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This summer, thanks to your amazing support, we have brought clean water and sanitation to Bokola and Kaniche.

It doesn’t stop here!  Over the next few years your Big Dig donations will bring sanitation and clean water to thousands of communities.  Follow the blog to see the difference your money is already making.

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    Kaniche is a thriving local hub straddling the road which crosses the river, and heads towards Bokola and the string of villages off in the distance. Its larger size and the fact it’s near the road means that Kaniche has a number of shops and tea rooms bustling with people. Borehole number one is to be placed at a crossroads towards the north end of the village and we hope to hit water just next to the church. This location is perfect as not only the busy market area, but a good number of houses, will have a water source which will be much closer to home than the river bed.

    Unloading equipment from truck

    This site is also attractive from a geological point of view and everybody seems confident we will hit water on the first attempt, so confident, the drilling contractor had rather bravely decided against a second site so this one simply must work.

    Around 100 people had come to meet us and Mr Khombe was there to formally greet us along with the Group Village Head Man Kaniche, the most senior person in the area, who gave the the warmest of Malawian welcomes. The local water committee were also on hand and a knot of men stood away from the rest of the crowd earnestly consulting their plans. Local committees are vital to the success of thse projects as it is they who will oversee the work, and ultimately take ownership of the waterpoint on behalf of the community once it is installted. They looked on sternly as they checked the engineers’ work against the plan they had agreed a couple of weeks ago. The committee and the engineers formed a tight cluster around the machinery and the thumbs up was given for drilling to start. For the first 15 meters progress was fast, but at around 20 meters drilling stopped. We had hit solid rock.

    Adjusting the drilling machine

    Every single drilling rod which had already been sunk had to be painstakingly removed so that the alternative drilling head could be added. The new drill was nearly as big as a person and needed two people to haul it into position. Drilling through rock is a much slower process than earth, drilling slowed down, and vast plumes of dust pored from the borehole for the duration of the dig, it was much nosier. Mr Khombe, a builder who has been a key figure in latrine construction, was impressed by the professionalism and speed that the engineers work. ‘They are good men, they work fast. I am happy’.

    Water comes to Kaniche

    Like the second borehole in Bokola, we had suddenly hit water, but this time it was an amazingly powerful surge and within minutes the contractors were wading through what looked like wet cement. Kaniche has water and the celebrations started instantly. Mary half danced, half walked to the borehole with buckets to test the flow. The buckets filled so quickly that they overflowed in a matter of seconds. The drilling team are hopeful that the water source is so powerful that it may be able to support irrigation of the adjoining vegetable plots.

    Water spouts from the well


    The party atmosphere was helped by the arrival of the local ‘health band’ who are provided by the hospital, to deliver health messages through music. Their thumping Afrobeat songs promote good hygene practices and talk about the benefits clean water will bring. The well development process which forces water into the borehole, resulted in jets of water surging more than five meters into they sky. Children dared each other to put their hands into the water flow, while others danced and jumped in the growing pool. They were soon vying for space with the women who had brought an immeasurable number of buckets and bowls to catch the falling water. We ended the day with the sound of Afrobeat in our ears, as in front of us,  a steady flow of women left their new borehole carrying clean water to their homes for the first time.

    Kids collecting water from new well

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  • Ladies collecting water at new well in Kaniche

    Mary & her friends can not wait longer, she is busy collecting water during pump development.

    Original photo on Instagram

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  • Trucks arrive in Kaniche

    Thats the arrival of drilling machines at Kaniche.

    Original photo on Instagram

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    No matter what happened today, it was always going to be a big moment in Bokola’s history. To start with it was raining in the dry season, and today was also the day we were hoping to bring clean safe water. At 7.15 three huge trucks containing the drill, a fearsome looking generator and lots of pipes. The WaterAid team was joined by an additional 8 borehole engineers. It really struck me just how many strange vehicles and people were descending on Bokola on this rainy morning and how out of place the huge trucks looked against the neat immaculate village. Everybody in the community had turned out to welcome the team, and there was dancing as we arrived in the village.

    Machinery sets up in Bokola

    Setting up the drilling equipment took twenty minutes and the team worked efficiently. The atmosphere in the village was one of celebration with the women leading the dancing while the men looked on taking an interest in the equipment and hive of activity around them.

    Drilling soon got underway to great fanfare and in just a few minutes first five meter drilling rod had been sunk. Every few minutes the engineers took a soil sample which is laid in neat rows for analysis. Rod after rod was sunk into the ground and every so often a burst of water or quarry stone would come from the hole which would scatter the children who crept ever closer to the drilling team.

    Drilling in progress

    After around 30 meters the soil suddenly darkened in colour and thickened. The community got to its feet and we all thought water had arrived. After four hours and a few false starts muddy water started flow. The team continued to drill until they had used all 60 meters worth of drilling rods. It was clear that while water was flowing it was far too slow; the whole community seemed to know that this borehole wasn’t working out. The local government engineer then had a pipe installed which drained into a bucket. He started his stopwatch and the ‘yield test’ was underway. The bucket needed to fill up in under 8 seconds. We couldn’t see the bucket, but it was clear from the body language of the engineers and WaterAid staff that things weren’t going well.

    At this point the whole atmosphere in the community changed. For the first time since arriving in Bokola there was quietness, evenually, the rig fell silent. Howard, whose calm confidence has been a striking feature of our trip looked dejected and didn’t want to talk to us. While it’s common in Malawi not to hit water on the first, or even second attempt, the community were visibly subdued.

    Children look on in disappointment

    The community had two options. The first was to ‘develop’ the borehole, which involves repeatedly flushing it out to dislodge any clay which is preventing water flow. The second option was to move on to the second site. The Waterpoint committee, WaterAid, the government engineer and the engineering contractor all huddled together for a private meeting. Before we knew its outcome the rigs had started up and had begun to move – we were going for option 2.

    Christina, Howard’s mother told us she was disappointed but hopeful; her body language spoke of pure dejection.

    The second site for drilling was actually the village chief, Rolena’s vegetable garden which is located slightly more towards the road and at one end of the village. Although not as perfect a location as the first source, this one was a close second. Rolena, the village chief gladly gave up her garden so that the community could have a chance of clean water. Rolena has always been a staunch supporter of the village and fully engaged in the hygiene education work but has never been totally convinced that water could be found in Bokola in her lifetime, so giving up her garden was a huge sacrifice and a real example of the impact Nathan and Micheal have in the community.

    In what felt like just a few seconds the dried maize leaves were cleared and the vehicles rolled in. This time there was no dancing. Many of the community dispersed, returning home, going to the water scoop or preparing food. The few that did remain sat quietly under a tree to avoid the midday sun. We started digging with a sense of foreboding everyone hoping for success this time.

    Howard seemed visibly upset by the failure of the first borehole, and after some kind words from Boyce went back home to work.

    Drilling continued quickly, but even at 45 meters the soil hadn’t really changed colour, the dry, grey earth only occasionally changed when a piece of quarry rock shot out of the rig showering us all in tiny pieces of rubble and dust.

    Drilling of the second hole

    The instant that the 45 meter rod disappeared into the ground water something changed. Water had finally come to Bokola. Unlike the first borehole which seeped mud for a long time, this time the mud thinned out very quickly. By the time the 50 meter rod was being added to the drilling rig a steady flow of water was coming. The community saw this and were straight on their feet. The men crowding around the drill and the women dancing. As she rushed to join the dancing Christina ran past me shouting ‘this it, this is the one’. Before we could ask her anything else she was in the middle of the crowd leading the songs and celebrations.

    Michael dances in celebration

    By this time there was a huge amount of water and the whole area was becoming muddy and slippery. The Malawian Government’s Water Inspector announced it was time for the second ‘yield test’ of the day.   The yield test would run for several hours but the strong flow of water was enough to convince everybody that this borehole was better, and the celebrations turned up a notch.


    Howard beats celebration drum

    No time was wasted and the engineering team swung into action once again, this time laying plastic pipe into the well. As the drill moved away the village cheered once more as the next machine moved forwards to start developing the well, which is a process of blasting air down the borehole to clear away any debris and measure how quickly water flows.

    By this time the drilling team had been in Bokola for over 12 hours and were starting to leave when a huge scream came from the area near the borehold, everybody ran towards the noise. Jets of water were shooting 15 meters into the air from the borehole. To start with the water was muddy and heavy, but as the water continued to flow it was becoming clearer. The scream had come from the 50 children who had paniced when they saw the water ject but quickly started to spontaneously sing and dance as their mothers had earlier in the day, all the time getting soaked by the jets of water shooting from the borehole.

    Children celebrate round the borehole

    As we packed up to leave Boyce tapped me on the shoulder and said. ‘I don’t care how badly a story starts, I care about how well it ends’. For us the day ended with children playing in a fountain of water. That’s a good end to any day.

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  • Children celebrate in front of water well

    Children of Bokola cerebrating after water comes out for the first time.

    Original photo on Instagram

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