February 2018

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It rained last night and although we have been in Mkwekwe before, still I am a bit afraid the road might be impassable this morning. But it's not too bad, the car smoothly glides from pothole to pothole.

We are not the only one struggling on the road. At the top of a hill are two cyclists looking back, satisfied smoking a cigarette. Their bicycles heavily loaded with vegetables going to the market. A steep hill lays in front of us as we pass the two a whole bunch of cyclists are pushing their heavily loaded bikes up the hill trying to avoid rocks and potholes.

Colleague Pious and I are on our way to Mkwekwe, a village where we will give an explanation about our water project. We will demonstrate a few types of locally made pumps. We hope that driller Michael is there too. We have not been able to reach him for a week. Pious tries again. Miraculously, Michael takes the phone. 'I already in Mkwekwe! Where are you? " I hear him laughing through the phone.

An hour later we arrive in Mkwekwe. Michael climbs on the car and unloads the demonstration pumps. He is going to install the pumps and arranges water so that people can try them. Pious speaks to the village leaders and organizes the meeting with the interested villagers. He invites the women to come closer and join the men, so that they sit around him like a group. Michael invites people to try the pump. The women are a bit hesitant. The children are not, they are not afraid but curious and try the pump first. Then the adults follow.

I am just standing satisfied watching and have nothing to do. I am offered a chair and sit down. Pious explains the project approach and that we will be back in two days. If people want a pump they can come with a good idea about how they think they can earn money with the pump.


We drive to Mkwekwe early in the morning to interview people who want to have a pump. Dinie and Pious are doing the interviews and again I am standing there with not much to do. Ok, I talk to people who have experience in digging wells and repairing pumps. I explain to them how they can qualify for a 'manual borehole drilling' training. We walk to a broken community pump and discuss how we can fix the pump together. But actually I have nothing to do again and I have the time to absorb the whole thing.

Halfway the interviews a gray man on an ox cart comes along. When he comes closer, I see that he is not as old as I thought. He is heavily muscled and has a round, happy face covered by flour. He parks his cart. Greets his friends with a hand clap and chats with them. He sits on a tree trunk - as thick as his upper arm - and waits patiently until he is interviewed. The man has worked hard and sweated a lot before the interviews started and the flour sticks to him. Soon he will have to bring his trade to the market. A ride which will take over an hour for the 4-wheel drive.The interview with him shows that despite his difficult living conditions, he is full of energy and positive in life. I feel proud that we have the opportunity to help this 'young' gray man with our project. With a small push in the right direction he can make big steps. When I look around I see that there are many more people who have the same powerful appearance that is so typical for Africa.

After the interviews Dinie, Pious and I are deciding who is and who is not invited for the business training. We conclude that of the 42 interested people we are going to train 35. Eventually more than half (*) of them will get a partially sponsored pump and guidance in business expansion when needed. The energetic muscular gray man with the ox cart will surely be there. To be continued.

(*) With the donation from Marie-Stella-Maris we can not only make 19 pumps and boreholes but also repair four more expensive community pumps and provide various business and technical training. The Johanna Donk-Grote Stichting also sponsors a number of pumps and that can become more if we find other funds. A pump on an existing well only costs € 400 and a pump with a completely new borehole costs € 900.

Rik Haanen



The Johanna Donk-Grote Stichting also sponsors a number of pumps at Khova ward, which also includes the village of Mkwekwe. Great thanks.


International training course

“Market-led SMARTechs for water and agriculture”

19 to 23 March 2018 in Mzuzu, Malawi

The SMART Centre SNV are organising an introductory short course to provide policy makers and practitioners in water and agricultural management with a holistic set of knowledge and skills to take water and agricultural initiatives to the next level, to become true agents of change and accelerate reaching several SDGs simultaneously. Click here for more info.


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