(Thames Water's Anthony Crawford during the trip)
Ten experts from across Thames Water recently headed to Malawi as part of the ‘Thames Love Malawi’ programme.
It’s a four-year partnership between Thames Water and WaterAid which will raise £2m to support water and sanitation projects in one of the poorest nations on the planet - with the aim of providing support and advice to its water board counterparts.
The focus of the trip was peer-to-peer support, as the Thames Water experts offered advice and expertise to their counterparts at the Central Region Water Board of Malawi (CRWB) on how to improve the country’s water and sewage networks.
Anthony Crawford, chairman of Thames Water’s WaterAid committee, said: “It’s such a privilege to have been able to come out here to Malawi and see what a real difference we can make.
“Our experts have gone above and beyond this week, and to see results so quickly was very much the icing on the cake.
“We knew we were going to have to think on our feet throughout the week as we weren’t quite sure what we’d find, but the team rose to the challenge.
“The relationships that have been forged here will last for a lifetime and plans are already in place to continue this mutual learning experience in the coming weeks and months.”
It was the first time in the company’s relationship with WaterAid it has sent operational personnel on a trip abroad, rather than a team to report back on where the money is being spent, so it marked a real sea-change in the strategy in Malawi.
The team flew at the start of September and were based in the towns of Kasungu and Mponela with each member developing their own training materials.
Once they landed, each member fully immersed themselves into the local culture, landscape and customs and delved deep into the problems that face the country.
During the trip, in collaboration with WaterAid, they held classroom-based training sessions for 50 water board employees, plus went on several site trips.
The experts helped implement the first ever district metered area (DMA) in the country, helped stop a serious leakage problem on the network, and help restore the water supply to a small village for the first time in three months.
They also helped optimise the water treatment works to boost water production in the town, helping the CRWB team understand principles, systems and processes in order to allow them to use what they have to maximum effect, pictured above.
Paresh Kavia, from Thames Water who went on the trip, said: “There’s something really special going on in this programme, and this is just the start.
“We want to do a lot more in the sanitation service space, and have started to identify where we can kick off with that next year, and build on the training this team has delivered – the deployment of listening sticks and step testing, for example, will open up a whole new area of possibilities for our friends from CRWB.
“I also feel this trip shows that no matter who you are or what you do in Thames Water, there is an opportunity to get involved in the ‘Thames Loves Malawi’ programme.
“There’ll be lots more coming up in the next 12 months, so definitely watch this space.”
The relationships and foundations left in Malawi will now be built upon, and when the next delegation of Thames Water staff heads out there next year, they will have something to improve on – that first step has been made.
(Pictures by WaterAid/ Dennis Lupenga)