Life is simple: Just add water

Four Mech Eng students from Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and Enactus jetted off to Malawi in Southern Africa, in August, to work on water and sanitation projects across the country.

Engineers Without BordersAndrew Merson (3rd year) and Sam Stedman (Final year) are both members of EWB and will be involved in the design and implementation of a bicycle powered water pump, capable of pumping several tonnes of water a day from Lake Malawi into farmers’ fields up to 50 metres away from the source at 120kPa of pressure. Water is usually carried by hand in 20 litre buckets on the heads of women (that’s about 20kg per bucket so it’s going to take a lot of trips to the lake to carry all they need!) so this simple device could make a huge impact to the lives of local people and, if successful, could drastically improve the crop yield. Andrew and Sam will be in Malawi for the next 9 weeks and during their time they will be holding workshops with local farmers to ensure that their product meets their needs.

Already, they have given a talk and demonstration at Mzuzu University in front of students, academics and farmers, which has resulted in them being invited to lead on a piece of research with the University to analyse and understand the irrigation practices of farmers in Nkhata Bay to assess how appropriate technologies can be used to increase irrigation in the dry season and hence potentially increase growing capacity and local food sustainability.

EnactusSamy Krym (2nd year) and Deven Darshane (1st year) were travelling in the Enactus team. Their project, Tapping Potential, works with a team of school leavers and takes a 3-pronged approach to tackle the problem of deaths from diarrhoea related diseases. Step one is to repair existing boreholes. The boreholes are a lifeline to clean water, and when they break, as they often do, people go back to using stagnant river or stream water, which carries numerous diseases. Ensuring that the boreholes keep working means that people always have access to clean water for drinking, cooking and washing with. Step 2 is soap. The team taught the school leavers to make their own luxury soap and gave them the business skills to build their own enterprise selling to hotels and communities in the area. The profits from the soap not only provide the school leavers with a good living wage, but also feed into step 3, medicine. Giving communities access to medicine is vital in helping people to survive diarrhoea related diseases. Often clinics just don’t have the money to provide the drugs that people so desperately need so profits from the soap business will support clinics to buy those medicines.

Kat would like to thank all staff who kindly donated and gave items for clinics and schools in the area. Malawi is currently the world’s poorest country, but meeting the people there, you would never believe it. What little they have, they want to share. They are happy with what they have, and no amount of money can buy that.