In 2020, a team from our project group travelled to Tanzania to build new SoWaDi plants together with our project partner Kilimanjaro Childlife Foundation (KCF) and future users. One year after the construction of the devices, Sam, project manager at KCF, talked to Leonard Makala Mrema about his experiences with the SoWaDi plant and the project so far. Mr. Mrema is a teacher at Kidia Primary School, where a SoWaDi plant has been in operation since last year.
The interview was edited for this blog entry.
Sam: What did you think when you first heard about the SoWaDi plant? And what were your expectations of the plant and the project?
Mr. Mrema: The first thought in my head was CLEAN WATER. I expected the device to provide clean and safe water that will be used by the students and teachers. My expectations on the project were to be able to gain knowledge and construct the device on my own.
Sam: What tasks do you take on in the project and what was your motivation to become part of it?
Mr. Mrema: The main motivation for me to part of SoWaDi project is to be able to provide clean water for the children. That‘s why I collect data and send it to EWB. I also maintain the device making sure it is working properly everyday.
In order to collect information about the lifespan and long-term performance of the plants, each plant is looked after by a person in charge who passes on data to the project group. Mr. Mrema has been looking after TZ03 for a year now.
Sam: Can you describe an ordinary day with the plant? What exactly has to be done by whom?
Mr. Mrema: In the morning I check the device and inspect it if there any damages or leakages. I then instruct the students to fill in the water in the input container. Later on in the afternoon, I check the device to see how it’s going on and extract water from it (in a sunny day). In the evening, I cover up the device and head home. In summary, my main work is supervision of the device, data collection and sending it to EWB. The students (specifically chosen) fill in the water when it’s empty in the containers.
Sam: And what is the treated water then used for?
Mr. Mrema: The students and teachers use the water and mainly it’s for drinking.
Sam: You say that you send EWB data from the plant. How does the contact work and what do you talk about?
Mr. Mrema: I am in contact with Julius and Max from the project group in Darmstadt. We normally communicate about general issues about the device, e.g. if it’s working properly or if there are any challenges on the device.
Sam: Now the plant has been at Kidia Primary School for almost a year. What is your opinion of the project after this long time? Have all your expectations been fulfilled or do you still see room for improvement?
Mr. Mrema: No, my expectations were not fully fulfilled. Nevertheless, I think that the project as a whole is successful. The plant has been beneficial to us especially providing safe water for the children and reducing stomach ache problems. Still, there are also some things that could be improved: If the device could produce more output to be able to meet the need of the entire school, it would be good. In addition, problems sometimes occur when cleaning the containers because some of the cleaning water runs back into the main system and then mixes with the input water. A solution for this would be very good.
Sam: Have other people also become aware of the plant? And if so, what are their reactions?
Mr. Mrema: Yes I have spoken to a number of people about the project. They really wish to have the device at their homesteads too.
We thank Mr. Mrema and Sam for the interesting interview and the many insights!