PRISCILLA MWILA, Shibuyunji
JANE Ng’andu, a resident of Shibuyunji district, used to walk over two kilometres from her home in order to access water.
It was not a pretty sight.
A grandmother, she lives with her four grandchildren who are aged between six and 10 years. They sometimes used to help her draw water but because of their young ages, they could only carry small quantities. And because of the distance involved, the family could only fetch for water once on a particular day.
The situation was worse when she had fractured her leg but still had to go and fetch one of the basic necessities.
But the situation has now eased for her; Village Water Zambia has constructed a borehole near her place.
Village Water Zambia is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that deals with water and sanitation projects in the rural and peri-urban areas of Zambia. It was created in 2007 with the objective of making safe water accessible to vulnerable people and communities.
Village Water Zambia with support from the European Union (EU) has handed over 10 boreholes to Kapyanga West and Sala wards in Shibuyunji built at a cost of over K350, 000.
The boreholes have been built under the Integrated Scaling Up Nutrition project, which is being implemented by the organisation in four districts.
“Accessing water was very difficult in Muliango village where I live, especially for us old people,” Jane, who has lived in the area for over 40 years, says.
“I could barely walk because of my fractured left leg and my grandchildren could only fetch water in small containers. The situation was very difficult because we needed to use water for a lot of things. This is the happiest day of our lives.”
The day Jane is talking about is when Village Water Zambia officially handed over the boreholes. One of those boreholes is located within her yard.
It is therefore understandable why she is head over heels.
Another resident Elijah Mukela says some parts of Kapyanga Ward once experienced an outbreak of diarrhoeal diseases because of drinking unsafe water.
Mukela, 29, says most residents were compelled to fetch water from nearby streams which were also being used by animals.
He is confident that with the boreholes, water-borne diseases will be a thing of the past.
Other than Village Water Zambia, there is another organisation working in Shibuyunji. The organisation, Send a Cow Zambia, is an established and innovative charity that enables poor farmers on the continent to become self-reliant by providing them with livestock, training and advice.
Emelda Mbewe, equally a resident of Shibuyunji, says Village Water and Send a Cow Zambia have changed their lives for the better.
Emelda says apart from providing the water, the organisations have also empowered them with skills in making kitchen gardens in which they plant vegetables and keeping livestock for sale and consumption.
She says it used to be difficult to maintain kitchen gardens in the past because watering the plants was not easy because of the distance they use to cover to fetch water.
Emeldah said before the projects were introduced in Shibuyunji, most residents had no proper means of survival.
Some residents used to work in other people’s farms to enable them provide for the families. In her case, Emelda used to sell tomatoes at the market, a business she says barely gave her enough to cater for her needs.
“I am very happy because these organisations have changed our lives for the better. We can now grow vegetables for both consumption and [for] sale,” she says. “We’ve also learnt how to keep cows and goats. They have now given us water, we are very happy.”
Village Water and Send a Cow Zambia, with support from Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), have introduced the KCM enhancement livelihood pass-on-programme in Shibuyunji to empower women through their clubs.
Under this project, each family is given either two cows or seven goats which they are trained on how to keep and ensure that they breed before handing them over to the next available family. Animals are used for ploughing the fields and for provision of manure.
Village Water Zambia project manager Joseph Munthali says the initiative intends to contribute to the reduction of under-nutrition among women of child- bearing age and children below two years old.
Mr Munthali says women are being trained on how to grow nutritious crops which will ensure that children are not underfed.
“The project targets women clubs; we want to reach out to about 4,800 of them. We’re implementing this project in four districts,” he says. “Our focus areas are agriculture, health and water and sanitation. We have trained some people in nutrition because we found cases of malnutrition when we came to survey the area.”
John Stanley, the European Union representative, says they are happy to be part of a life-changing programme.
Mr Stanley, however, is urging the beneficiaries of the boreholes to guard them against vandalism and ensure that they serve the intended purpose.
“I am happy to be here to represent the EU family. It is one thing to receive the borehole but it is another responsibility to maintain them,” he says. “Let’s keep them safe and clean.”
Shibuyunji acting district commissioner Vanessa Chembo says Government is in the business of ensuring that people have easy access to clean and safe drinking water.
Ms Chembo says this is in line with the Seventh National Development Plan and the Vision 2030 goal of making Zambia a prosperous middle-income country.
“The support by the EU demonstrates its commitment to contribute to the welfare of Zambians. Village Water Zambia and other partners should be commended for the good work,” she says.
Ms Chembo is urging residents of Kapyanga West and Sala wards, where the boreholes are located, to start collecting contributions from consumers to be used for maintenance.
Kapyanga Ward councillor Sebastian Mainza is thankful to the EU and its partners for the gesture, which has changed people’s lives forever.
PRISCILLA MWILA, Shibuyunji