Alfred Matsimbe, field officer at Churches Action in Relief and Development (CARD) – our partner in Malawi – shares the story of dryland farmer, Joyce Stonard, and what she hopes to achieve with an upcoming sand dam project.

Water is a gift so precious to human beings, animals and plants. It is considered as one of the most important resources our planet has and a basic necessity of every human being. Malawi, a country in the southern part of Africa, has abundant water resources ranging from lakes, rivers, and so on. However, Nsanje and Chikwawa are some of the districts in Malawi where extreme poverty and no access to portable clean water is high amongst communities.

The districts do have some seasonal rivers which surrounding communities rely on, but dry seasons and prolonged drought periods raise the constant and devastating issue of water scarcity for so many, and those from the villages CARD and Excellent Development are supporting are no exception.

Joyce Stonard is amongst the inhabitants of Laskeni Village which is part of ‘Group Village Headman (GVH) Mzondola’ in Nsanje. She is a 39-year-old widow (having sadly lost her husband in April 2020), with five children aged between one and 17. And as the current household head for the family she has been relying on casual labour jobs around her community to sustain her family.

Like any other villager residing from GVH Mzondola, Joyce has faced the challenge of accessing nearby clean water. Thus far she has had to walk an estimated 600 metres each day to fetch water in self-dug scoop holes in the seasonal Thangazi River that passes through the village, as the only borehole which was constructed some years back in the area produces saline water and is too far and busy.

Joyce professes: “The borehole covers the whole of Mzondola, so with a high number of people in need of water, the situation becomes difficult for us mothers to access water in due time, as we are eager to return home to take care of our children. And even if we can get a bucket of water at the borehole, the water itself does not taste good, it is too salty.”

CARD, alongside Excellent and Zimbabwean partners, Dabane Trust, with funding from Jersey Overseers Aid, are now planning to construct a sand dam in GVH Mzondola which is expected to provide portable clean water for consumption as well as for agriculture activities.

"This is a very good project. I hope the practices will assist me and the rest of the communities to have knowledge on sustainable agriculture whilst the trees will assist us to conserve our environment and grow crops with will feed our families.”

Joyce Stonard, farmer from Laskeni Village, Nsanje district, Malawi.

Joyce is happy, and relieved with the news. She says cattle, goats, pigs and other animals uses the same scoop holes that people currently use to access water, making them susceptible to diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea in the village. In fact, Joyce’s own children have contracted chronic diarrhoea on three separate occasions in the past, and she always fears for her children’s health.

Now she has hope that the sand dam project will provide her family and the local communities with enough water to change their fortune, reduce the time (and labour) it takes to fetch water, and reduce the occurrence of waterborne diseases.

And in terms of the additional project activities, Joyce has become one of the most enthusiastic and hardworking participants. Apart from being on the GVH Mzondola’s ‘sand dams committee’, she is also involved in agricultural conservation activities such as developing tree nurseries for her community, and herself (having 1.5 acres of land to work with).

Joyce concludes: “This is a very good project. I hope the practices will assist me and the rest of the communities to have knowledge on sustainable agriculture whilst the trees will assist us to conserve our environment and grow crops with will feed our families.”

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