Daily Life

I wake up early and join the family in the morning activities that start our day. After greeting everyone, asking how they woke up, I start in with a few of the chores, helping where I can. My host mother is busy doing dishes or preparing breakfast while the kids help out, taking time to tease each other and chat. I bathe while watching the sun rise and quickly get dressed for work after taking what seems like forever washing my hair and enjoying the hot water. Though they are on holiday now, when classes were still in session my host siblings would complain about getting ready for school and dawdle with preparing their school bags. I join the family in eating breakfast and brush my teeth. My hostmom and I bike to work, sharing the road with other cyclists and cars, pedestrians and push-bike taxis.

I arrive at work and greet my coworkers, asking how their mornings and families are. Sometimes I sneak in a bit of yoga if I come early and then get started. A lot of my work involves sitting on a computer and typing up reports and weekly learning notes, though the better days allow me to go out to the field with the office to visit ADC meetings and discuss the Area Mechanic report forms and the increased communication plan. Sometimes I attend other meetings for Water Users Associations or District Executive Meetings where I learn more about what NGOs are doing in Machinga District. We have frequent meetings in the office to debrief from ADC’s, discuss the week’s plans, budget and plan using that month’s ORT, and converse about other issues. If I’m lucky I may spend a morning visiting a Gravity Fed Scheme or electric borehole system and chat with the plumbers and board members.

I bike home for lunch and then take the rest of the break to bike around and get some exercise or read in the shadow of a baobab. After the work day is over, I may chat with a friend at the market or get a fanta, but mostly I join the evening commute home and visit with people nearby. My hostfamily finishes up the work around the house and prepares dinner, chatting and laughing with visiting neighbours, and I help out where possible. After we eat dinner as a family, we sit and chat for a bit before retiring to bed.

Life is still life, chores have to be done and people have to go to work, whether it involves a push-bike commute from Chabwera village to the office or a bus ride in Vancouver.

 


Source: Franny in Malawi

Daily Life

I wake up early and join the family in the morning activities that start our day. After greeting everyone, asking how they woke up, I start in with a few of the chores, helping where I can. My host mother is busy doing dishes or preparing breakfast while the kids help out, taking time to tease each other and chat. I bathe while watching the sun rise and quickly get dressed for work after taking what seems like forever washing my hair and enjoying the hot water. Though they are on holiday now, when classes were still in session my host siblings would complain about getting ready for school and dawdle with preparing their school bags. I join the family in eating breakfast and brush my teeth. My hostmom and I bike to work, sharing the road with other cyclists and cars, pedestrians and push-bike taxis.

I arrive at work and greet my coworkers, asking how their mornings and families are. Sometimes I sneak in a bit of yoga if I come early and then get started. A lot of my work involves sitting on a computer and typing up reports and weekly learning notes, though the better days allow me to go out to the field with the office to visit ADC meetings and discuss the Area Mechanic report forms and the increased communication plan. Sometimes I attend other meetings for Water Users Associations or District Executive Meetings where I learn more about what NGOs are doing in Machinga District. We have frequent meetings in the office to debrief from ADC’s, discuss the week’s plans, budget and plan using that month’s ORT, and converse about other issues. If I’m lucky I may spend a morning visiting a Gravity Fed Scheme or electric borehole system and chat with the plumbers and board members.

I bike home for lunch and then take the rest of the break to bike around and get some exercise or read in the shadow of a baobab. After the work day is over, I may chat with a friend at the market or get a fanta, but mostly I join the evening commute home and visit with people nearby. My hostfamily finishes up the work around the house and prepares dinner, chatting and laughing with visiting neighbours, and I help out where possible. After we eat dinner as a family, we sit and chat for a bit before retiring to bed.

Life is still life, chores have to be done and people have to go to work, whether it involves a push-bike commute from Chabwera village to the office or a bus ride in Vancouver.

 


Source: Franny in Malawi

Bububu Gravity Fed Scheme

July 17th 2014

Yesterday I went with a friend who runs a few gravity fed schemes (GFS) by the Machinga boma to see the Bububu scheme. There are many ways that people get water in Malawi, but gravity-fed schemes have become increasingly popular, especially because the past president, Joyce Banda, really pushed for their development.

GFS’s are seen as better for people than boreholes because it is easy to treat the water on its way from the river and it already uses the push of gravity to flow downstream so it is easy to build personal taps that do not need electricity to pump the water. I’ve been to a few Water Users Association (WUA) meetings so I had a general idea of how the system ran but I hadn’t actually seen one in practice.

We hiked up through a beautiful village (it’s so much greener on the other side of the mountain!) past mosques and irrigation schemes, surrounded by rice plantations and banana trees. It was clear that the scheme is somewhat supported by the community (more on that later) and what a hard worker my friend is because he stopped to greet everyone and even popped in a few houses, as well as reminded board members about the upcoming meeting. We met with two plumbers and one of the board members who were redirecting some of the water that was leaving the sedimentation tank instead of going into the treatment tank before walking the short path to the source of the water. It was so peaceful up there and after hiking around a bit we just chilled with the plumbers and the board member. The air was full of beautiful white, purple, and orange butterflies and I saw a frog the size of my thumb nail! Women walked down the path carrying huge loads of wood on their heads for charcoal making and we chatted a bit in Chiyao and Chichewa. The night before I dreamed I was in a forest so it was funny to have the dream become a reality and sit in the shade.

The source comes from the Bububu river which is a small stream that cuts down the hill surrounded by jungle-y looking trees and bushes and mango trees. They build a weir to catch the water but let most of it still continue downstream so that the ecosystem wasn’t too disrupted and that the water could still be used for laundry and irrigation. The water funnels into a pipe that carries down to the sedimentation tank filled with sand from Mangochi (sure enough it looked exactly the same as the quartz sand that clung to my feet at Lake Malawi) to trap sediment and mud; smaller particles at the top and larger quarry rock at the bottom.

After the sedimentation tank, the pipes take the water to the storage tank where it’s treated with chlorine and then runs underground down the hill to various public and private taps.

The structure of GFS’s management is quite layered. At the top is the District Council who oversees all projects and work in the district. Below is the General Assembly, volunteers elected by the catchment community, and last week I was lucky enough to attend a General Assembly training for the Namikomia GFS by the Malawian NGO PDI so I actually know their roles and responsibilities. The GA appoints members of the Board of Trustees, approves the budget for operation and maintenance, extensions, and/or acquisition of other capital assets, attends AGMs, and receives, deliberates and adopts all annual reports, financial statements, etc.

Below is the Board of Trustees, also volunteers, who must have more roles but unfortunately I forget and I think that what they do hire the Local Operator, plumbers, approve budgets, etc.

Under the Board of Trustees is the Local Operator who I am assuming is the manager (I had to leave the training a lot for other phone calls and also it was mostly in Chichewa so I apologize for the gaps in knowledge) who will ensure the actual running of the scheme. The Local Operator must work with the Treasurer/Accountant and the Fund Collector(s) who gather the monthly funds from each household that use the specific tap(s).

Below that are the Water Users themselves who elect the General Assembly, choose the type of water facility and site, provide labour and local materials for construction, maintaining the environment around the tap and protecting the catchment area, assess and prioritize community needs, etc.

I think in a lot of ways this system could be more sustainable than boreholes, mainly because with the monthly payments by households, the system is creating stable jobs for the fund collectors, plumbers, and treasurer, as well as ensuring that there will always be money around for actual repairs. However it is not without challenges. One thing my friend brought up was that it is difficult to change people’s minds. It might not always be easy to convince people to pay for water when they can get it for free from the boreholes that are already built and established. Though the amount is minimal, I can’t assume that everyone would be able to spare even a small amount of kwacha, and as I said, the community is used to having water for free. I saw a couple taps that had been closed because the communities did not pay for it. He also mentioned that due to NGOs and previous governments (one of the partie’s leaders is from my district) people are somewhat used to handouts and getting services for free. I can’t blame them, but I’ve realized how important continuity and setting clear expectations is in every aspect of life, but especially in development.

Another issue is the environmental protection itself of the area. Climate change is a serious issue and it has been brought up at every meeting I have attended and individuals have expressed their concern to me during conversations quite a bit. As I mentioned, women were bringing wood down to make charcoal, the main source of fuel in the area for cooking and heating water. The mountains surrounding Liwonde are patchy where large tracks of trees have been cut down. But at the same time, what would the charcoal sellers do for income otherwise? And where would the fuel source come from if not from charcoal? These questions are not easy to answer and are debated and brought up at the national level of government right down to the Water Users. There is a Liwonde forest conservation reserve which I have seen the office for, but I don’t know much about it and the District Environmental Office’s role in reforestation or conservation (yet!). Without the forest cover and root systems, water runs off down the mountains into larger rivers and empties into lakes and oceans or is evaporated in the process instead of into the streams used for water or into underground water tables. In water-y BC, with our snow capped mountains and numerous streams and rivers, it’s hard to imagine running out of drinking water, but in other parts of the world it’s very serious.

Anyways as you can tell this explanation of Gravity Fed Schemes went off track but I think it’s very interesting all of the different ways that people get water here! It’s important to note that climate change is a very real and very serious issue, here and around the world, especially while Canada’s Prime Minister does whatever he wants over there in Alberta…


Source: Franny in Malawi

Bububu Gravity Fed Scheme

July 17th 2014

Yesterday I went with a friend who runs a few gravity fed schemes (GFS) by the Machinga boma to see the Bububu scheme. There are many ways that people get water in Malawi, but gravity-fed schemes have become increasingly popular, especially because the past president, Joyce Banda, really pushed for their development.

GFS’s are seen as better for people than boreholes because it is easy to treat the water on its way from the river and it already uses the push of gravity to flow downstream so it is easy to build personal taps that do not need electricity to pump the water. I’ve been to a few Water Users Association (WUA) meetings so I had a general idea of how the system ran but I hadn’t actually seen one in practice.

We hiked up through a beautiful village (it’s so much greener on the other side of the mountain!) past mosques and irrigation schemes, surrounded by rice plantations and banana trees. It was clear that the scheme is somewhat supported by the community (more on that later) and what a hard worker my friend is because he stopped to greet everyone and even popped in a few houses, as well as reminded board members about the upcoming meeting. We met with two plumbers and one of the board members who were redirecting some of the water that was leaving the sedimentation tank instead of going into the treatment tank before walking the short path to the source of the water. It was so peaceful up there and after hiking around a bit we just chilled with the plumbers and the board member. The air was full of beautiful white, purple, and orange butterflies and I saw a frog the size of my thumb nail! Women walked down the path carrying huge loads of wood on their heads for charcoal making and we chatted a bit in Chiyao and Chichewa. The night before I dreamed I was in a forest so it was funny to have the dream become a reality and sit in the shade.

The source comes from the Bububu river which is a small stream that cuts down the hill surrounded by jungle-y looking trees and bushes and mango trees. They build a weir to catch the water but let most of it still continue downstream so that the ecosystem wasn’t too disrupted and that the water could still be used for laundry and irrigation. The water funnels into a pipe that carries down to the sedimentation tank filled with sand from Mangochi (sure enough it looked exactly the same as the quartz sand that clung to my feet at Lake Malawi) to trap sediment and mud; smaller particles at the top and larger quarry rock at the bottom.

After the sedimentation tank, the pipes take the water to the storage tank where it’s treated with chlorine and then runs underground down the hill to various public and private taps.

The structure of GFS’s management is quite layered. At the top is the District Council who oversees all projects and work in the district. Below is the General Assembly, volunteers elected by the catchment community, and last week I was lucky enough to attend a General Assembly training for the Namikomia GFS by the Malawian NGO PDI so I actually know their roles and responsibilities. The GA appoints members of the Board of Trustees, approves the budget for operation and maintenance, extensions, and/or acquisition of other capital assets, attends AGMs, and receives, deliberates and adopts all annual reports, financial statements, etc.

Below is the Board of Trustees, also volunteers, who must have more roles but unfortunately I forget and I think that what they do hire the Local Operator, plumbers, approve budgets, etc.

Under the Board of Trustees is the Local Operator who I am assuming is the manager (I had to leave the training a lot for other phone calls and also it was mostly in Chichewa so I apologize for the gaps in knowledge) who will ensure the actual running of the scheme. The Local Operator must work with the Treasurer/Accountant and the Fund Collector(s) who gather the monthly funds from each household that use the specific tap(s).

Below that are the Water Users themselves who elect the General Assembly, choose the type of water facility and site, provide labour and local materials for construction, maintaining the environment around the tap and protecting the catchment area, assess and prioritize community needs, etc.

I think in a lot of ways this system could be more sustainable than boreholes, mainly because with the monthly payments by households, the system is creating stable jobs for the fund collectors, plumbers, and treasurer, as well as ensuring that there will always be money around for actual repairs. However it is not without challenges. One thing my friend brought up was that it is difficult to change people’s minds. It might not always be easy to convince people to pay for water when they can get it for free from the boreholes that are already built and established. Though the amount is minimal, I can’t assume that everyone would be able to spare even a small amount of kwacha, and as I said, the community is used to having water for free. I saw a couple taps that had been closed because the communities did not pay for it. He also mentioned that due to NGOs and previous governments (one of the partie’s leaders is from my district) people are somewhat used to handouts and getting services for free. I can’t blame them, but I’ve realized how important continuity and setting clear expectations is in every aspect of life, but especially in development.

Another issue is the environmental protection itself of the area. Climate change is a serious issue and it has been brought up at every meeting I have attended and individuals have expressed their concern to me during conversations quite a bit. As I mentioned, women were bringing wood down to make charcoal, the main source of fuel in the area for cooking and heating water. The mountains surrounding Liwonde are patchy where large tracks of trees have been cut down. But at the same time, what would the charcoal sellers do for income otherwise? And where would the fuel source come from if not from charcoal? These questions are not easy to answer and are debated and brought up at the national level of government right down to the Water Users. There is a Liwonde forest conservation reserve which I have seen the office for, but I don’t know much about it and the District Environmental Office’s role in reforestation or conservation (yet!). Without the forest cover and root systems, water runs off down the mountains into larger rivers and empties into lakes and oceans or is evaporated in the process instead of into the streams used for water or into underground water tables. In water-y BC, with our snow capped mountains and numerous streams and rivers, it’s hard to imagine running out of drinking water, but in other parts of the world it’s very serious.

Anyways as you can tell this explanation of Gravity Fed Schemes went off track but I think it’s very interesting all of the different ways that people get water here! It’s important to note that climate change is a very real and very serious issue, here and around the world, especially while Canada’s Prime Minister does whatever he wants over there in Alberta…


Source: Franny in Malawi

A To-Do List

August 1st 2014

It’s a little hard to believe, but my last day at work is three weeks today, and then I leave Liwonde the day after. I’m super excited because the looming deadline means that the office is more aware of the limited time we have left together and there’s an air of excitement to push through some of the initiatives. We’ll try as much as possible to keep trying new things so that the office can learn and prepare as they continue the activities after I leave.

I made a list of all the things I want to do before I go so here it is, in no particular order…

  • See a hippo (this is ridiculous. I’ve been in Liwonde for two months and, though I have heard them and biked to the river multiple times, I still haven’t seen them. Not even at “Hippo View” lodge where Melissa and I ate chips and scanned the river impatiently.)
  • Hike Mulanje (August 10th!)
  • Hike Zomba or at least the Molosa hills close to me (technically I hiked a bit when I went to see my friend’s gravity fed scheme but I want a proper hike) [check!-August 2nd !]
  • See the results of the brief gender discussion I had at an ADC meeting (aka see the office make a conscious effort to include women in the conversation about borehole maintenance)
  • See at least one handover of the pushbikes for the area mechanics
  • Bake my hostmom, Mariam, a birthday cake (August 17th)
  • Have the Water and Sanitation District Executive Council Meeting happen and see my boss present the work we have done
  • Ask a friend to hang out
  • Go to the community library that’s literally two minutes away from the office (lol)
  • Go out dancing
  • Chat with the Malawian woman I met who works for Red Cross [check! August 4th and it was the nicest meeting of my life, I feel super inspired, and she invited me for dinner!]
  • See the MOUs finalized for at least two ADCs
  • Finish the data collection database with the knowledge that it will be used! Figure out the pathway for information from the field to the office. (this will be a lot of work and if it is successful it means that I know the information will be used far off in the future and that everyone’s hard work paid off)
  • Figure out pivot tables
  • Get feedback from the office on the case study
  • Get the office to write a list of things that can happen if there is extra money
  • Chat with either the District Forestry Officer or District Environmental Officer (this shouldn’t be hard but I’m shy)
  • Read my book sitting on a baobab in the baobab forest [check!-it was lovely but then I got stalked by a bunch of girls]
  • Leave Liwonde knowing that I did my very best, am confident that I am leaving a good impression, and that the office will continue their hard work to ensure consistent access to clean water for all of Machinga district


Source: Franny in Malawi