Monday, April 06, 2009

Reinventing the Hand Well

Dinner in Wilmington, NC

Local resident, Marilyn Meares, invited several of us over to her house for dinner tonight to discuss how best to work together to find a more cost-effective way to drill boreholes and install pumps that won’t break down so easily in the interest of safe, local and sustainable community wells.

Jock Brandis and Jeff Rose of The Fully Belly Project, and Jesse Stowell and Jen (Marilyn's adult children who are into wind technologies), Chappy, my wife Rebecca, and myself…all have at least one thing in common: we want to provide appropriate well-digging technology for Malawi. This was our discussion during dinner.

Chappy and Marilyn agreed to develop a business plan for the implementation of a locally run enterprise whose end goal would be to increase the number of wells and provide employment and training opportunities for many. Jess and Jen offered to do some research on how to fabricate the equipment necessary to construct hand operated, cable percussion, well digging equipment that can be done easily, cheaply and sustainably. We would use materials already in Malawi and use funds raised to buy fabrication equipment that would allow a crew to build these rigs and get them into the hands of other NGO's involved in bringing assistance to villages in need.

Well Spring Africa is one organization that specializes in hand dug wells and re-introducing that technology to villages in Africa. After watching their video clip of men and women working together using a relatively simple technology to dig a deep well, the vision for “Women to Women Village Wells” was born this very day. The basic idea is that women’s groups in the USA (like United Methodist Women or Presbyterian Women’s Guild) might be interested in empowering a group of women in an African village to take charge of their dire situation of not having access to clean water, by providing a well-digging kit for their use in organizing a local effort to hand-dig a community well.

Rebecca is committed to raising $5,000 for the first of such community well projects in Malawi, and Chappy is ready to spend six months there to get the venture started. The entire working group in Wilmington is very excited about the prospects for success of this new economic venture. Stay tuned as this new collaboration emerges.

Let us see what comes from the synergy created in this remarkable group over dinner in Wilmington.