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Trip report: Quiet Little Farming Village

Co-operative Group And Press Association Trip to See Roundabout Playpump Installations In South Africa, March 2007

Money raised through the sale of One Water within CRTG has funded the installation of 14 Playpumps since the listing in April 2006.

'One' is a branded water supplied by Global Ethics, a limited company that donates all it’s profits to Playpump International to bring clean drinking water to rural communities in South Africa.

Objective

To see the before and after impact of the Playpump installations on rural communities using a recently installed Co-operative Playpump as a case study.

To see the scale of the problem in South Africa using the North West Province as an example and to see how future sites are currently prioritised.

Present

Edward Reaney - Buyer, Co-operative Group
Duncan Goose - Co-founder and Director of Global Ethics
Caroline Gammel - Chief Reporter, Press Association
Cathal McNaughton - Photographer, Press Association
Anthea Robertson and her father Derek - Co-op customers who won an on pack competition via 'One Water' to visit a Playpump installation

Sunday March 11th

Meeting with Trevor Field, director of Playpump Outdoor a company, which provides funding for Playpump International in Johannesburg since 1989. To date circa 900 pumps have been installed across South Africa.

Trevor is absolutely passionate about the Playpump scheme and maintains that they are the only sustainable water pumps in Africa. The pumps use a deep borehole to tap into the natural aquifers deep underground.

Prior to installation the sites are tested for their yield and the water cleanliness is tested in a laboratory. Upon installation the pumps are maintained for a minimum of 10 years by Playpump International using a free phone number printed on the water tank.

Trevor Field is a well-connected individual who uses his contacts to raise awareness of water shortage issues and to generate funding.

Recently Laura Bush announced $16 million in funding from the US having visited Trevor and the project. This is part of Playpump’s $60m expansion program into 10 African Countries before 2010. Co-operative’s funding is part of this plan.

More funding has recently come from Jayzee and Beyonce Knowles who have held concerts in the US and donated the proceeds.

The Playpump scheme needs awareness in the UK through brands such as One Water. Trevor is currently trying the get the UK Government to match the support of the Americans.

He intends to hold talks with the likes of Bob Geldof, Bono and Richard Branson and is confident that he will soon have them onboard.

It is clear that this is already a big project and one that has a long-term future.

Trevor took us out into the field where we were collected by Jeanne Du Toit, the Borehole Procurement Officer. She is one of 2 people who’s job it is to locate and prioritise new Playpump locations across the whole of South Africa.

Jeanne is 29 years old and has been with Playpump International working mostly as a volunteer for the last 12 months. Having been brought up on a farm she is fluent in Tswana, one of 11 national languages and the language of the rural black community. This rare ability for a white girl earns her the immediate respect of the locals.

Jeanne takes us to meet Arno, a white South African who has been involved in upliftment work with rural farmers for the last 20 years. Arno lives on Quite Living Farm and provides lodging for volunteer German Students who help out with teaching in the local school.

The temperature is in the high thirties and Arno points out that this is the rainy season but so far they have only received 6 inches. The black farmers who own and work the land have seen much of their crop fail due to the extreme dry weather.

Their current crop of tobacco leaves may be their last as it is becoming commercially unviable due to the input costs. They have considered bio diesel crops but it is unlikely that their 250-hectare plot will provide enough yield to make it profitable. Much of the land is therefore used to provide vegetables for the community to survive on.

This community is Quite Living Farm Village and is the site for the most recently installed Co-operative Playpump.

Jeanne and Arno take us into a small collection of what appear to be hand built huts and dwellings that constitutes the village. The level of poverty is stark. Each of the twenty or so houses provides shelter for 6 to 8 people.

Standing at the entrance to the village is the newly installed Co-operative Playpump with an army of 20 or so children screaming with delight as they spin on the roundabout.

Our arrival brings the community out to meet us. They are keen to talk and the children sing songs from their local church.

We talk to Johanna, a 28-year-old mother to Keitumetse (15 yrs) and Ikgopoleng (1 yr). Before the Playpump the village had an old hand pump but that had been broken for many years. They therefore had to walk 2km to the neighbouring village to collect water. The current average walking time for collecting water in South Africa is 5 hrs.

The pump provides water for drinking, cooking and laundry.

Since the provision of water the women are able to work in the fields (instead of collecting water) where they help the men by sorting the tobacco leaves.

We then move on to the village school, Ikagisano Primary where another Playpump has been installed. With the new water source the teachers have started to prepare a vegetable patch where they can provide a sustainable food source for the pupils which in some cases will be the only meal the children eat in the entire day.

Having a Playpump at the school will increase the number of children attending. Lessons consist of languages, life skills, numeration, sciences and agriculture, providing an opportunity for the children to shape their future.

The link between the Playpumps and the schools and crèches is a key point that Arno is eager to convey. When the children are attending they are receiving a nutritious meal. If the children here do not get the right nutrition in their early years it impedes brain development, which cannot be recovered in later life.

By simply having a clean, sustainable water source at this school has resulted in record attendance levels. The day-to-day life for this community has changed for the better. Permanently.

Monday 12th March

Jeanne has a list of schools provided by the Dept of Education that she needs to visit to establish or prioritise the need for Playpumps. Currently the Government is providing free borehole drilling for Playpumps and she is keen to capitalise on this opportunity whilst the offer is there. After asking how many sites were on her list I was staggered to be told 2,300.

Sitting in her vehicle is a little boy called Ompie which means ‘Little Uncle’ in Tswana. Jeanne explains that Ompie is currently in need of antibiotics due to an illness but the lack of refrigeration for the antibiotics means that Ompie will have to stay with Jeanne until he has finished his course. Jeanne has known Ompie since he was a baby as he belongs to a local village. She has always looked out for him. Ompie’s mum died three weeks ago.

We visit Madibana Primary School from Jeanne’s list.

Sarah Rampou has been the Principal since 1989. She explains that the school currently has 98 pupils ranging from 6 to 12 year olds. The school’s only source of water came from a pump powered by a diesel generator. Unfortunately the generator had been broken for many months.

Having walked to school the first job of the day before lessons could begin was to arm the children with buckets so that they could go to the local villages to collect water. Once done the children, dressed in immaculate white uniforms would scrub the school clean.

After proudly providing a tour of the school and adjoining crèche the Principal fills in some documentation for Jeanne to initiate the process to get a Playpump installed.

Ompie sits in the vehicle impeccably behaved and as we drive to the next school I chat to Jeanne about him, guessing that he is the same height as my 4-year-old son and therefore a similar age. She explains that he is actually 9 years old but the lack of nutrition makes most of the children in the area appear to be 5 years younger than they actually are. I enquire about his illness and Jeanne explains that he has HIV. He was infected at birth from his mother and stands little chance of survival.

We visit two more schools in the afternoon, both of which were without water having had their diesel generators stolen. The Principals of each school make their case to Jeanne to be put on the list for the next installation.

As we drive back to our camp we pass a huge cement factory that is surrounded by a shantytown called Matsatseng. Jeanne has never visited the community and stops the vehicle to see how they get their water. She asks that we remain inside until she has spoken to someone from the area. This is the worst poverty I have seen and I have concern for our safety.

Jeanne soon returns to the vehicle with a young woman called Mary. She is 28 and is the local Ward Committee Member and spokesperson for the village. She is keen for us to have a look around so that we can see what is happening to her people.

The only source of water to the 1,000 inhabitants is a single hand pump that is in constant use 24 hours a day. Mary asks me to fill a 20 litre container to demonstrate how much effort is required. The locals find this hilarious.

As we get further into the village we attract more and more children emerging from corrugated huts built on dust. They are fascinated by the cameras of the Press Photographer and squeal with delight as he shows them their image on the screen.

Mary explains that the water from the hand pump has given many of the villagers cholera as pigs are left free to roam the village and drink from water at the base of the pump. As the borehole of the hand pump is not deep enough the water supply can become infected.

Unemployment runs at 80% and the HIV infection rate is high.

As we return to our vehicle surrounded by what appears to be every child in the village Mary orders them into a neat queue. To their delight we hand them a pen each.

As we drive off some of the older children shout at us in Tswana and I ask Jeanne what they are shouting. “Please bring us water” was the reply.

Tuesday 13th March

We are taken to see further examples of schools and communities without water and amazingly we start to become accustomed to the sights and hardships that we are being exposed to. The shear size of the problem becomes very apparent.

It is mid afternoon and we are being guided through an area called Sonderwater (which translated means ‘no water’) by Lennox the local council representative. He has contacted Jeanne in an effort to secure Playpumps for the 9,000 strong community.

The temperature is again in the high thirties and Duncan Goose is keen for me to experience the effort required by the women and children to carry water home from the single hand pump.

I am presented with a 20 litre container similar to the 25 litre containers common to most of the village women. As the women walk down the road with their filled containers on their heads I wonder how I am going to get mine off the ground let alone carry it to someone’s house.

I am carrying the water for Jane Pinky Tlangtlang, who at 48 has to carry the water daily for her five children and husband.

As I prepare to lift I ask her how I am supposed to get the container on my head. She asks me not to carry it on my head but on my shoulder as it is women who have the job of carrying water on their heads and not the men. In respect for this I manoeuvre the container to my shoulder managing to spill a few litres over myself to the delight of the onlookers and Duncan with his camcorder.

With considerable relief I manage to get the container to Jane’s house. Standing getting my breath back Jane explains that she has to make that trip four times each day.

As we leave the village we notice an altercation between a man and an elderly woman who was pushing a wheelbarrow containing a bucket of water. We stop to talk to the lady, Gladis Vumazonke who is 44 years old. She said that the man was not happy that she took the water from his private pump. Gladis then went on to explain that she had been without water for the entire day and whilst she was willing to go without, she could not see a baby that lived with her go without water for any longer. She had to pay the man for the bucket of water.

Gladis has to support her family of seven but is unemployed. One of her children qualifies for a government grant of 190 Rand per month which is her only income (£13.57).

With the life expectancy in the region around 35 to 40 years old, Gladis has taken out a funeral policy so that her children can bury her when her time comes. When she went to pay her 80 Rand per month policy on Monday she was hugged in the town by a stranger. Her entire monthly income was taken by the pick pocket.

Wednesday 14th March

Before departing for the airport we had time to visit Mokalake Primary School and arrived mid morning.

Twelve months ago this school had less than 500 pupils. Since the installation of the Playpump last year the number of pupils has grown to over 630.

Sarah Motshegare, the Principal for the last 13 years explained what a tremendous difference the Playpump had made. It provides water for the pupils and for the wider community but importantly, as Sarah proudly demonstrated, it allowed them to plant and sustain a huge vegetable garden which yielded school dinners for 12 months of the year.

The school is the centre of the community and a good barometer of the economic stability. All 630 of the pupils turned out to meet us and performed a traditional song and dance around the play pump.

Needless to say, the school had no shortage of volunteers to keep the tank full, which it had been since the first day of installation.

So far, through the support of our customers and sales of the One Water brand, CRTG has installed 14 Roundabout Playpumps to communities just like those described above across South Africa. Two more Playpumps are on the way and within the first twelve months of launch we have transformed the lives of over 35,000 people.

A clean, sustainable water source should be a basic right for everybody. Sadly, for these communities this is often not the case.

Supporting One Water is a simple concept that makes a very big difference.

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