Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

Water is life. Without this most basic necessity, people cannot survive. When access to water is difficult, time and productivity – and educational opportunities – are lost. When water isn’t clean, children and families are at risk of illness and death.

Celebrated every 22 March since the United Nations declared it in 1992, World Water Day aims to raise awareness around water’s fundamental role in development. Promoting access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene is a central component of ChildFund’s ongoing work in developing countries.

In Maliana district, in the western part of Timor Leste, lack of access to clean water and sanitation is a typical concern expressed by communities. In a country where health services are often inadequate, and infant and child mortality rates are high, prevention of waterborne illnesses such as diarrhoea is key to improving children’s health.

ChildFund Timor Leste, working with its local partner Hamutuk, is undertaking a water, sanitation and hygiene project in Goulolo village, Maliana.

Before the water project commenced in Goulolo, diarrhoea was prevalent in half of all children under five years of age. Villagers typically had to walk between 1-3km to the nearest water source, a river, for their household and hygiene needs. Laundry and washing was done on the river bank, while water for cooking and household consumption was carried back in plastic containers, usually by children. The water wasn’t clean enough to drink, and needed to be boiled for children and families to avoid illness.

The project takes a two-pronged approach of improving water and sanitation facilities and providing health education. Three water wells, including areas for washing and laundry have already been constructed. The second phase of the project involves the construction of community sanitation facilities, as well as training parents and children in the community about diarrhoea prevention and hygiene practices.

Now, children and their family members no longer have to carry water so far, or carry their laundry to the river bank. Better still, the water is clean and can be drunk straight from the well.

Eight-year-old Angelina is happy to be able to drink fresh water without first having to fetch it and wait for her mother to boil it. She and her friends have also learned that washing their hands “will stop us from getting sick”.

Learn more about World Water Day here.

In 2010, ChildFund launched the Zambia Future Farmers appeal to help reduce child malnutrition and youth unemployment in the Chongwe and Luangwa districts of rural Zambia.

In these regions of Zambia there was widespread unemployment and poverty. More than a third of children were malnourished and their parents found it hard to find any work at all.

The Zambia Future Farmers project was designed to help young people feed their families by teaching them agricultural and animal husbandry techniques, thereby creating employment and generating income. Thanks to donations from generous Australians over $260,000 was raised and work was soon underway.

Four banana plantations, each with boreholes, were set up and eager youth were taught to farm nutritious food for their families, as well as reap quality produce to sell at the market. These budding young farmers also learnt how to keep and breed goats to cultivate a small sustainable business. The project has been a great success and the fruits of their labour abundant.

Practical goat handing training sessions were attended by 200 youth (mainly women) who learnt how to house goats and control disease, de-worm, care for and feed their stock. They were broken into 20 smaller groups of 10 people. After constructing sturdy goat pens, each youth farmer was given two she-goats, and 10 he-goats were distributed among each group to begin the breeding process. Goats usually give birth to twin kids so a kid from each successful delivery is given to a neighbour to get them started. This makes the project sustainable by increasing the stock of the original goat breeder while spreading the wealth around the community.

Another 200 young people, again mostly women, were involved in banana production training sessions and assigned into four groups of 50 to care for each plantation, including planting, weeding, fertilising, applying manure and pest control. Soon the trees were flowering, with the beginnings of young banana bunches peeping from beneath the petals.

All participants have been taught marketing techniques to enhance their knowledge on the trends of prices both locally and outside the district.

So far 250 kid goats have been born and 23,460kg of bananas harvested. The bananas were sold at market for ZMK 18,901,000 ($3,500 AUD), which will allow the youth farmers to provide for the needs of their families.

Additional unplanned benefits have also come out of the project:

  • The boreholes, which were installed to water the crops, have also helped when water shortages threatened nearby communities. Families were able to access clean water which helped stabilise the health of children and their families.
  • The youth participants have also developed a strategy of inter-cropping where vegetables are planted in between the banana field spaces. The vegetables help fill nutritional gaps and also increase agricultural skills and knowledge in crop production.
  • Some participants have used income from the bananas to rehabilitate local ponds and diversify into fish farming. Others have diversified into sugar cane farming, growing oranges and lemons and poultry production.
  • Goat manure has been used to feed banana trees.
  • Four participants who were involved in the project have returned to school to complete their studies.
  • Youth farmers in Luangwa participated in a district agriculture show where they exhibited their bananas. Although competing with prominent farmers, they managed to win an award for best bananas!

In total, the project has been a great success and has achieved its goals of improving income and nutrition in the communities. It has also given the youth participants a sense of achievement and empowerment.

Bernard (pictured above) has a dream to improve his education, telling our staff: “Now I am sure that my dream will soon come true.” Bernard is so motivated that he remains behind at the end of the day to ensure all the fruiting banana plants are properly fixed and supported.

Thank you to everybody who supported this project and helped young people like Bernard fulfil their dreams.