Access to clean and potable water is becoming increasingly a hot issue. And despite enjoying vast water bodies in form of lakes and rivers, Malawi is caught in the fix. Government, through a National Water Development Programme (NWDP), is working hard to secure safe water for people.
NWDP is a collection of water and sanitation development projects whose first phase ran from the late 1990s up to 2004. The second phase of the project runs from 2007 to 2015.
â€œThe main development objective of the NWDP is to increase access to sustainable water supply and sanitation services for people living in cities, towns, markets, and rural areas and to improve water resources management at national level,â€ according to official information.
It is managed by the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Development through a Programme Management Unit and is financed by government with donor assistance from the World Bank, European Union, European Investment Bank, African Development Bank, Australian Aid, African Catalytic Growth Fund, and the Government of Netherlands.
One of the NWDP projects is establishment and rehabilitation of water schemes. The idea of schemes was there during President Hastings Kamuzu Bandaâ€™s reign.
This time, NWDP has used an approach where water beneficiaries assume control of the schemes. This is vital to sustainability of the schemes.
Water Users Associations (WUAs) have therefore been formed. Professor Zachary Kasomekera, programme manager for NWDP highlighted the significance of people owning the schemes instead of being in the hands of government.
â€œIf they are run by government and get damaged, government is forced to source other funds for rehabilitation. This is not sustainable, we need to equip the WUAs with skills to sustain the schemes,â€ he said.
â€œWe have over 80 gravity fed water systems, it is sad that those working are about 24. Management and sustainability are major challenges,â€ lamented Sandra Maweru, Principal Secretary, in the ministry.
NWDP has just finished training WUA members from Dedza, Ntcheu and Chikhwawa districts. They have since graduated.
â€œThe WUAs have been incorporated, that means they are legally operating. They have also been given business plans, a constitution and memorandum of understanding so that they help them in running the water projects,â€ said Maweru.
Chikhwawa district commissioner Felix Mkandawire said people need to be committed and responsible.â€
Prisca Kutengule, a community participation specialist at NWDP, said coordination among several stakeholders like offices of the DCs, chiefs and others is critical.