Posted by: Wasrag | January 9, 2011

Water Conflict in Malawi

A true story of conflict and resolution in Malawi. Thanks to DGE David Stocks (Rotary District 5020) for submitting this story. David serves on the Board of Directors of the Malawi Girls School – a breakthrough project that has had profound inpact.


A report by Morroco

Hatred has numerous sources which are different. One of the various reasons that lead to enmity is lack of mutual understanding. Whenever one does something which is contrary to someone elses needs, the consequence will be the creation of enmity. Being reconciliatory assists to curve people from involving themselves in hatred. It is nothing else that contributed to a prolonged enmity between Kapwayi village and Kalenga Trading apart from water shortage problem. These two places are next to each other and it is impossible for a stranger to trace a demarcation between the two hence intruders regard some buildings within the village which are along the boundary as a part and parcel of the trading center and vice versa. An enmity was permanently established between these two places whose source was the scramble for water at a single borehole which is found within the trading center. A single borehole was insufficient to serve people from both sides.

Different countries or tribes have different cultural practices. A foreigner would probably detect some kind of cruelty exercised by Malawian women. This explains why and wherefore only women scrambled for water at a borehole since according to some Malawians drawing water from borehole is an activity which is placed under the category of works which belong to women only. This is their culture and belief and women never mind doing such work.

People of Kalenga Trading always felt offended when their programmes were delayed after being interrupted at a borehole by a long queue of pails brought by women from the village which waited to be served. By attempting to give room to the pails and tins from the village, women of the trading center were unable to draw water on time and this also hindered some of the programmes in their homes to be conducted on time hence delayed and infuriated people.

A borehole, being found in their trading, women from the trading were empowered to crown themselves the title of superiority. This led to the formation of two categories; superior and inferior. The title of superiority empowered them to speak ridiculous words. Yells that frequently occurred at the borehole, made people to conclude that it was a boozing centre in terms of endless noise. When it was agreed that every beneficiary of the borehole at the trading center ought to contribute, the inferior side (village women) paid through the nose for fear of being banned as it is generally asserted that the scarcity of water makes life hard and without water makes life impossible to both plants and animals.

If favoritism is ignored, then it is not wrong to say that every one was supposed to contribute because the contribution was of paramount importance because its utility was to purchase spare parts of the borehole. So for a sustainable functioning of a borehole everyone’s contribution was required. However, this exercise was sour if not bitter to the inferior side (villagers) because it was brutally handled. Being inferior women from the village were publicly castigated that their chief was impotent in the field of development. Superior category had women whose thinking capability is abnormal and childish. These women believe that the availability of the whites among Malawians is so sole fundamental mechanism of eradicating all their challenges. Though inferential, their queries which were fired repeatedly to the inferior category help to give proofs of the above fact.

Some of the questions that were persistently asked were, ‘The whites have been coming in your village, why don’t they help so that the problem you are currently facing is eliminated?  Memory has been on good terms with the whites, why does she not table this problem when they come so that they help you to overcome it? Your chief seems to be an orator, why has he silent during your water crisis? The whites can assist you to shape the situation favorably’.

These offensive questions compelled, the chief to talk to the government officials whose responsibility is to develop rural areas by providing boreholes to ensure that only safe water is utilized among the people in rural areas. But his endeavors were in vain. The response given each and every time was after having deliberations with government officials only added an insult to injury. The response was always negative but also indifferent. The chief was answered that his village is within the catchments area of a borehole at Kalenga Trading thus no need of offering another borehole within the same area.

Due to the fact that a borehole had an endless queue starting from 3: 00 am up to 9:00 pm some women were found drawing water at a borehole at mid night if they wished to draw water peacefully and calmly. To avoid quarrels at borehole, some women had to go to the dambo to fetch water which was stagnant and was sheerly not safe for man’s use. Waste matters during the rainy season drained into the dambo where wells were and found their destination in the same well where people were getting water. Apart from being stagnant, animals also used the same water found in the well. All these show that water from the well was hazardous for a human life. Although it was hazardous, it was still used because the women were despairing.

One day when members of the village called on their chief to discuss development issues, the chief found an opportunity of informing the members that a proposal had been dispatched to some Canadians through Memory and Christie requesting all well wishers that if there can be a possibility they should assist to pull the village out of the dungeon into which they had plunged. The chief continued that after the discernment of the proposal some had pledged to intervene with a view to ensure that the village has its own borehole. The chief’s remarks kindled enthusiasms among the audience which led to an emanation of smiley faces. ’We shall have our own borehole, we shall have our own borehole.’ This was a continuous song sung by the women from the village to any woman from superior dynasty. Women were not shy to disclose this to other women because it is their belief that Christie always stands to her words. So they were confident that what had been promised will become a reality one day. Women encouraged themselves by saying that the whites are different from Africans, the whites give effects to their plights.

The presence of notorious people within a particular area, triggers fear in the people of that particular area. But the arrival of Colleen Milne and Tricia Timmermans moved people to ecstasy because they believed that their arrival meant the fulfillment of what had been promised by Christie – that Kapwayi village will be provided with its own borehole. It was on 4th November 2006 when Colleen and her friend Tricia visited Kapwayi village for the first time and their visit was not an ordinary one. Women showed their great happiness by singing epic songs throughout a short ceremony. ‘Takondwa talandira dilawo’ (We are happy with our visitors for having brought money for a borehole) this was one of their songs.

It was during this short occasion when Colleen publicly presented a cheque worth Mk 467,000.00 for drilling a borehole of the village. Ululation among Malawians symbolizes that something pleasant has befallen, is in progress or will happen in the future. It was on Sunday 10th December when ululations within the village startled passers by when eyes of the women suddenly alighted upon a convoy of vehicles with their machines of drilling a borehole. It was the day that produced astonishment. Some women who have never danced publicly, it was their red letter day of offering entertainment to the on lookers. In no time the village was full of people who came to see the source of happiness. From 10th to 17th December, strange faces occupied the village to witness what was going on. It was on Monday, a Christmas day when a borehole started functioning.

People in the village have been very grateful to every Canadian who participated physically and financially to ensure that the problem of water shortage is abolished in the village of Kapwayi. By virtue of their physical and financial endorsement things had pleasantly changed. Because of the Canadians support, women who were on loggerheads for ages are now friendly. Diseases from which people suffered because of drinking stagnant water are no more. The problem of being delayed at a borehole because of a long line of tins waiting to be served is overcome. In short all the problems that were encountered because of using a borehole at the trading are now among the mythologies. Everyone in the village express his/her gratitude to the following people:


She is thanked for having tabled the problem of water shortage in the village to other Canadians. She is a friend and villager with us.  She knows our problems.  Girls education, famine relief and love are what she will be remembered for.

She is remembered for being a participant among the women whose dance showed their great happiness. She is thanked and remembered for having contributed towards the development of a borehole in the village. The picture of this gentle lady still lingers within the mind of people for having presented a cheque for a borehole. Kapwayi village knows what a Rotarian is through her.


A clever lady is remembered and thanked for her contribution towards a borehole. A lady who is a bit old but her cleverness is still teenager. She is remembered for her business throughout an occasion of presenting a cheque so that when they go back to Canada others will be able to watch what happened through a video camera.


Are gratified because of their physical support which commenced soon after Colleen and Tricia had landed on Kamuzu International Airport. A new couple is always remembered by virtue of coordination and supervision. These two are internal coordinators at the same time their coordination crosses the boundary of Malawi. When Colleen, Tricia and Christie wish to know how the programme is, Memory is always on the line in order to communicate. Henry took a leave in order to render his support physically. This is not taken for granted.

May the good Lord bless you all!!!!


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