Jeneta is 59 and used to carry 40 pounds of water on her head, uphill, with her granddaughter on her back. But not anymore.
Today, her village in Zambia has clean water brought right to them … and it's all solar powered!
World Vision works in some of the most remote areas in the world to provide clean water and help lift people out of poverty. Today, we’re thankful for our sturdy 4-wheel drive vehicles with high clearance as we splash through knee deep water and mud to reach a rural village in Zambia.
Jeneta Sneele, a 59-year-old grandmother, has her granddaughter Eunice on her back as she struggles up a steep embankment carrying 40 pounds of water on her head. She has to crawl a bit through the steepest part and she does it without spilling a drop. It’s a heroic task that I couldn’t come close to doing, and she used to do it several times a day to provide for her family.
Now, those days are in the past thanks to the water source provided to this community by World Vision and Grundfos. World Vision is the largest nongovernmental (NGO) provider of clean drinking water in the developing world, and we’ve teamed up with the Grundfos—the largest maker of water pumps in the world—in order to provide clean water to millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa.
We’re teaming up to provide communities with what’s called a solar-powered mechanized system. This is quickly becoming a critical tool in World Vision’s toolkit to help solve the global water crisis. It’s partly driven by changes in demographics that are occurring in villages in sub-Saharan Africa. Many villages that used to have 300 people now may have 1,000 people or more.
Our proven approach of providing a single borehole with a hand pump would mean long wait times for water in communities of 1,000 people. So instead of providing a single hand pump, we dig the borehole and put in a Grundfos submersible pump that is powered by an array of solar panels. The community then lays piping throughout the community so that every household has easy access to standpipes of water.
This approach has numerous advantages over the traditional hand pumps when there is sufficient water yield from the borehole and when there is sufficient population. The solar powered system means we’re using renewable green energy instead of expensive and less reliable diesel-powered pumps. By providing access points throughout the community, we further reduce the time needed to haul water.
In addition, there’s strong evidence that providing water closer to homes will reduce the chances for the water to become contaminated. We can provide these mechanized solar powered systems for about $50,000 for a community of 1,000, or $50 per person—about the same cost required to provide a traditional borehole with a hand pump.
This system has been around for quite a while and the technology is well proven. In fact, the system that we’re visiting today has been around for five years and the community is thrilled with its performance. The community collects a fee from all the households to help pay for ongoing operation and maintenance.
Jeneta is the chairperson of the water committee that collects the water fees. She tells us that they keep some of the funds in cash but then invest the rest so that the money generates a return on the investment. I ask Jeneta if they put the funds in a bank and she laughs and says they invest the village way. They buy goats and pigs that increase in value as they grow. It’s a real-life piggy bank! When they need additional funds, they take the animals to market so they have the needed cash for repairs.
Today, we’re visiting the community along with a local government leader, Madam Jane Chilwa, the District Commissioner of Mazabuka. Our work with the government is a critical part of ensuring that water continues to flow long after World Vision has left a community. Jane is very supportive of World Vision and our work in her district. She’s thankful that World Vision has helped build the capacity of government officials through training programs, and is confident that this partnership is making a difference in helping lift communities out of poverty.
We visit some of the gardens that are flourishing in the community because of the water sources within each household. The environment of this community has changed tremendously because of the water source and it’s fantastic that we’re using a green energy source to provide the water.
This type of green energy approach is important to help address climate change, which is changing weather patterns in Africa and making subsistence farming even more difficult. I was thrilled when Grundfos recently received the UN’s prestigious Climate Award in recognition of this work.
Our expansion plans with Grundfos are huge. We will provide 1,000 of these systems over the next five years in order to reach 2 million people with clean water. This effort is a critical part of going from our current scale of reaching one new person with clean water every 30 seconds to reaching one new person every 10 seconds with clean water by 2020.
The partnership is already well underway with a total of 300,000 people who will be reached with solar-powered clean water by the end of 2016 through our work in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, North Korea, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Zambia.
Jeneta and her neighbors are grateful to World Vision, Grundfos, and the local government for helping provide sustainable and reliable clean water so that their struggles to collect water are over. I’m thankful for these partnerships that are vital to end the global water crisis within our lifetime.
Every child deserves clean water! Help us reach our goal of providing clean water to a new person every 10 seconds by 2020—donate to clean water here.