We’ve just started the new build season in Malawi, which is a good time to update you on our plans and some staffing changes. I joined the organisation last October as International Director to develop and expand our programme of work and take forward some exciting new opportunities. We’ve just recruited Itayi Nhkomo as our new Programme Manager and Lucy Mwase as Programme Development Officer, and I’m spending a lot of my time in Malawi overseeing the programme. Our Malawi head office is in Lilongwe but our field team is based in Mchinji, where we put together the concrete housing, which is a key feature of our pumps.
This year we’re going to increase our build programme by 86%, concentrating on the districts of Mchinji and Kasungu, where we’ll be installing Elephant Pumps, testing out some new designs and new techniques and expanding our work with communities.
Traditionally our build programme has slowed down considerably over the Malawi summer – the rainy season, which runs approximately from December to March – because it’s dangerous to dig wells which might collapse. Our wells can reach depths of around 17 metres, which can feel pretty scary from the bottom, and safety is a very important consideration for us. This year, though, we’re experimenting with new digging techniques – hand percussion drilling – that will enable us to get a lot deeper a lot more safely, and so we’re extending the building season to cover the whole year.
Each of our Elephant Pumps serves a community of around 120 people and is an effective, low cost way of getting clean, protected water which saves lives. We know from previous studies that the technology works and is popular with the people who benefit from it, but we’ve just undertaken some extensive field survey work during the rainy season, which will tell us a lot more, once we analyse the findings. Early findings are encouraging – the Elephant Pump seems to be more reliable than other technologies and the vast majority seem to provide a regular, plentiful supply of clean water. Of course where this is not happening, we are taking serious note of any problems and will be taking steps to ensure these are remedied.
Right now we are digging in Mchinji. As the build season develops we’ll be posting photos of our most recent pump installations and talking to people in villages who may be receiving clean water for the first time, and listening to their stories. There’s a lot to do, because clean water is a scarce commodity in rural Malawi, so we’re going to be kept very busy this year.