EWB in Malawi – Water and Sanitation 2010
A weblog by Shehin Rahemtulla – University of Victoria Junior Fellow for Engineers without Borders

-Project Overview: Water Point Functionality and Community Led Total Sanitation

This website is about the Non-governmental Organization (NGO) I work with at the University of Victoria: Engineers without Borders (EWB) and our efforts in the Water and Sanitation project (Water point functionality and community led total sanitation) in Malawi.

Engineers without Borders is a nationwide movement of professional engineers, students, overseas volunteer staff, and supporters across Canada brought together by a shared passion.   We believe that the next generation of rural Africans should have the same opportunities to improve their lives, that we have right here at home. Together, we are almost 50,000 strong and growing!

My position at this University is one of the “outgoing Junior Fellows (JF)”.  I will be in Malawi from May through August working on a project aimed at providing better access to clean water.  Sarah Allen is the other outgoing JF from UVIC and she has been assigned to a rural infrastructure project in Ghana.  All updates about the water and sanitation project will be posted on this website, under the “Public Journal” tab on the right hand side of your screen.  In total we have 35 Junior Fellows from across the country heading overseas this summer.

Here is some more information about the project I will be involved with.  Please feel free to post questions / comments.

Widespread Water Failure
Even when safe water is available, water technology often has a poor track record of sustainability. Poorly functioning wells are all too often installed, as implementing organizations do not take local variables into consideration. When wells do break down, most rural communities do not have access to repair training or spare parts to fix the problem – it is simple as a broken chain on a hand pump, and access to clean water for thousands of people is eliminated.Water infrastructure is often driven by inaccurate information about the water needs of rural communities in Malawi. Water points are not well mapped, causing wells and boreholes to be located too close to one another, or only in communities of high interest. As a result, many vulnerable families have been left behind.

Our approach

Engineers Without Borders is developing innovative solutions to map, monitor and repair water points to improve the ability of district staff – like Chrispin Dambula – to keep safe water flowing through rural communities.

Mapping and monitoring water points

Mapping water points is a critical step towards improving clean water access for rural families in Malawi. Using an innovative tool we created to monitor the lifecycle of hand pumps, wells and boreholes, EWB volunteers have documented the location of water points across the country. With this information, we are facilitating improved decision-making for development partners and local government.

The EWB monitoring tool is the most advanced of its kind in the region, and because of this, two water organizations in the region have invested to scale-up the program. When completed, EWB will have mapped and monitored over a third of all water points in Malawi, better identifying the most vulnerable communities in Malawi.

Building operation and maintenance

In villages where the majority of water points are broken, access to spare parts and repair training are needed to restore clean sources of water. To make this a reality, EWB is providing knowledge, training, and research support to our partners to develop and pilot a solution to this problem. We recently worked with InterAide, testing a maintenance approach using bicycle mechanics

The way forward

EWB’s ambitions are high in Malawi’s water sector – we are aiming to decrease the number of faulty water points from 40% to 10% in the next five years. To do so, indentifying innovative approaches, like water point mapping, while continuing to explore new challenges such as pump repair. We aspire to scale-up responses that are improving widespread access to clean water, like our water point monitoring tool.

With proven impact in many districts like M’mbelwa, EWB is now looking to the future where we envision widespread access to lasting sources of safe water across Malawi.

More at: http://www.ewb.ca/en/whatwedo/overseas/projects/wateraccess_malawi.html

For specific details about the project I have been assigned to, please see the page titled “Project details for Nathenje’s District Water Office, Malawi

11 Responses to “-Project Overview: Water Point Functionality and Community Led Total Sanitation”

  1. You are my hero.

  2. Hey Shehin,

    I saw the documentary “Malawi’s Song” on the CTV website and thought of you: http://watch.ctv.ca/#clip116668

  3. Hey Shehin! hope you are having an amazing time. I hope this is a life changing experience!

  4. Hey Shehin,
    Hope all is well …….. what an incredible journey and work experience that you are embarking on. Keep well & continued success. Love your blog & look forward to more ……… best of everything to all of you at EWB!

  5. hi sheni it was awesome to hear from you
    i’m missing you.
    i think your blog is really cool!!!

    p.s it’s been my dream to eaves drop on british people’s accents
    p.p.s i hope your doing o.k in malawi

    from soul sista #2 (alisha)

  6. we miss you!!! hope you’re having a blast and rocking the malawi world!!!
    much love,

    ps. we’re gettin ready for rock for change 3!! wish you were here with us!!!

  7. -Hey Sean, thanks for the link… I’ll have to watch it when I get back!

    -Hey Alisha, I miss you too. How is your summer vacation so far? Did you get your report card back? I’ll see you in 8 weeks!

    -Hello Mrs. Gurnsey,

    I can remember being in your grade 5 class at Buckingham and learning about the indigenous people in Australia… that was one of my favourite topics. I also remember reading Ogs on the carpet.

    Thanks a lot for your encouraging words, they help a lot when things aren’t exactly looking up!

  8. Hiya

    Just want to tell you what an amazing person you are and you are my hero.

    I love your blog and keep doing what you doing.


  9. Hey Shehin,
    Wow, i can’t believe it, 1 more month before you get back. You have experienced so much in the last few months, and you have risen to some of the unexpected challenges. From speaking with you, i am touched by the generosity and warmth of the malawian people that you have met, and some of them i have had a chance to talk to on the phone. As you are doing your research, have you noticed any stats about the average life span there. And some thoughts of the way the elders are viewed there in comparison to here.

  10. Hey Shehin, heard about the amazing work you had the opportunity to be part of through the Forum on Development! Wow, what an incredible project!

    Really amazing how all sorts of different aspects of the work were considered in advance, such as cultural sensitivity & engagement.

    Be great if you were to do a presentation in Vancouver about your experiences as a member on this project. If you do, let the Forum know – I’m sure many members would be really interested!

    Keep up the great work – and congrats!


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