Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Day 4: Habari za asubuhi! (Good morning!)

Today, we learned some Swahili, met with the water committee to learn about the water distribution system in Ihemi village, and collected water samples to analyze in the lab.

After a scrumptious breakfast of Spanish omelets and papaya at the Lutheran Center we kicked off the day with a Swahili lesson hoping to learn the basics and avoid the inevitable embarrassment in front of the villagers. The lesson was rapid fire with many people being put on the spot at random times throughout. The initial “um’s” and “uh’s” were erased by the end as we began to gain confidence in the new language. With Joyce’s help (pictured below) we all learned the basic Swahili sentence structure and how to properly introduce ourselves as engineering students from America. Jina langu ni Matt. Tunatoka Merikani. Sisi ni wanafunzi wa uhandisi. (My name is Matt. We are from America. We are engineering students.)

Our morning Swahili lesson came in handy this afternoon when we met with the water committee of the Ihemi village. We were all able to introduce ourselves in Swahili, with a few minor errors typically followed up with laughter and enormous smiles. With the help of a translator, we learned of all the struggles and desires their community has with the current water system. We also learned how the water committee is managing the system that was designed by a previous group of U of M students. How the fees for water are collected, how monthly payments are held accountable by flow meters installed at each faucet, how maintenance is handled, and how much water is consumed on a daily basis. The village seemed to carry a high level of pride and responsibility in their water system which is the key part in creating a successful, long-lasting project.

The water committee members of Ihemi gave us a short tour of the village to see the different aspects of the system that was introduced back in 2006. We observed two of the four 10,000 liter tanks that can be filled in just seven hours fed by the 110-meter-deep well drilled up the road. After, we all had the special opportunity to drink directly out of the spout at one of the distribution points. Besides a minor iron taste and smell, the water was cool and refreshing.

We collected a sample of water to bring back to the U of M for an analytical chemistry class to test the water for inorganic substances. We learned that this particular water distribution system was supplying over 3,000 people from 22 different public distribution points. The system also included an additional 40 private distribution points including separate purchases by families to directly supply their households.

After returning from Ihemi we finished out the day in little Italy at Mama Iringa’s with an elegant dinner complete with bruschetta, focaccia, and brick oven pizza.


  1. Most of us drank the water. It’s safe to drink. That’s the whole point of the water projects. To provide safe drinking water to people who don’t have it. The system seen in this picture is a very successful one that has been running for two years. It tasted great!!!

    -James Trebesch

  2. What an interesting day! Thanks for the post and great pictures.

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