The water carriers of Central Malawi:
An interactive story about how their lives could change

The majority of rural communities in Malawi live in extreme poverty. Drought and poor access to water are having a detrimental effect on their daily lives. Now experience life as they know it with an interactive journey through one village’s day, where at every point you have the power to donate to Trócaire, and change the direction of their story significantly.

Water toil

It’s 5am in a small village in Central Malawi and the first thing on everyone's mind is water. As with many duties, the responsibility lies solely with the female members of the community. Women and girls, young and old must walk to the nearest river, buckets in tow to queue for water. 

The shallow river, which in reality is just a stream dries up when the dry season begins, leaving the entire village reliant on one small trickle of water. 

People can wait up to 3 hours for their turn. When it comes, they hunker down barefoot on the muddy riverbed and scoop water into their buckets. Then they must make the long walk home, often balancing up to 20 litres on their head. It's now 7.30 am and the sun is already beating down on them. The daily struggle for water has begun.

Now decide how you’d like to see the villagers’ day proceed

A good start

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It’s 5am and people in the village could still be sleeping. By donating to Trócaire you will support the village in their campaign to install a borehole and irrigation system.They would no longer need to get up so early to collect water.

Instead, the children would be getting ready for school, playing and helping out around the house. The water would be cleaner and when everyone wakes up they would feel much healthier and stronger, ready to start their day. With this restored free time, women would have more time for farming or could set up small businesses, becoming self-sufficient and providing an income for their family.

Now decide how you'd like to see the villagers' day proceed

Missed education

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It’s 8am and school has already started. Many of the girls however are still at the riverbed queuing for water. Those who have made it to school are tired from carrying heavy water buckets all the way home. Nine-year-old Enestina agrees, "when I have to get water in the morning, there is a queue so I wait and I am late for school. The time I spend getting water would be better used to study."

There isn't the money to pay for enough teachers so children of all ages share classrooms. They have few books and often only learn from listening to what the teacher says in class.

The river is full of bacteria and disease. Children are often sick from dysentery and diarrhoea, which also keeps them out of school. All of these conditions make it difficult to learn.

Now decide how you'd like to see the villagers' day proceed

Children

It’s 8am and children in the village could be on their way to school. By donating to Trócaire you will support the village in their campaign to install a borehole and irrigation system, meaning the girls don't have to walk to the river. Instead they're in class, alert and engaged thanks to a clean reliable water source.

As the villagers could now plant and harvest crops three times a year, hunger would no longer be a constant distraction from study.

More crops would also mean more food to sell at local markets, meaning villagers could have more money to buy medicine if their children are ill and additional books and materials for the school.

Now decide how you'd like to see the villagers' day proceed

Hunger

It's 11am and farmers from the village are tending their meagre crops of maize, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. The soil is barren and dry and yet again heavy buckets and basic watering cans are carried back and forth to water the crops.

Their one annual harvest only feeds them for seven months, leaving a hungry period of five long months. A porridge made from maize is the most common meal. In the hungry months, the children eat just one meal a day and are frequently ill from lack of nutrition.

"I know it's something to do with climate change," says Stephen, a local farmer. "We don't have enough rain water. My crops dry up and die. And I can't take water from the river to water my crops if my family needs the same water."

Now decide how you'd like to see the villagers' day proceed

The village thrives

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It's 11am and farmers in the village could be busy tending to healthy crops. By donating to Trócaire you will support the village in their campaign to install a borehole and irrigation system, allowing the farmers to take control of their own productivity. They could now plant and harvest crops three times a year, and increase the variety of crops grown. A surplus can be sold at local markets and used to generate a modest income.

This income would mean that farmers could buy animals like oxen to ease the burden in the fields, or goats and chickens to provide milk and eggs and other food sources to feed their families.

The community would be healthier and stronger and they could focus on lifting themselves further out of poverty.

Now decide how you'd like to see the villagers' day proceed

Water toil

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It's 2pm in the village and the girls who made it to school have finished for the day. Lessons are soon forgotten as another trip to the river to collect water is organised.

Once again, girls and their mothers queue up to three hours for their turn at the river's water hole. Enestina started carrying water when she was six years old. "I don't like carrying water. It's very far and it's heavy to carry. I have neck pains," she says, pointing to the lower part of her neck.

This should be a time for children like Enestina to play with their friends, do homework or help their parents. But the next bucket of water is always the priority.

Now decide how you'd like to see the villagers' day proceed

Making better lives for women and girls

It’s 2pm and the village could be alive with activity. By donating to Trócaire you will support the village in their campaign to install a borehole and irrigation system, meaning women and girls would no longer have to make the long journey carrying heavy water. This would allow them to spend this time with their families, working the farms, even setting up their own small businesses.

Children who have returned from school now have time to study and do homework, ensuring they receive a better education.

Now decide how you'd like to see the villagers' day proceed

Illness

It's 5pm and time for dinner in the village. School is over and work in the fields has stopped for the day. The villagers return to the small dwellings they call home. But food is scarce and once again, maize porridge is all that's on the menu.

They use what remains of the day's dirty water. What makes life harder is the stomach ache, dysentery and diarrhoea they get from dirty water, but there is no alternative. They often have to go to hospital or buy medicine. The cost of medicine weighs heavily on the villagers – if they can afford it at all.

Now decide how you'd like to see the villagers' day proceed

Better health

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It’s 5pm and villagers could be preparing a healthy meal for their families. By donating to Trócaire you will support the village in their campaign to install a borehole and irrigation system, allowing them to plant crops and harvest three times a year. People would be stronger and healthier with a more varied diet. They would no longer suffer the ill effects of dirty water or need to go to hospital.

The money they would make from selling surplus crops would no longer be needed to treat water-borne diseases. Families could afford to invest in their own future and gradually become self-sustaining.

Now decide how you'd like to see the villagers' day proceed

Cold, hungry

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It’s 9pm and darkness has fallen over the village. Even though the day was hot, the nights can be extremely cold, especially during the winter months. Families huddle together around a small fire to keep warm. They will go to sleep hungry tonight because there wasn't enough food to eat during the day.

Coughing can be heard throughout the village, as colds and flu are illnesses that are commonplace.

But no matter how bad the night was, the villagers will rise early with only one thing on their minds: the long morning walk to the river for another bucket of water.

Now decide how you'd like to see the villagers' day proceed

Peaceful sleep

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It’s 9pm and people in the village could be getting ready for a good night's sleep. By donating to Trócaire you will support the village in their campaign to install a borehole and irrigation system, leading to the village becoming self-sufficient. They would be able to grow more crops to feed themselves and sell - so hunger would be less of a problem. The strength gained from better nutrition and clean water would help to prevent illnesses and they wouldn't have to rise early to walk to the river, so they could sleep for longer and wake refreshed and strong.

Even though the nights would still be dark, the future for the people of this small village would be brighter than ever. Finally, thanks to your support, they have an opportunity to work their way out of poverty.

Now decide how you'd like to see the villagers' day proceed