Batoka, Zambia -- As we sit on church benches in the shade of several trees we watch kids wash their hands under the water flowing from a large hand pump. Women fill their plastic pails with clean water before carrying them home.
Ricky Mwale, who minds the pump, gestures to the women and describes how pumps can fall into disrepair. When internal connecting rods break, he says “no matter how much she tries to pump, there will be no water coming out.”
Local communities rely on the pumps, especially during the dry season. When the pumps fail, people are forced to collect what can be unclean water from streams and swamps.
Most of the pumps were installed years ago by a variety of agencies and the Zambian government. When the pumps broke down, villages had to hire contractors to fix them, at a cost of up to $100. Sometimes pumps were left in disrepair for years.
To address the problem, the Brethren in Christ Church’s (BIC) compassionate ministries program trains local people to maintain the pumps. The BIC also donates tools that can be used for repairs.
Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) supports the program, by covering the cost of the person who does the training. In the Batoka zone, 10 men are now trained to take care of pumps in 42 villages.
Webster Munkombwe is one of the pump-minders. He says since the BIC training began in 2009, broken pumps are fixed within a few days. “As soon as it is reported that the bore hole has broken we go there to repair it,” he says. As such there is continuous flow of clean and safe drinking water.”
For pump minders, it’s a way to supplement their income. Communities pay for each repair, usually around 80 Kwacha ($16). It may not be much money, but the men doing this work say they are proud of their contribution to their villages.
Cleanwell Muyuni is one of the pump minders. “Many children will grow up stronger and healthier because of this clean water,” he says.
Emily Loewen is an intern with MCC in Zambia