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My Name is an Afridev Hand Pump

September 9, 2010

My name is Afridev Hand Pump.

I am easy an easy facility.
For me to work better, I need you people to be visiting me regularly.

All that I want are the intestines in my stomach.
These intestines are u-seal, o-ring, bobbin, bush bearings.
I work well when all of these are in place,
I produce less water when these are worn out.

It is easy to run me when you buy the spares,
Replace these spares in time, so that I give you water, always.

That’s my name, Afridev Hand Pump.

– Written and recited by Gilbert Chiziwa for his colleagues and instructors at Champhira Area Mechanic Training Graduation Ceremony, September 10, 2010

What happens when water stops working in Canada? Most likely, you first call the city to report the problem, and wait for them to do something about it. What happens when your borehole stops working in Malawi? You call the Area Mechanic.

Today I attended the last day of the last Area Mechanics (AMs) Training for Mzimba District. In total, over 100 AMs have been trained by the District this summer to perform repair and maintenance on the thousands of Afridev pumps within its boundaries.

They are establishing the first Area Mechanic Network in Mzimba District, responsible for Village Level Operation and Maintenance (VLOM) of water points. One week ago, these individuals, were regular community members, men and women, mostly farmers. Today, they represent an integral part of providing water coverage to rural communities.

AMs work with communities to diagnose problems with water points and perform repairs that return a water point to working condition. In addition to this, AMs support water point committees (village level leadership, responsible for maintenance and upkeep of a particular borehole) by improving leadership, suggesting fundraising strategies, advocating for safe water, and offering techniques for keeping a water point functional.
Over the past week, the AMs have been provided by the District with training, bicycles, tools, and equipment to fix water points. They will go out and work for a price agreed to by themselves and their communities. It’s an interesting mélange between public service and private enterprise:
• Their work is required by the District to achieve its water coverage goals, however, they are being employed/paid directly by the communities which they serve
• They are assigned a specific coverage area, however there are two AMs within that area to provide broader support and encourage good service through competition
• They are certified by the district to perform repairs and maintenance, however, you don’t require any certification to fix a water point (in fact, many of these people were selected because they were fixing/maintaining at least their own community’s borehole before they had this training).

It’s been shown that for AM systems such as this one to work in the long term, with high functionality rates, they require support. Here in Mzimba, the focus has now turned to how to provide effective, quality support forums to these individuals and its part of my role to support them in doing that.

I’ve written this blog tonight as I review all my notes, past reports, ideas and suggestions for a marathon meeting tomorrow to tackle these issues. I’m trying to decide what I think some of the key factors are for making the forums successful, and there are a lot to choose from. Like so many development challenges, it’s less about the technical side of things – they have the skills to do the repairs – and more about the system itself – how do you build effective, long term service, when you’re not actually paying anyone directly to provide it?

Maybe we just need more talking Afridev hand pumps calling AMs to their aid…

Gilbert receives his Area Mechanic Certificate from the District Director of Public Works
2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kaitie permalink
    September 13, 2010 9:15 pm

    Hi Alyssa! Sounds like you are settling in and keeping very busy in Malawi! My mornings aren’t the same without my ‘carpool’ buddy – now I have many bus buddies and far less personal space.

    I wish that they had taught us some classes at Guelph using this poetry style. Maybe I would have retained more. Already I think I know more about these Afrodev pumps than anything we learned in Hydrology.

    Take care of yourself and I look forward to reading more about your adventures!

    • September 26, 2010 1:40 pm

      haha, if you want to appreciate personal space, try a few hrs on a Malawian minibus – last weekend it was 4 adults and 2 sets of twins on a seat that should really probably hold 3 at most! definitely a different commute then we’re used to 🙂 thankfully i just have a short walk to work each day.

      I’m still figuring out the Malawian music scene – ‘The Black Missionaries’ are probably my best recommendation to check out so far… not sure if they’d be on itunes or not, but give it a shot! there’s a big festival in October, called Lake of Stars, that I’m considering attending, I’ll keep ya posted 😉

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