the nearby water holes, they compete with domestic and wild animals for water from the same sources.
However, the days of braving the elements, spending hours to fetch and haul 20-litre plastic cans of water balanced on their heads, are about to end. Kafuzira villagers can see promising signs everywhere. Trucks from the Sustainable Rural Water and Sanitation Project roaring by on the main road, hauling large water pipes, workers digging trenches, and putting final touches to public taps.
The African Development Bank-funded pipe-borne, gravity fed water supply scheme is coming to fruition. The objective of the project, named the Sustainable Rural Water Infrastructure for Improved Health and Livelihood (SRWSIHL), is to spur socio-economic growth in Malawi by improving the health and livelihoods of marginalized rural populations through the provision of a sustainable water supply and improved sanitation.
The Bank is co-funding the project through an African Development Fund loan and a Nigerian Trust Fund loan, at $27 million. This is in addition to a $4.1-million grant from the Bank-hosted Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative Trust Fund, and $3.5 million from the Government of Malawi.
“The Bank has a comparative advantage in the rural water supply and sanitation sector in Malawi,”
said Eyerusalem Fasika, Officer-in-Charge of the African Development Bank’s Malawi country office in Lilongwe, adding that other donors, such as the World Bank, primarily support the urban and town water supply and water resources sub-sectors
With 84% of Malawi’s 17.5 million population living in rural areas, rural water supply remains a key priority for the social and economic development of the country. According to Lazarus Phiri, the Bank’s senior water and sanitation engineer, the project, when completed at the end of 2019, will provide improved water supply to around 516,000 people in the rural areas. Another 575,000 people will gain access to improved sanitation, helping the Government of Malawi to meet its national development objectives as well as the Sustainable Development Goal 6 on clean water and sanitation.
Like dozens of other communities in the region and across the country, Kafuzira desperately needs the water project and the villagers are doing all in their power to make it happen. They have already elected the members of the local Water Users’ Association to run the water point when it starts operating. The association’s chairman, James Honda, says the village remains plagued by diarrhea, dysentery and other waterborne diseases. Some children have drowned in the lake while fetching water, and crocodiles have killed some women at water holes during the dry season.However, the villagers are preparing for better days. The area’s senior chief, Falesi Phiri, has donated some of her land for the construction of the association’s office, and the collection of the fees that will pay for the management of the water point is ongoing. Water operations and maintenance teams of men and women are taking training courses.
“We will take care of the water facilities,” says Falesi Phiri. “When you expect a baby, you don’t wait for strangers to buy the baby’s blanket,” she added.
“This will be the first water project to be implemented by Government staff and the knowledge generated will be valuable when implementing future water projects,” said Lazarus Phiri, adding that the preparations in the village are a direct result of the knowledge and skills management training provided by the project to all rural communities, who will be managing their own water infrastructure.