We all feel a sense of home-town pride. No matter where we are from, we still carry a deep-seated affection for the place that nurtured us. On our recent visit to Mozambique to monitor the progress of our newest implementing partner, Grupo de Saneamento de Bilibiza (GSB), we were reminded of that universal truth.
Our first stop was a meeting with members of the village of 19th de Outubro, where our first project in northern Mozambique is being built. The meeting started with a song that translated as “Our Village is Beautiful.”
At first glance, a visitor might be surprised to hear community members referring to this village as beautiful. By their own admission, 19th de Outubro is a tough place to live. Women talked about the challenge of walking a total of 6km each day during the dry season to collect dirty water. One woman told us she starts her day at 5:00am, setting off for the water source, and doesn’t get back until after noon—she spends seven hours a day walking for water. The village lies along the bus route from Tanzania to Mozambique’s bigger towns. Buses stop in the village and find nothing available to eat or drink. “All we have to offer is dirty water here,” one gentleman commented. “It’s embarrassing for us.”
But over the course of our visit, the beautiful elements of the community emerged; the strength and determination of people who are able to make a living through hard work and creativity. The hands that wove beautiful grass mats for sleeping on. The fingers that deftly harvested rice in the morning and braided hair in the evening. The voices that sang in harmony and the hands that clapped out complex rhythms. These are people who are proud of their home and happy with their lives.
There are clearly hardships that the people of 19th de Outubro want to address, and GSB and the Water1st community are present to provide the support they need. Water is at the top of their priority list.
In January, GSB began work on its first community-scale, piped water project. With Water1st’s help, GSB is pioneering a more effective type of water project in rural Mozambique—a piped water network—ending the walk for water for hundreds of women and girls. While 99% of all U.S. households have water piped into the home, only about 25% of urban residents in Mozambique have household connections and only 2% of rural residents do. Household water supply is a critical step in addressing a family’s water and sanitation needs.
Completion of this water project will be like a rebirth for the people of 19th de Outubro. Everyone’s home-town pride will be bolstered. “We have never seen a project like this,” said resident Ijande Bishebe. The dividends that this project will yield on a daily basis will place 19th de Outubro on a totally different trajectory. As the community members complete the project, they are creating a new and brighter future for themselves and their children.
Much of our visit was dedicated to providing GSB with support and encouragement. We timed our visit to coincide with the early phases of project construction to be sure GSB was off to a good start. Based on the construction schedule, we expected to see a completed well and the start of construction on an elevated water storage tank. When we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised to see that not only had the well been drilled, but the elevated storage facility had been constructed, the distribution pipeline had been trenched, pipe was in place, and 45 households were connected to the distribution system, complete with their own water meter and faucet. GSB was two months ahead of schedule in the construction timeline. And the proposal only committed them to 40 household connections, not 45.
What we observed during our visit reinforced the observations we made in our partner search process that led us to choose GSB as our Mozambique partner. The GSB staff members are smart, hard-working, ambitious, and compassionate. They are also from the area and so have trusted relationships with the local people. These characteristics are critical to bringing water and toilets to poor communities in areas such as this. The timing of our visit was perfect. We were able to observe their design and construction techniques. Our technical staff provided some important alterations and suggestions. GSB was very receptive to our feedback and demonstrated a strong desire to get it right, another great indicator of long-term success as an organization.
We will return in October to see the project completed. GSB’s work plan includes building a number of household hygiene units—simple structures that incorporate a pour-flush toilet and a place to bathe and wash hands. By October, the water committee will have a few months of experience operating the water system. That will give us a good opportunity to assess their skills at operating and maintaining the system and keeping track of the finances. We are eager to see the outcomes of GSB’s efforts to organize and train the community, which is one of the most important ingredients in sustaining the project benefits over time.
We are pleased with the progress we have seen and encouraged by GSB’s work ethic and ability to complete complex tasks. The partnership is off to a great start.
Thank you for making this project happen. What you are supporting is rare. You are changing people’s lives permanently in Mozambique.
Learn more about our Mozambique program.
We feel very fortunate that so many of our supporters are able to travel with us to learn more about our work and to meet the hard working people in our project communities. Our partner organizations and our project beneficiaries feel respected by your visits and that makes us extremely proud. If you’re interested in traveling, please contact us.