Many girls leave school around the age of 13 because of harassment by local men/boys along the many kilometre walk each day to school and while at school. They become afraid and unmotivated and it becomes an easier option for them to stay at home to help their mother with domestic chores. However, as an unskilled poorly educated young woman her future would inevitably involve early marriage to give her domestic security but also very likely an early pregnancy which in rural Malawi involves high risks to both mother and child. Should she survive pregnancy her future would likely be one of constant parenting, domestic servitude, the victim of domestic abuse and poverty. Involvement in the project enabled by the construction of a rainwater tank is designed to give her skills which she can utilise improve her own life and that of her community while also giving the dignity and value of a useful education and the potential for further development of a career and independence.
The water collected and supplied by the tank is part of an integrated project designed to provide an avenue for skills acquisition for girls who have left formal education early and thus who are at risk of a life of early marriage, pregnancy and poverty.
The skills that participants can be expected to gain relate to agricultural systems management, vegetable garden management and production, small livestock management, water harvesting, storage and irrigation processes and related skills within a permaculture framework. Permaculture is a system which uses an analysis of local environmental and geographical conditions to maximise the productivity of a site by careful design of infrastructure, selection of the most productive species for cultivation and husbandry while minimising external inputs. Each feature of a well-designed system using permaculture principles should harmonise with the other features in order to achieve an efficient, productive and sustainable operation.
In this case, rainwater is harvested from buildings using natural slopes. The water will be filtered and stored in the tank. The stored water will be used to irrigate a kitchen garden and fruit trees and provide water for domestic fowl including chickens and ducks.
The girls selected to operate this system will be trained in the range of skills necessary to maximise the health, productivity and efficiency of the system. These skills will be transferable to other settings. It is anticipated that project participants will be supported and mentored to assist in the development of similar systems in their own community or village. The learnings from this project will be used to design a template that can be applied in other communities.
The construction of the rainwater tank started in December 2016 and is being built using local labour, local artisans and primarily local materials including locally handmade bricks. The task of digging the hole for the tank was arduous due to the very hard nature of the soil and took much longer than anticipated to complete.