Turning on the tap to clean water in rural Zambia

Supporting communities to grow and thrive through sustainable access to clean water

On 22 March we celebrate World Water Day and the work of World Vision to bring clean water to communities around the world. Equitable access to clean water is often the first step in holistic community development, providing the foundation for transformative change in health, livelihoods, agriculture and food security. Access to clean water doesn’t only save lives – it keeps children in school, improves education and equality for women, and helps communities to become self-sufficient.

World Vision is the largest non-governmental provider of clean water in the developing world. Every 10 seconds we reach another person with clean water!

In 2017, World Vision partnered with Australian business Aquamate to bring clean water to four remote communities across southern Zambia. Our partnership delivered four 46,800 litre water tanks to communities who had never before had access to a safe and sustainable water supply. With the support of World Vision, the water tanks were installed alongside a network of pipes and pumping systems. They now form a key element of local water supply systems and facilitate equitable access to clean water for households, schools and farmers.

The installation of water tanks and availability of clean water in Zambia is contributing to transformative change in health, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and livelihoods. Children now have access to safe water for drinking, families are learning to improve sanitation and hygiene practices, and farmers are able to access a sustainable water supply for local agriculture. The tanks are also acting as a tool for empowerment – helping communities to build disaster resilience and enabling families to secure their financial future through ensuring the viability and sustainability of agriculture.

“It is like a dream come true,” says Herbert, a farmer in the Chipapa community and a father of nine children. “For many years we longed for such a resource. We saw our dam dry up, day by day. We did not know what would become of us when the dam dried up completely.”

Zambian farmer holds up carrot bunch


Like many others in his community, Herbert has faced hardship following severe and recurrent drought caused by El Niño. Since 2014, the effects of El Niño in the southern African region have rendered more than 40 million people vulnerable to crop loss. Many have been unable to find enough food for their families. The current El Niño weather pattern is the strongest that the region has experienced in 35 years – causing severe food and water shortages for rural and urban communities.

“[The drought] has come on so strong that life has become unbearable,” says Herbert. “We walk with debts following us because we cannot afford school fees or to feed our families."

As a father of nine children, Herbert’s concern for his family’s future weighs heavily upon his shoulders. Speaking of his 14-year-old daughter, Herbert says, “I was worried that Beatrice’s education would come to an end. I had no other means of paying for her education, nor that of her siblings, who I hoped would attend university.”

The greatest impact of El Niño has been felt by rural farmers like Herbert, who no longer have access to water from streams, dams and wells – not only for watering their crops, but also to provide drinking water for their families.

“The Aquamate tank has come at the right time, when we need it most. I had lost hope but I know this tank will do wonders for us … it will restore our farming and boost our productivity. I will be able to sell produce to earn money and support my family.”

The farmers of Chipapa predict that with the installation of the tanks, their total income will double from US$3,000 to US$6,000 each quarter over the coming years. The farmers will have a reliable water supply and will be able to plant crops with greater market value. Drip irrigation will prevent leaching of nutrients and will thus boost the quality of crop yields.

The Chipapa farmers also recognise the opportunity for the Aquamate water tank to foster flow-on benefits for the wider community. “With this tank, we hope to expand the farmland and support other families to fight hunger and poverty in our community.” Herbert is head of the Chipapa gardening group and is leading efforts to access microfinance loans to empower women with farmland.

Farmers using Zambian water tank


World Vision Chipapa Program Manager, Barbara Mashinkila, says the donation of water tanks has brought hope to farmers and has changed the lives of many in the community. “Empowering local farmers gives [everyone] so much hope. We have seen them struggle with little water until [the dam] dried up. The Aquamate tank has long-term, transformational power – not only for a few individuals, but many families," she says.

“The water from the tank will contribute towards improving families’ food security and livelihoods, and will help families to provide for their children’s education, health and nutrition,” says Barbara. She adds that the community has the spirit and determination to ensure the water tanks will support sustainable agriculture and livelihoods for years to come.

On behalf of his community, Herbert expresses his gratitude to World Vision Australia and Aquamate. “The Aquamate tank has changed the lives of our families and the entire community. We promise that we will use the tank to our best ability. Come next year, our families will no longer be the same.”

Through collaborative partnership, Aquamate and World Vision are helping to make clean water "pipe dreams" a reality in southern Zambia. Together, we are supporting communities to grow and thrive through providing access to sustainable sources of clean water.

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