Roughly a two-hour drive from our local headquarters in Lilongwe, Pump Aid’s field office in Mchinji District is just a few quick turns off the main road, which leads several miles beyond to neighbouring Zambia.
Since 1 January 2013, as part of our core programme, Pump Aid’s building teams have constructed 360 pumps across Mchinji’s administrative areas known as Traditional Authorities. Households in the district are predominantly small-holder farmers, single families with small plots of land used for growing both cash and subsistence crops. Heavily dependent on rainfall, these households are held hostage to the changes in climate that affect their planting and harvest activities. In recent years, the district has suffered several extreme climate events, as well as shorter rainy seasons, worsening the poverty that affects so many in this area.
Just off a red clay path, past clusters of red-brick homes with thatched roofs, a village, not unlike many others, appears. A crowd of people surround a group of workers dressed in crisp blue suits, who are hard at work laying bricks and mortar. Several older women of the village appear, dancing, clapping and singing, “We have been waiting for you to come and complete this work.”
This is Jerrison village, where a team of Pump Aid builders are installing a pump to secure the water supply. The community has come together to provide the necessary raw materials: They have made the mortar, as well as the bricks from water and clay, and are helping the team as they assemble the pump. Children have gathered to watch the installation, curious about the buzz of activity that consumes their small village. This is truly a community effort.
Among the crowd of men and the three-person building team is a single woman: Theresa, known by her friends as Trazer, who has been working with Pump Aid as a brick layer since 2009.
“It is very special to be a lady among men doing this work,” said 36-year-old Trazer. “It’s a teamwork job, and I am very proud of my work. Anyone can do it; you just need commitment to help vulnerable villages that need clean water.”
Under the bright January sun during a prolonged break from the storms that are typical for this time of year, Trazer and her building team members, Amos and Walex, are crouched close to the ground, laying mortar and smoothing the cement over what will be the catch basin for water spillage. The mortar will need to dry, and interior materials including rope will need to be set before the pump can be used by the community.
After the completion of the pump, the village will soon be visited by a team of Pump Aid community facilitators, to work with them and support their commitment to better hygiene and sanitation practises.
“It is very special to be a lady among men doing this work. It’s a teamwork job, and I am very proud of my work.”