Rotary Club Apeldoorn-‘t Loo has been a long time supporter of the SMART Centre in Malawi through the ‘Walking for Water’ fundraising activities. Recently the Rotary Magazine published a short article in Dutch on this long term partnership, underlining the need for local production through local businesses.
As you may remember, we have sent James to the Netherlands to attend the Young Expert Programme as part of his role as local Young Expert here at the SMART Centre. He returned from his training in December, so it was about time we sat him down to ask all about his adventures abroad. We spoke about what surprised him most, and how he spent his free time. Enjoy the read!
Tell us, what was the most exciting thing about the training?
“The training was full of exciting topics to equip participants with skills on personal development. The most exciting thing was to understand your personal preferences through MBTI instrument and how you can use them productively in a workplace. As a person I have strong preference in certain things and unique way of approach to different things.”
How will you apply these new findings here in Mzuzu?
“At the office we have different personalities all trying to achieve a common goal. Appreciating our different preferences and style is key. I might not be good at everything and should be flexible to learn from others.”
We can imagine it was quite intensive. Did you struggle with anything during the training?
“Finding myself in an environment which was completely different from where I am coming from was really a struggle. Language was the most challenging of all. Almost everything was in Dutch. If you go to supermarkets you never know what you are buying unless someone reads and interprets for you.
To take a train or tram you first need to ask people around which one to board or you find yourself in a location where you were not intending to go. The weather was also challenge. Most time of the training was spent indoors and that was great. After sessions every night and during the weekends we usually visited places, walking in the streets and that’s when you could experience the extreme weathers of the Netherlands.
Using chip cards to buy and access certain services was another strange thing. For example, checking in and checking out each time you use public transport gave me a very hard time.”
Now that you’re back, what do you think was the most memorable aspect of the training?
“Sharing stories, different culture and experiences with fellow YEPpers. It gave us an opportunity to appreciate how it is working in different political and cultural setups. And most of all learning from personal experiences in various countries and fields. Although most of the experiences shared were those in development countries where challenges are more similar, but every experience was unique.”
You also had some free time to explore the Netherlands, how was that?
“Visiting Amsterdam was a dream come true. Before the visit I had heard a lot about the city. How beautiful it was and that it attracts a lot of people all over the world. Finding myself there and especially at The Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam was exciting. Being a football lover and a fan for the Dutch team, that experience is something to remember for a very long time.”
Was there anything that surprised you?
“Seeing the majority of Dutch YEPpers speaking African or Asian languages, singing African or Asian songs and some dressing in African or Asian attire was something I didn’t expect. Most of the Dutch YEPpers had experience working in Africa, Asia and other developing countries, something which was good.”
One of our longest running projects is our Faith and Water training. It fits perfectly within our organization, as it is focused on rural Malawi and consist of giving training to local people. First piloted in 2017, our staff members are getting better at making these trainings a success. That’s why, when funding became available to the Centre for training purposes, the choice to continue with Faith and Water sessions was quickly made. This time we went to four regions, visiting two communities in each.
Focussing on WASH
and Water trainings are focused on clean and safe water, sanitation, and
hygiene; WASH in short. The benefits are explained to local church in their
local language. With help of games, visual aspects and case studies, it is for
example explained how bacteria spreads, or how a water filter can prevent
diseases. For instance: to give them a better perspective on contaminated water,
we show two bottles filled with water. To one, salt is added. Both look
identical, but after a taste test the difference between the two are made
clear. This goes to show contaminated water can look as clear as any water, but
may still be filled with bacteria.
Linking WASH to Bible verses
emphasize the training is not a lecture, but a dialogue. As this training is
provided to church leaders and their congregations, we link safe and clean
water and sanitation to verses from the Bible. In many verses, God teaches the
benefits that come with taking proper care of yourself. This way, we try to get
the people following the training involved and enthusiastic about sharing their
knowledge to their communities after the training is finished. After some time,
we do a follow-up visit to see how things are going and whether the techniques
they learned during our training are still being used, and whether knowledge
has been shared with community members.
A team effort
members were excited to help, and put a lot of effort into the trainings. Medass
Mhone is our office assistant, and visited the communities to help spread
Due to my educational background I’m interested in communities. I studied about community health. If community members are not happy and healthy, communities cannot develop. The same goes for a healthy community.
Especially in Malawi, our economics come mostly from farming. If someone is sick, this person is unable to work in the field and therefore cannot provide for the community or their family. I want to help create awareness about good sanitation in order to help preventing diseases. A nice addition about this training is that I’m able to learn about different cultures and the way of lives in rural communities
The only way to provide water for all, to a growing population in developing countries, is to capacitate the same people to solve that problem. EMAS and SMART Centres have been training and guiding small-scale entrepreneurs in developing countries for many years. Trained entrepreneurs now supply affordable water technologies to communities and households in over 20 countries serving more than 2 million people.
SMARTechnologies are complimentary and the organisations share the same
philosophy towards sustainable development. Our mutual goal is to establish
supply chains of Market-based, Affordable and Replicable technologies that are
also fit for households (Self-supply). By joining forces SMART Centres and EMAS
will increase the number of small water enterprises, make them more robust and
offer a larger variety of technologies and services to their customers.
We believe that investing in capacity building creates the conditions for sustainable and rural water supply.
At the 2019 Stockholm SIWI World Water Week, where the SMART Centre Group had its own booth and several presentations, a proposal was launched called ‘Marshall Plan for Water in Africa’. The proposal is focussed on clean water and safe sanitation in Africa by 2030. This initiative includes the need for vocational training, as done by the SMART Centres.
Clean water and Safe sanitation in 2030
On August 28th, the proposal for a ‘Marshall Plan for Water in Africa’ was presented. African water ministers and several non-governmental organisations presented the plan, focussed on guaranteeing all Africans clean water and safe sanitation by 2030. Proposers strongly believe water is key to a prosperous future for Africa. The plan includes a proposal for funding, which can be used to finance more opportunities in WASH. It is believed the plan holds a potential for many new jobs. Read the full press release here.
World Water Week
Week is the biggest annual focal point for global water issues. This year it was
held in Stockholm, in the last week of August. The SMART Centre Group was
represented with its own booth, and provided presentations at several sessions.
A broader plan
The proposal builds on a much broader proposal, presented last year by German minister Gerd Müller: ‘Migration, Sustainability and a Marshall Plan with Africa’. This plan was created to boost Africa’s economy, create jobs, peace and gender equality, and reduce poverty, migration risks, healthcare costs and risks from climate change.
SimoneStockholm World Water Week: A Call for a Marshall plan with Africa
After multiple positive experiences we’re excited to announce the SMART Centre opened their doors once again for a YEP-delegate to join the team. We’d like to introduce you to James Mhango, our local Young Expert.
Training in the Netherlands
James will be part of the 18th batch of Young Experts, and fly to the Netherlands in November to follow a three-week training programme. The training will cover a wide range of topics in the Water and Agrofood sectors. In the first week, a visit at our coordinators office MetaMeta is planned. An exciting opportunity to learn, make connections and kick-start two years of the programme. During the remaining part of the two years, he will receive intensive coaching and attend training sessions and master classes in order to develop various skills.
James Mhango is a passionate advocate of our low-cost WASH technologies, and is eager to spread awareness. At 23 years old he started at the University of Mzuzu, where he later obtained his bachelor degree in Water Resources Management and Development. It was at the Mzuzu University where he met Reinier Veldman, previous manager of the SMART Centre.
After providing James and his fellow student Andrew Kamanga with an internship for two months at the SMART Centre, they proposed to do research on Rope Pumps. You can read their findings in the published research by clicking here. Both James and Andrew stayed with the Centre after finishing their research and now specialize in monitoring and evaluation.
I see the YEP role as an opportunity to take a step forward to develop and improve my career. I am excited to meet fellow peers from over the world to share our experiences, and I hope to share knowledge on different policies with other water professionals from other countries. Their approach might be different, I want to learn from them.
I have recently changed paths and am becoming more of an entrepreneur. I currently hold pigs at home and am growing different types of crops. In five to ten years I am hoping to have a big piece of land and upscale the business. Of course, my main priority now lies with the SMART Centre. I would be happy if I can contribute towards the adoption of the Rope Pump technology in Malawi. At the moment this technology isn’t widely accepted by stakeholders yet as a water supply option.* But I also look forward to build stronger relationships with my colleagues and to use the knowledge from the training to improve the Centre.
James Mhango, August 2019
Young Expert Programme
The Young Expert Programme is jointly carried out by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP) and the Food & Business Knowledge Platform. Their aim is to rejuvenate the Agrofood and Water sectors, by training Dutch and local professionals and giving them the opportunity to kick-start their careers in an intercultural environment. If you’d like to know more, have a look on their website.
*James Mhango, together with A. Kamanga and R. Veldman, wrote a paper on accessibility of the Rope Pump technology based on a study they performed. You can read the paper here.
SMART Centre we strive for a profit-based sustainability, and encourage
self-supply. In most cases, ownership results in responsibility and proper
maintenance. Upon receiving funding from a generous donor, we have been
thinking about ways to apply our visions while spending this fund on expanding
WASH-solutions here in Malawi. How do we choose who receives a partly
subsidized pump, well or latrine?
We came up with an approach that involves our entrepreneurs, as they are our eyes and ears in the field. We created a list of criteria, and asked our entrepreneurs if they are willing to help us find suitable customers based on these criteria. Some examples of these criteria are that the well, pump or latrine is privately owned and that these owners have no working connection to a water supply. However, the most important criteria is that we are asking potential customers to hand in a business plan.
Business Model Canvas
business plan can be as simple as a plan to sell tomatoes, where having a pump
supplies the owner with water for the tomatoes. It is also possible to work out
a plan to expand an already existing business. We introduced the Business Model
Canvas to our entrepreneurs, and did a practice round asking them to fill in
the canvas with a fictional business. After a day of practice, we gave them the
go-ahead and sent them on their way to find customers.
The results have been very positive so far. Our entrepreneurs have been bringing in potential customers daily, which shows us there is still a big demand for pumps, wells and latrines in the Mzuzu area. Currently, the SMART Centre is evaluating all potential customers, and checking who meets the criteria. We have started giving some of our entrepreneurs permission to start drilling, welding and building. We’ll keep you informed, so stay tuned!