NEWTON SIBANDA, Chingola
A SOLAR powered water project has brought both relief and joy to the residents of Kalilo, an impoverished and desolate area on the northern outskirts of Chingola.
The residents either trekked long distances in search of water or drew the commodity from shallow wells, and were frequently ravaged by waterborne diseases.
Fetching water from Kafue River was another option, but one which posed a threat especially to children, as the river is crocodile infested.
That is now history as the US$120,000 Kalilo Kabungo Water Project has brought clean water to about 16,000 residents with attendant benefits such as improved school enrolment and retention; reduced cases of diarrhoeal diseases; and enhanced productivity.
Thanks to Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) Plc which contracted Davis and Shirtliff to develop a water solution for rural communities not supplied by the water utilities.
Under the project, KCM Plc has installed five solar powered boreholes with filtration and purification systems, and distribution lines to 21 points to ensure water is readily, constantly, and affordably available to all members of the targeted communities.
Apart from providing clean potable water to the communities, the project is also providing the commodity to schools and clinics in the area.
Davies Kanshimba, 65, a farmer from Kalilo was found at Kalilo Health Centre where he recounted the challenges of accessing water to the launch of the project.
“We had problems for patients, especially pregnant women who had to endure carrying own water in containers until the councillor sought help from KCM. So there is relief now and this is our joy as residents,” Mr Kanshimba said.
He explains that Kalilo Health Centre has even been turned into a cholera treatment centre for all suspected cholera cases in Chingola because of the availability of clean water.
Zilani Mwambazi, a farmer also of Kalilo, equally shares the newly found joy.
A mother of five, Mrs Mwambazi recounts how as an expecting mother, those who escorted her to the maternity clinic would carry water in containers.
“If they didn’t carry water, we would go and fetch it from the stream but the stream would sometimes dry up. We are now assured of water supply at the clinic,” Mrs Mwambazi said with a sigh of relief.
She was echoed by 37-year-old Catherine Sikaonga, a farmer of Kafue Gulf.
Mrs Sikaonga, a mother of five, says she could not carry water in containers because she lives three hours away from the health centre.
She would therefore fetch water from the nearby stream.
“Now we just carry a dish for bathing because we are assured of water supply,” she said.
In Kakosa, Christopher Chinemba, the community leader recalls the joyful day when clean water flowed for the first time in September last year.
A farmer who has lived in the area for 29 years, Mr Chinemba recalls how residents were drinking water which was coming from the mine pit and was hard. Diarrhoeal diseases were common then.
“The water from the stream was polluted and not good for human consumption. Those with bicycles could cycle long distances to get clean water,” Mr Chinemba said. We are now drinking clean water and diarrhoeal diseases have reduced. Our women can now concentrate on farming,” he added.
Beyond improved sanitation, the initiative has borne more dividends. Lucas Chabala is the deputy headmaster at Shimulala Primary School and has every reason to rejoice: enrolment and retention; and the pass rate have improved, with the school recording a 100 percent pass rate for two consecutive years.
Girl child enrolment and retention, in particular, has spectacularly improved.
“Numbers in class were ranging between 10 and 15, most of whom were boys. Even among the few that we had, there was a lot of absenteeism. In 2014, there was only one girl in Grade 8,” Mr Chabala said.
“Today, we have about 45 girls in Grade 9 and the numbers are now exceeding the optimum 50. We are now having challenges with numbers especially at Grade 1 because government policy does not allow us to turn away pupils,” he said.
Mr Chabala notes the exceptional improvement in performance, especially at Grade 7.
“From last year to date, we have recorded a 100 percent pass rate at grade 7. The pass rate at Grade 9 was 79 percent last year and 89.5 percent this year,” he said.
Besides the school, the solar powered water system services the health centre and the community.
Kalilo Ward councillor Geoffrey Singu cites, among other benefits, the fact that availability of clean water has improved access to maternal health services.
“Our mothers who used to shy away from coming to deliver at the clinic are now flocking in. They used to carry water in containers, so others resorted to delivering at home,” Mr Singu said.
KCM Plc’s manager-community Relations Brian Siatubi is proud that the water project is providing water which is able to meet Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS) and World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.
“Apart from providing clean water to communities, we have also connected to schools and two clinics. We are transforming the whole system of medical care, especially ensuring our mothers feel comfortable to go to hospital,” Mr Siatubi said.
Shimulala Primary School was the pilot for the solar powered water system which has been replicated in other areas of Kalilo.
KCM intends to replicate the solution to other operational areas.
“We now look to roll out the Clean water Project as our flagship programme in KCM operational areas,” explained KCM general manager for Corporate affairs, Eugene Chungu.
NEWTON SIBANDA, Chingola