Sunday, January 12, 2020

Day 6: Hamjambo (how are you?) from team Magome!

The Magomies set off for our village adventure and arrived in the town of Magome in the early afternoon. We were greeted by 20-30 citizens dancing and singing to celebrate our arrival.
The dancing continued until our introduction to the town in the Lutheran Church. We then ate brunch with the pastor in his place of residence. Throughout the rest of the day, team Magome walked through the village locating important landmarks. This included the dispensary (hospital), village center, primary school, and various churches. In addition, we visited various water sources and collected samples to test for E. coli and coliform bacteria. The tests required incubation by body-heat for 24 hours, aka “mother henning.”

We took a visit to the village office to meet with prominent village leaders and discuss needs and logistics. We collected population data, examined a town map to determine sub-village locations, and discussed water priorities. After an enlightening day, we were safely guided home by Britta, who "woman-ed" the GPS. We were met by a horde of children, who had been waiting to play American football with the wzungu (white people). When the ball became undetectable due to darkness, we went in for a hearty dinner and went to bed, tired from a long day but excited for the next morning.

Day two in Magome started bright and early with a lengthy hike to Muhanga spring. We were hopeful that this source would have maji safi (clean water) that we could supply to the village. After three kilometers of ups and downs, with many trips and falls along the way, we arrived at the location of the source. There we tested for bacteria content in the water and determined the flow rate of the spring. With the absence of some equipment, we took additional measurements using Jordan’s armpit!

To break up the hike, we made a pit stop to test our abilities to carry (partially full) buckets of water on our heads. Much to the amusement of the local bystanders, none of us were able to last a second without spilling. This added to our amazement of the villagers that walk up and down Magome’s mountainous terrain carrying full buckets of water on their heads. Before heading to meet with the water committee, we journeyed to the village center to scout out potential locations for large water storage tanks.

As we started to get test results from our day one water sources, we learned that all the sources from the previous day were contaminated with E. coli and Coliform bacteria. It was sobering to see that the worst of them all was the source being used by the children at the school and the village dispensary. Ken, a veteran of water testing and an MIT grad, told us that the water had some of the worst test results he’d ever seen. Making it even worse, the children had to walk up a steep incline of 350 feet carrying water while taking time out of their school day.

Leaving Babu (Ken) and Brandi behind, us students decided to make the climb. We quickly regretted not going in the car as we realized just how steep and long the trek was. We got back to where we were staying exhausted, but seeing the children waiting to play with us gave us a second wind. The kids feared our phones at first, but once they saw the Snapchat dog filter they were hooked. The kids ended up commandeering Peter’s phone and howling like hyenas as they took videos of themselves. After a long day of playing and data collection, we headed to bed for our last night in Magome.

The next morning, we checked on our samples that we were incubating throughout the night. All of which tested negative for E. coli, and had low risk for coliform bacteria. Compared to the results we saw from the previous day, we were ecstatic about the results. Church service began at 9:30 a.m. and lasted until 11:45 a.m. We were able to introduce ourselves in front of the congregation and show off our limited Swahili abilities. Additionally, we provided a summary of our work over the past few days, and expressed our intention to plan a distribution system that would hopefully be implemented one day. To close, we sang “Asante Sana Yesu” and were joined by the church. Followed by a meal and exchange of gifts, we headed back to Iringa.

In closing, Magome was a beautiful village tucked into the lush mountains of the Iringa region. Water was abundant, especially in the rainy season, but the problem facing the town is the cleanliness of the water they are consuming. Magome faces a serious water problem as sources are either ridden with bacteria or require long difficult hiking.

After our time in Magome, we are looking towards the future and planning the preliminary draft of a water distribution system. As of now, we are leaning towards a gravity fed system that will bring water three kilometers from Muhanga Spring to the center of the village market. In later phases, we hope to pump water to the church and the school using either grid power (once it arrives at the village) or solar. We were touched by the hospitality of the individuals from Magome, and hope to visit again soon (hopefully with the addition of a water system).

Peter D.