SEGH Articles

In Malawi "simple is not easy"

01 March 2013
Effectiveness of sanitation, hygiene practices, and water supply interventions serving Malawi and the surrounding countries.

Dr Rochelle Holm's home is Mzuzu in Malawi, but she is originally from Washington State in the USA.  Rochelle served as a volunteer for 10 years leading African natural resource management and water quality projects before accepting the current permanent position at Mzuzu University. For 8 years Rochelle managed $1M/year soil and groundwater clean-up projects for the United States Department of Energy and Department of Defense.  Rochelle also served as a Natural Resource Management Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali, West Africa, 2002-2003.  Through Rochelle's volunteer experiences,  relationships were developed, and combined with her professional project management experience, led her to have a passion for the water and sanitation sector throughout Africa, a great fit for Rochelle's current role.

 

In Malawi, “simple is not easy”

Environmental Science is not always simple, though in the northern region of Malawi, Africa, there is a saying “simple is not easy.”   Malawi is a developing country located in southeastern Africa.  In 2009, the Mzuzu University Centre of Excellence in Water and Sanitation was established under the Department of Water Resources Management and Development within the Faculty of Environmental Sciences.  The primary objective of the Centre is to improve the effectiveness of sanitation, hygiene practices, and water supply interventions serving Malawi and the surrounding countries.  The Centre participates in applied research, water quality analysis, training, consultancies, outreach programs, and the practical application of research findings.  More importantly, the Centre through the Department of Water Resources Management is offering a degree programme in Water and Sanitation, which is an important link to the dissemination and documentation of research findings.

 

As an extension of the Mzuzu University Centre of Excellence in Water and Sanitation, in 2012 the Smart Centre was opened focusing on the practical implementation of low-cost household level water and sanitation technologies.  In contrast to the typical approach by non-governmental organisations and the donor community, the Smart Centre focuses on building capacity in water and sanitation focused businesses in Malawi.  This is accomplished through promotion of appropriate technology, training of Malawians and build-up of businesses to support self-supply.  The SMART Centre provides long-term sustainability and scaling up for water and sanitation technologies by building up the capacity of local entrepreneurs.   While the Centre of Excellence in Water and Sanitation can provide the scientific requirements per design of solutions and interventions, prompting of technologies on the ground is covered by the SMART Centre.  For example, the SMART Centre is currently prompting the use of a no-cement latrine design intended to last a family 7 years, allowing scale up of self-supply capacity for improved household sanitation.

Main activities at the Smart Centre include:

  • Support activities that will improve access to safe and clean water and sanitation with a focus on peri-urban and rural areas
  • Demonstration of a range of  innovative and affordable water and sanitation technologies
  • Training of the local private sector in manual well drilling, production of rope pumps, groundwater recharge, water storage tanks, irrigation, water filters, latrines  and other technologies
  • Support local businesses with training in production, maintenance, business management skills and formation of associations
  • Courses for NGOs and others in sustainable water supply and sanitation

 

Through a combination of research being conducted at the Centre of Excellence in Water and Sanitation and practical implementation led by the SMART Centre, this team at Mzuzu University is one of the only organisations in Malawi with such an emphasis on water and sanitation self-supply, thus making ‘simple’ a bit ‘easier.’

Dr Rochelle Holm,

Mzuzu University, Centre of Excellence in Water and Sanitation and SMART Centre Manager, Mzuzu, Malawi

rochelledh@hotmail.com

 

 

Keep up to date

SEGH Events

SEGH 2015 31st International Conference

Bratislava

22 June 2015

Submit Content

Members can keep in touch with their colleagues through short news and events articles of interest to the SEGH community.

Science in the News

Latest on-line papers from the SEGH journal: Environmental Geochemistry and Health

  • Correlation of cadmium and aluminum in blood samples of kidney disorder patients with drinking water and tobacco smoking: related health risk 2015-05-24

    Abstract

    The combined exposure to aluminum (Al) and cadmium (Cd) causes more pronounced adverse health effects on humans. The kidneys are the main organs affected by internal exposure to Cd and Al via food and non-food items. The objective of present study was to measure the Al and Cd concentrations in cigarettes tobacco (branded and non-branded) and drinking water (domestic treated, ground and lake water) samples in southern part of Pakistan, to assess the risk due to ingestion of water and inhalation of cigarettes smoke containing high concentrations of both elements. The study population (kidney disorder and healthy) divided into two group based on consuming lake and ground water, while smoking non-branded cigarette as exposed, while drinking domestic treated water and smoking branded cigarette as non-exposed. Electrothermal atomic absorption spectrometry was used to determined Cd and Al concentrations in tobacco, drinking water and blood samples. The resulted data indicated that the levels of Al and Cd in lake and underground water were higher than the permissible limit in drinking water recommended by the World Health Organization. The biochemical parameters of exposed and referent patients, especially urinary N-acetyl-h-glucosaminidase, were used as a biomarkers of kidney disorder. Exposed kidney disorder patients have higher levels of Cd and Al than the exposed referents subjects, while difference was significant when compared to resulted data of non-exposed patients and referents (p = 0.01–0.001). The pearson correlation showed positive correlation between both toxic element concentrations in water, cigarettes versus blood samples of exposed subjects (r = 0.20–0.67 and 0.71–0.82), while lower values were observed for non-exposed subjects (r = 0.123–0.423 and 0.331–0.425), respectively.

  • Occurrence and hydrogeochemical characteristics of high-fluoride groundwater in Xiji County, southern part of Ningxia Province, China 2015-05-20

    Abstract

    High-F groundwater is widely distributed in Xiji County, which endangers the safety of drinking water. In order to evaluate the key factors controlling the origin and geochemical mechanisms of F enrichment in groundwater at Xiji County, one hundred and five groundwater samples and sixty-two sediment samples were collected. Fluoride concentration in the groundwater samples ranged from 0.2 to 3.01 mg/L (mean 1.13 mg/L), with 17 % exceeding the WHO drinking water guideline value of 1.5 mg/L and 48 % exceeding the Chinese drinking water guideline value of 1.0 mg/L. High-F groundwaters were characterized by hydrochemical types of Na–HCO3 and Na–SO4·Cl, which were found in Quaternary sediment aquifer and in Tertiary clastic aquifer, respectively. Conditions favorable for F enrichment in groundwater included weakly alkaline pH (7.2–8.9), low concentration of Ca2+, and high concentrations of HCO3 and Na+. Calcite and fluorite were the main minerals controlling F concentration in groundwaters. The hydrolysis of F-bearing minerals in aquifer sediments was the more important process for F release in Tertiary clastic aquifer, which was facilitated by long residence time of groundwater, in comparison with Quaternary sediment aquifer. Cation exchange would also play important roles, which removed Ca2+ and Mg2+ and led to more free mobility of F in groundwater and permitted dissolution of fluorite, especially in Tertiary clastic aquifer. However, evapotranspiration and competing adsorption of B and HCO3 were the more important processes for F enrichment in Quaternary groundwater. Groundwater in Lower Cretaceous aquifer had relatively low F concentration, which was considered to be the potential drinking water resource.

  • Impact of biochar produced from post-harvest residue on the adsorption behavior of diesel oil on loess soil 2015-05-17

    Abstract

    The primary objective of this study was to investigate the effect of biochar, produced from wheat residue at different temperatures, on the adsorption of diesel oil by loess soil. Kinetic and equilibrium data were processed to understand the adsorption mechanism of diesel by biochar-affected loess soil; dynamic and thermodynamic adsorption experiments were conducted to characterize this adsorption. The surface features and chemical structure of biochar, modified at varying pyrolytic temperatures, were investigated using surface scanning electron microscopy and Fourier transform infrared analysis. The kinetic data showed that the adsorption of diesel oil onto loess soil could be described by a pseudo-second-order kinetic model, with the rate-controlling step being intraparticle diffusion. However, in the presence of biochar, boundary layer control and intraparticle diffusion were both involved in the adsorption. Besides, the adsorption equilibrium data were well described by the Freundlich isothermal model. The saturated adsorption capacity weakened as temperature increased, suggesting a spontaneous exothermic process. Thermodynamic parameter analysis showed that adsorption was mainly a physical process and was enhanced by chemical adsorption. The adsorption capacity of loess soil for diesel oil was weakened with increasing pH. The biochar produced by pyrolytic wheat residue increased the adsorption behavior of petroleum pollutants in loess soil.