Tichitepo kanthu pakusamalira madz! (Let’s do something about water and sanitation!)

Hygiene and sanitationWater management

Notes to broadcasters

Mangochi is a district in Malawi, bordering on Lake Malawi. The majority of people in Mangochi work as fisherfolk or smallholder farmers. In the past, a number of communities in the district had no access to safe water. This resulted in outbreaks of water-borne diseases. At the time, villagers did not realize that these outbreaks were connected to unsafe drinking water. Water-borne diseases may have slowed development in the area, because they have prevented people from participating in self-help projects. Instead, they were sick or attending to the sick. Hilda Jambo, a reporter from Dzimwe Community Radio Station, reports from Mangochi on how people solved their water and sanitation problems.

This script is a mixture of interviews and clips of villagers speaking about the water and sanitation situation in their village. A village chief is interviewed, and we hear the voices of other community members who were previously recorded in interviews. If you want to change the format so that all discussions are presented as interviews, the reporter’s words must be slightly changed. Another option, as always, is to use this script as a guide or inspiration to conduct interviews in your own community. What are the problems your community or nearby communities face? How have community members come together to address these problems? What challenges did they encounter and how did they meet these challenges? Remember that it’s always best to use people’s own words. Also, when talking about solutions to water and sanitation problems, include lots of details on the technologies they used to solve their problem.

This script is based on actual interview, conducted with villagers in Malawi. To produce this script on your station, you might choose to use voice actors to represent the villagers, and change the wording in the script to make it suitable for your local situation. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interview, and that the program has been adapted for your local audience, but is based on a real interview.


I am Hilda Jambo, a reporter from Dzimwe Community Radio Station. I am in Nsumbi 1, a remote village in the Monkey-Bay Mangochi district of Malawi, three kilometres from Dzimwe Community Radio Station in Mangochi. Nsumbi 1 village has a population of around 9,000. About 60% of the population are fisherfolk, while the remaining 40% are farmers.

The population of Nsumbi 1 has increased as migrants have arrived, searching for fishing shores and trading opportunities. As a result, families have less land, an average of 900 square metres. The area is close to the lake, and sits on sandy soils, making it difficult to dig wells and toilets.
Although government and non-governmental agencies eventually made the community aware of the threat of water-borne diseases, it was difficult to find workable solutions to the sanitation problem without a source of clean water.

I talked to Chief Nsumbi, who explained the sanitation problems in his village.

I am Group Village Headman Nsumbi from Traditional Authority Nankumba. In the past, people from my village used to drink water directly from the lake. We didn’t normally use chlorine to kill germs in the water. Sometimes we did use chlorine, and it didn’t work because it was used incorrectly. Therefore, we had outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as cholera and diarrhea. Many people lost their lives. You can see that our community is built on sand, so it was difficult to construct toilets. People who did build toilets found that they collapsed less than 20 days after they were built. As such, the villagers continued to defecate in the open – either in the sand or in the bush.

How did you address this problem?

I had no peace in my mind, since many people died with the outbreak of cholera. During community meetings, now and again people asked me do something about the problem. I decided to take action, since I am an overseer of the village. I presented the problem to an Area Development Committee, which is part of our local government, and I asked for assistance. The issue was reported to the District Assembly, which contacted other people in Mangochi District.

What was the response?

World Vision International and Monkey-Bay Water Board heard about our problems and came to work in my village in 2001. They built three communal taps and two boreholes, which greatly reduced the problems of accessing water and of waterborne diseases. They used bricks, small stones and cement to build strong wells and boreholes. But because there are so many people in the area, the boreholes were not enough. Another kind of response came through a radio listening club in our village called Development through Radio. This listening club produces radio programmes on development issues. These programmes are aired on Dzimwe Community Radio Station and Malawi Broadcasting Corporation.

I met with the Nsumbi 1 Development through Radio Club chairperson, who explained the role they are playing to address water and sanitation problems in Mangochi.

My name is Cecilia Milanzi. I am from Nsumbi 1 village, and I am 42 years old. In 1998, we heard that Dzimwe Community Radio station would be broadcasting from Mangochi, and that there would be a Development through Radio listening club. This was exciting, because it meant that communities would have a voice on the radio to talk about the challenges they face. Then, if well wishers, either a non-governmental or a governmental organization, listen to the programme, they can help us take action.

As Nsumbi 1 village, we thought that this was the perfect time to raise our water and sanitation problems. Our club discussed the issue of water and toilets and recorded a programme on the situation in the village. The programme was aired on Dzimwe Community Radio Station and on Malawi Broadcasting Corporation. This led environmental health workers to act on the issue. Funding was provided to purchase cement to construct family toilets, but this was only enough for 10 families. This particular project did not continue because funding was limited. However; communities are now working with the Icelandic International Development Agency, also called ICEIDA, on water and sanitation projects.

I met another man, who is a community member in Nsumbi 1 Village, and who gave his views on the water and sanitation problems, and how the community overcame them.

My name is Lawe, and I am from the same village as Headman Nsumbi. I had two children. Unfortunately, one child died. The one who is alive has made me a grandfather of eight. I want to comment on what the village head said. Yes, it is true that during village meetings our headman received complaints about water and sanitation problems. Since then, the village headman and people in this village have been trying their best to overcome the problems. Now, Nsumbi 1 is better off. At least we have boreholes and communal taps. But, because we have so many people, there is not enough water, because the supply is not enough for the whole community. We have only three communal taps and two boreholes for 9000 people.

Right now, we have a very big challenge with toilets, since our area is sandy and it is difficult to build a good toilet. But it seems that we will soon overcome this problem through the new ICEIDA project. The big problem in our villages comes during the rainy season, because some people still depend on drinking untreated water, which brings cholera and diarrhea to the village. We have been asking our village headman to at least make sure that families have toilets. If we have cement, people can build their own toilets. We have just heard that ICEIDA is coming to assist us on a water and sanitation project. We are organizing ourselves to help implement the project.


Chief, what are your future plans concerning toilets and water problems?

We have tried our best to solve these problems. Access to clean water is better than before. As the Development through Radio chairperson has already mentioned, toilets are still a problem. I have reported the matter to the local government, and today ICEIDA Malawi came to my village. They plan to construct slab toilets for families, and sink more boreholes. These will change the future of Nsumbi 1!

ICEIDA assisted Nsumbi 1 village to elect a water and sanitation committee in the village. I wanted to find out what the committee has done so far.

I am Mrs. Agnes Ladweck. I have six children and one grandchild. An ICEIDA representative helped us elect a water and sanitation committee with 10 people to represent the village. We agreed to make bricks to build the toilets, and were trained and given materials to make them. Unfortunately, our bricks were soaked and ruined in late November 2007, so we could not make the toilets. ICEIDA organized an exchange visit in September of this year. Villagers from Nsumbi 1 visited a community which has already built toilets. As a village, we are organizing ourselves in groups to make bricks. Our plan is for everyone in the village to have 400 bricks to help build good toilets and community boreholes.

I visited ICEIDA’s Monkey-Bay offices to find out why they have decided to implement a water and sanitation programme in this area.

I am Mrs. Merry Makande, and I work with ICEIDA’s Monkey-Bay Offices on Water and Sanitation Projects. ICEIDA conducted water and sanitation research in Nankumba peninsula, and found that communities based on the lakeshore had no access to clean water, and that it was difficult for them to build good toilets because the soil is sandy. We wanted to help communities to build good toilets without cement but with bricks only. ICEIDA wants to empower communities, so we provide materials for moulding the bricks and trained them on how to build toilets. It is the villagers’ job to provide the labour to mould the bricks and build the boreholes and toilets.

We established a water and sanitation committee in Nsumbi 1 village to help build good toilets and have better access to clean water. ICEIDA encourages the community to have ownership of the project. In September 2008, we went with some villagers from Nsumbi 1 to Zimbawadi village, where ICEIDA has already helped villagers to construct toilets and have access to clean water. Nsumbi 1 is interested in this project. They have established three working groups. One is making bricks. Nsumbi 1 is aware of its problems. That’s why they want to pursue this project.

So Nsumbi 1 has almost managed to solve its water and toilet problems. (Pause)

Dear listener, taking action, however small, has helped Nsumbi 1 move from serious problems to an improved situation. Knowing your problem is next to solving it. Through their village headman, the radio listening club joined hands with the rest of the community members to address the problem. (Pause) I believe you have learned several things. First, discuss your problems with your neighbours in groups and on the radio – it’s good if you have some numbers and information on paper about the problem. Second, support the headman to raise these problems with authorities. Third, seek external assistance from government and NGOs. Fourth, be ready to support these external agencies with your own efforts. Fifth, make visits to other villages which have solved these problems and learn from them. And sixth, persistence makes a difference. Till next time, from me, Hilda Jambo, it’s goodbye.


Contributed by: Hilda Jambo, Dzimwe Community Radio Station, Mangochi, Malawi, a Farm Radio International radio partner.

Reviewed by: Alan Etherington, independent consultant in water, sanitation and hygiene promotion, and ex-WaterAid staff.