A very cool guest, Dr Susan, arrived a few weeks ago with a fractured elbow. Without the car at the time she walked all the way to Naunde with me to meet the local nurse, midwife and see conditions in the village.
Dr Susan kindly donated us enough money to buy 2 rope pumps that our partners GSB, led by the indefatigable Bashir, make. These pumps are ideal for this environment, cheap, made of locally available recycled materials and simple to repair. However, they are new to here so we decided before replacing every broken pump, that we would buy 2 and test them for 6 months to prove their durability.
After surveying the area for the best places to install the test pumps we decided on repairing the school pump in Ningaia and replacing one of the 4 broken pumps in Rueia.
The pump at Ningaia school
Last Monday we installed the pump in Ningaia school. With Bashir, Juma and Ali from GSB, our partners, and our own Assane and Manuel we enlisted the community to help and learn. The school director, the head of the water committee and the obligatory group of kids were there to help.
Installation and teaching were successful, a happy Nema day. Now the school can get their water without the dangers of the kids falling into the hole and the exertion of using the bucket. The school tank is a water catchment tank which sadly is empty right now as it had a break in the concrete at the bottom of the tank. We had repaired the crack a few months back. Now, once it starts to rain next month the school will have drinking water for a year and a pump to extract it with. What’s not to deem successful about that?
Juma installs the cord into the tubing, a simple process for the locals now they have been taught the simple operation of the pump.
Assane and Manuel learn how to install and repair the pump with Juma and Ali.
The kids get to grip with the pump, easy as that.
But development is never that easy. The following day in Rueia, despite early and repeated engagement with the community, they asked us to change which broken pump we would replace. If the community make a decision for themselves it’s good to follow that so, unless it puts someone in danger, our policy would be to encourage the community and the committees elected by the community to make decisions for themselves and to take responsibility for the consequences, good and bad.
So, different well, no problem, apart from it’s 4 m deeper than the one we have planned for. After a search of all of the containers at the lodge Assane found 1m more of the pipe, not quite 4m! But the community have a pipe that can be used; it’s from the old broken pump which was installed years ago by another NGO. Perfect. Yes of course you can have it, say the water committee but you’ll have to pay us. Ummm. So we should pay to the community for an item that they were given for free in order for us to help the community; development or extortion?
After a discussion with the head of the water committee, who had been demanding stuff from me all day, he would not relent and carried on demanding money. So, we left. With the pump in the car.
The really sad thing is that the people who suffer most, the women and children, continue to suffer because the men want more. This is not a problem unique to Mozambique, or even the developing world, but it’s also not one we should be encouraging and paying this money now will only increase demands next time.
So, we took a stand.
Fortunately the GSB and Nema staff all supported the decision and really understood why we had to make this decision. Indeed, Juma was really upset that people would make these kinds of decisions and not help their community when they could. People like Juma make me keep my faith, hardworking, community driven and just general nice guy. And Assane is really growing into the role of speaking for Nema (he often has to translate my Lisa‑guese into proper Portuguese as somehow he understands me completely where others look really confused!). And so it’s not Lisa stands alone, yet!
The look of “you’re not actually going to leave us without a pump” disbelief of the head of the water committee turned to a bit more like panic when I said bye, as I turned the car around and informed him that my next stop was to the office of the Chefe De Posto (the local Mayor) Benjamin to inform him of why there is no working pump in Rueia.
And that’s what we did. Benjamin’s been very occupied with the “campaign” during the pre-election frenzy but now he’s back to business and he actually gets development too so he’s good to have on-board. As we were explaining what had happened he was calling the Chefe de Localidade (the area chief, and the only woman I’ve met outside of town in a position of power, she’s hardcore!). Benjamin explained that this was not acceptable behaviour, development involved the community and we should all be working together. I know he did this in front of us to make a point, but it was a good point, it was “I’m supporting you”, so we’re happy with the point.
2 days later Assane was in Messano, (home of the office of the Chefe de Localidade) and already the Chefe de Localidade had demanded the presence of all of the players to explain themselves, for now I’m letting the locals play it out for themselves, it’s much better than intervening and the actions will have better long term consequences.
In the meantime we scoped another irreparable pump in another village for Dr Susan’s second pump and have already installed this second pump in Messano. When we arrived the well was blocked by a concrete tampa (lid) and so the ladies were getting water from a natural hole scooping the water in a cut-off water bottle tied to a stick.
Not the easiest way to get water…..
So, a great test for what Assane and Manuel had learned on the first installation, we set off to install the second pump. Apart from a small bit of insecurity at the end of the installation they were pretty switched on proving that they learn quickly and that this is an easy pump to fit and repair. They also taught Nema’s abudu and abudu the new driver how to repair and work the pump too. Perfect.
Now instead of 30 minutes of painstaking work filling a bucket from half a water bottle the ladies just wind up the pump for 30 seconds and the bucket is full. What’s not to like?
Ladies now fill their buckets from the pump.
“Development”, like life, is not easy; it’s not all gorgeous smiley kids (though there are lots) but difficult decisions have to be made for the long term even if there are negative effects in the short term. Here at Nema we are trying to think long term and apply the “do no harm” principle. It was difficult not to feel guilty driving away with the pump in the car, I can help these women, but if we gave in to the demands for money for community property, next time we help the next village not only will they try to take more from us, but they will get less as they do not receive the emotional and intellectual benefits of empowerment and understanding. Development is not just about giving stuff, it’s about learning and creating opportunity. If we continue to just give stuff we create dependency, exactly the opposite effect than that we desire.
We continue to work with the communities and the community leadership to create development and opportunity for development across the villages we support, we have not given up on Rueia and with the help of Benjamin, Assane and Bashir, and others, we will succeed, but clearly it’s going to take some time.