Published in June 2024

Water scarcity creates difficulty for anyone who lives with it, but it can make life even harder for those who face additional daily challenges. Speaking with Monica Njazi, from southern Malawi, we learn why a sand dam project means so much to her and her family.

In Khondo, a village that is part of the Group Village Headman (GVH) Mzondola community in southern Malawi, our partners Churches Action in Relief and Development (CARD) spoke with Monica Njazi about her life. Monica is a 26-year-old mother of two who, along with her husband, relied on casual labour and subsistence farming for her livelihood.

For a long time, people in the Mzondola community suffered from water scarcity. Monica shares with us how a typical day would go during this time.

"I would wake up early in the morning and go to fetch water at the river, which was a long distance and would usually take about one and a half hours. After returning home, my husband and I would work on our farms for at least four to five hours. We would come back maybe around 12:30pm in the afternoon to wash, cook and do other household chores."

Monica lives with albinism, a condition which affects her eyesight and her comfort in dealing with the local climate. She tells us how this used to affect her daily routine.

"My eye problems mean that I don’t see very far and the terrain to the river is rocky and bushy, so sometimes the journey to the river can take much longer because I have to walk slowly. My skin also does not tolerate much sun, so it was difficult for me to walk a long distance in a very hot weather to collect water."

These issues then had a knock-on effect on the rest of Monica’s life, as she explained further.

"My children are very young and need motherly care, but I cannot take them to the river and also lift buckets of water. It means I have to leave them at home, so the journey has impacted on my childcare."

When CARD officers came to discuss the sand dam project with the Mzondola community, Monica recognised the possibility of having a water source closer to home and became greatly involved with the project together with her husband. After beginning construction of their dam the community continued to face difficulties, but Monica shares how they were able to persevere to continue the project.

"We started building the dam during a dry spell where the community was being affected by COVID-19. Hunger was everywhere but thankfully CARD provided us with food throughout the construction process, so we only had to worry about food at home. There were times I was thinking we may not complete the construction because it required great effort, but after completing construction I see it as a major achievement."

After completing their dam, the Mzondola community was badly affected by two cyclones that hit the country. The resulting floods impacted their ability to access water from the dam for a time, but Monica told us that hopes remained high for when the issues were resolved and people would be able to access water nearer to their homes. She went on to say what this means for her life.

Monica Njazi - GVH Mzondola"My children will soon reach the age of going to school. The time I take to fetch water, due to my condition, might affect their ability to go to school. The construction of the sand dam will ease these challenges, helping my children to attend school. As of now, that is the biggest benefit from the project."

Monica Njazi, member of the Mzondola community, southern Malawi.

The water supply from the dam, coupled with training conducted by CARD in Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH), has meant that community members like Monica are now seeing benefits to their health. 

"We have changed the way we behave as a community because the project has taught us many things. Now we are practicing what we have been taught on sanitation and hygiene, which has improved health in the community. I am able to apply the knowledge I have gained at home too, so my life has personally changed."

Further activities that were part of the sand dam project included training and assistance for conservation agriculture. Monica summarised what this has involved to this point.

"We managed to establish demonstration plots for conservation agriculture and have planted trees along the riverbanks as a community. CARD provided us with seeds that we could use to practice what we had learned. After harvesting, we contributed towards a seed bank that was also put in place by this project. Now I am using seeds from the seed bank for this year’s growing season."

This support for agricultural livelihoods have boosted prospects for local farmers. Monica tells us that people such as herself no longer have to rely on handouts or casual labour. She concluded the interview by telling us how the environment has been transformed by the project so far.

"The water being held by the sand dam is helping vegetation to grow around the site. Our land and environment now look beautiful and we hope to sustain it for the future. I feel so happy that we have achieved this."

Our current appeal: please donate what you can to help a community in Ethiopia to build a 'Sand Dam for Peace', access clean water and reduce water-related conflict

Please select a donation amount (required)
Set up a regular payment Donate