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After Cyclone Idai solar powered water pump gives hope to Malawi village

22 October 2019

The village of Masunduko in Malawi is recovering following Cyclone Idai.

Maria Lyson and her baby in Masunduko, Chikwawa, Southern Malawi. Her village is recovering from Cyclone Idai and has recently had a solar powered water pump installed. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

Maria Lyson and her baby in Masunduko, Chikwawa, Southern Malawi. Her village is recovering from Cyclone Idai and has recently had a solar powered water pump installed. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

Recovering from Cyclone Idai devastation

On March 8, 2019 the village of Masunduko, Chikwawa, southern Malawi was hit by Cyclone Idai. Fanuel Pensulo  told us 'Cyclone Idai hit in the middle of the night while we were sleeping. I lost three of my goats. It took two days for the water to drain away.' One woman was eaten by a crocodile as she tried to escape. Fanuel lived in temporary shelter nearby. His crops were ruined by the flood. 

Fanuel Pensulo in Masunduko, Chikwawa, Southern Malawi.  His crops were destroyed when Cyclone Idai hit the village in the middle of the night. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

Fanuel Pensulo in Masunduko, Chikwawa, Southern Malawi. His crops were destroyed when Cyclone Idai hit the village in the middle of the night. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

This village has faced droughts and floods in the same year in recent years. The Cyclone destroyed many of their crops and livestock and damaged their homes. In Malawi, over 850,000 people were affected by the Cyclone and nearly 87,000 people had to leave their homes.

Climate change hitting Malawi hard

Climate change in Malawi has led to an increase in extreme intense rainfall and flooding, and an increase in hot days and dry periods. The country is currently on track for five degrees of global warming this century without a radical reduction in carbon emissions. This will be catastrophic for the people of Malawi. The vast majority of households here are headed by small farmers who depend on reliable rainfall and fertile soils to get by.  Malawi’s own carbon emissions are eighty times less than Ireland’s.

Stella Muithe in Masunduko, Chikwawa, Southern Malawi says the water engulfed their village from both sides on the night Cyclone Idai hit.Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

Stella Muithe in Masunduko, Chikwawa, Southern Malawi says the water engulfed their village from both sides on the night Cyclone Idai hit. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

Stella Muithe told us the water engulfed their village from both sides. "My crops were ruined and I lost my goat." She also lost her roof and one side of her house. Stella worked on other people’s land to get income to survive.

Trócaire had been working on a water project as part of the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Programme Malawi (CCPM)  when the cyclone hit. The CCPM is administered by SCIAF and being implemented by Trócaire, in partnership with eight local partners. Since the cyclone the programme has helped people to recover. Stella got support to fix her roof and tools such as iron nails and a panga knife (machete).  She was also given maize and tomato seeds to replant her crops.

Solar powered water

Residents of Masunduko, Chikwawa, Southern Malawi, one of five villages that are now accessing safe water thanks to a solar powered pump providing water to nine hundred households. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

Residents of Masunduko, Chikwawa, Southern Malawi, one of five villages that are now accessing safe water thanks to a solar powered pump providing water to nine hundred households. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

Climate change is one the factors that has contributed to water stress in Malawi. Over one third of Malawi’s population of over 18 million don’t have access to clean water. We visited the village to see the newly installed solar powered water pump which is now providing water to nine hundred households in five villages.

Stella Muithe stands under the village's new water pump. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

Stella Muithe stands under the village's new water pump. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.

The surrounding area has suffered from a water supply with high levels of salt. Women were travelling long distances to find water that wasn’t salty but was still dirty. In March 2018, this project started with Trócaire partner CICOD - Center for Integrated Community asking the community in Masanduko to assess what their problems were and what the solutions might be. They decided they wanted to do a project around food, water and energy. 

Life changing support

RTE 2fm’s DJ Keith Walsh travelled to Malawi with Trócaire this September to raise awareness about Trócaire's work. He also wanted to show the need for urgent action on climate change. Visiting the project he said ‘nine hundred households would have had to walk up to 2km to get dirty water.  Now this pump is bringing clean, safe water almost to their doorstep. It’s incredible. It’s literally life changing.’