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  • Chief Sekutee
  • Chief Sekutee with Peter Farrer and group
  • Royal Crest
  • Tiger fish
  • Women carrying water

Zambia 2013 Day 3

5.30 starts and long journeys are starting to kick in, but after breakfast and a morning brief we were all energised again to continue on this amazing journey.

Today, I would describe our visits as "weird and wonderful"! Let me explain.

We travelled 70 km to the district office in Kazungula to meet with the district secretary, who wanted to meet with us to express his thanks for the great work that WaterAid is doing. We met with chaos at the office as there were a large number of building plots being sold for houses to be built on. There was a queue of about 100 very smartly dressed Zambian couples waiting to be interviewed by the "kazera's" (local district ward officers) to see if those couples were suitable to buy a plot. They would be grilled on their income, jobs, family status, and savings to see if they were permitted to pay 5000 Kwacha (about £600 pounds) to buy a plot.

We were ushered in past many security staff to Rafael's office, he is the council secretary. He gave us a welcome and then told us how we should "pay homage to the Chief of Kazungula" who we were meeting later that day. All through the meeting Rafael's phone rang about 8 times and he answered each time saying "I will phone you later". Later we speculated that it may be his wives phoning because Zambian men are permitted to have as many wives as they wish (or can handle!)

We travelled to Mambova and visited the first full treatment works under construction. A pumped raw water supply from a tributary of the Zambeze, solar panel supply to the treatment works, which is a flocculator with alum granules, a rapid gravity filter, chlorine contact tank and an elevated storage tank. The total funding was £130,000 for around 3000 residents including a school and health centre. Theresa was the local lady from the community who had been trained to maintain the works. She knew everything inside out and was extremely competent.

Mambova was named after the thorn trees that are all around and is also a fishing village as it is on the banks of an Oxbow on the river. Village men were carving canoes for fishing from Mungongo trees and the village women bought the fish from the fishermen and sold them to the fish market in the nearest town at a profit. We saw Tiger fish that had teeth like crocodiles and cat fish that would make Robson Green envious. A 4 kg tiger fish could be bought for 20 Kwacha (about £2.50)

We then went to see the "Chief Sekutee" who governed all of the Kazungula district. We were told that we would have an audience at his private residence called the Chief's palace. On approach to the palace we had to crouch down and clap several times every few yards, an indication that we were coming, and then took our seats inside a covered porch area of his residence. I must say, I really was expecting a palace but what we found was a million miles from that! A basic compound with the only distinguishing feature which separated it from the other villagers- a royal crest on the wall!

The chief emerged from a curtain over the door and sat in a 1960's armchair draped in lace throws. He was an 81 year old man with a badly fitting suit and a Crocodile Dundee hat and wrinkles on his face that had seen many decades of change in the country. He talked to us through an interpreter from the council and expressed his delight that we were there to see if we could help them. His right hand man obviously had a liking for Scotland because he referred to us as visitors from Scotland and other places in the UK. He even referred to me as the Chief Executive of Scotland! I rather liked that and am now known as Chief Scotland to the group!

We then travelled to a rural village called Samakoudo which was another dirt track many kilometres into the countryside. When we arrived, I was amazed at how clean and well kept the village was. 80 homes made from bricks and mud and thatched roofs which were immaculately kept. The reason for this was a very strong leader, a senior head man who had total respect and control over the whole village. Leadership was the only thing that set this village apart from others, a lesson that is directly aligned with what we are doing in Scottish Water.

We were shown the dried river bed where a scoop hole had been dug which was the only water supply to the village. It was a mile from the village and we were told that the village women had to visit here at least 4 times per day to carry 20 litre containers on their heads.

We had discussed this issue after our first visit and the 5 directors in the party agreed that we would symbolically offer to carry 20 litres of water on our heads back to the village to see if we could send a message to the men that it is not only the women who can do this.

I am reasonably fit but I have to say that this was one of the most difficult things that I have ever done. It was really hot and by the end of the journey I felt like collapsing. We did it - but only just. Alice, the senior head man's sister was extremely grateful for the help but the men looked unimpressed. I wonder why! Alice was 60 and did this 3 times every day. Our attempt at changing the culture may not lead to wholesale culture change in Zambia but for one day, in that small village, we made the women smile and the men shake in their saddles!