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Farming, water and electricity are changing the lives of families

We are helping transform everyday life in local communities in southern Angola, by installing water and electric systems and promoting farming work with farmers’ clubs.

30 March 2020
6 min read
by
30 March 2020
6 min read

Having free access to water and electricity and growing fresh vegetables helps raise people's quality of life. The many beneficiaries of the Integrated Social Project will tell you the same. Since 2017, they have been on the receiving end of a range of initiatives in the southern provinces of Huíla and Namibe.

Keeping a garden means a better everyday diet

There are now over 700 farmers signed up to farmers’ clubs under the Integrated Social Project and 26 fields providing the community with products for their own consumption and surplus for selling or swapping at the market. Also, thanks to the training provided through the ECAP model (Escola de Campo Agro-Pastoris) which consists of farmers’ clubs, held in villages to help farmers, local women have found out about new vegetables for growing and eating. This in turn is helping to improve diets. Cucumbers, okra, aubergines and carrots, for example, are being planted in fields for the first time. During the training, the farmers learn to prepare the land for greenhouses, do mulching, water plants and use dung as fertiliser, which is very important. “We Mucubals are semi-nomadic people and rely on meat and milk alone, so I’d never been interested in crop farming, but the ECAPs have changed my life,” says Ndonduila Tchivanda, who lives in the province of Namibe. “I learnt how to grow different types of vegetables. I learned to use dung, grow crops and make organic pesticides. For the first time in my life, I began eating aubergines, okra and carrots. At the ECAPs I began growing maize, pumpkins, onions, tomatoes, beans, watermelons and cabbage. My family's everyday diet has changed completely. Now we have healthy food and surplus from our field. We can sell it at the market and then share the profits among families. I use what I earn to buy new seeds and school equipment for my children. Thanks to the training, my family and I won’t live as nomads any more and two of my children have started going to the local school.” Maria Florida Joaquim, from the province of Bibala, also had her life changed by the farmers’ clubs: “At first I didn't know much about farming. I was only used to growing millet and sorghum. Then I learnt how to produce and cook cabbage, tomatoes, onions, aubergines, carrots, peanuts, cucumbers and maize. At the training sessions we learnt how to make seedbeds and do mulching. My family's diet has improved, too. I also like the idea of learning and working with other people. Before this, I had never seen people from different tribes working together, but the Integrated Social Project manages to bring the Mucubals, Munguendelongos and Mumuilas together.”

Where there's water, there's life

The water systems we have built give drinking water to families and livestock. The latter is an essential source of livelihood for these farming communities, who were once forced to walk miles in search of water. Access to water is also essential for agriculture. Women can grow crops in the fields and irrigate them, rather than carrying heavy buckets back from the stream. Having a well to draw water from has improved everyday life at the medical centre in Taka, too. “We used to have to walk long distances to get water, and we never had very much of it – we just used it for cleaning,” recalls Jerónimo Pupila Valunga, a nurse. “Today, though, with the well working, we can use water for having a bath, washing patients and drinking. What struck me straight away, and still does, about the well, is that it serves both us medical staff and people living near the centre. Every day, we get 200 people on average coming to get water from it.”. The village of Kamupapa has also seen quality of life go up. Américo Hungulo, headmaster of its primary school, explains: “Before we had electricity and water, life in our community wasn't easy. We walked very far in search of water because we couldn't always get some from the manual well. Teachers would go out of their house with four and a half gallons of water just to meet their needs. They would carry that load for twenty miles.” António Tomás, a nurse from the community of Ndongue, confirms the difficulties families had to face every day: “They used to drink undrinkable water and I'm afraid to say you could see the effects of it. Families often suffered from acute diarrhoea thanks to drinking undrinkable water. Now we don't have to walk long distances in search of water anymore. We have clean water at our disposal all day long and intestinal infections have gone down.”

Electricity transforms the Mangueiras school

Before the solar system was installed, conditions inside the school building in Mangueiras, in the Namibe province, near the border with the Huíla province, were particularly bad. The pupils had no motivation whatsoever to go to school and the teachers did not have electronic or digital tools to make their job easier. Everyday school life improved when the solar system was installed. “Now the teachers and pupils can use computers and printers,” explains headmistress Luisa Matias. “Our canteen works and we have a room with a TV. The pupils can watch it at break time, which would have been impossible in the past. Now, thanks to electricity, lots of children are coming to the classes and we have put on two sets of evening classes, each with forty students enrolled. We still have a big problem to sort out, though, namely the lack of running water. We have a little stream nearby where we can wash clothes, have a bath and water our animals. We use the same water to drink and cook, which often causes us health problems.” Electricity has improved working conditions at the nearby Mangueiras Health Post. Before they were plugged into the mains: it was hard to manage their work, especially at night. They did visits with a mobile phone torch and candles, which were very expensive. “Another big problem was keeping vaccines,” says Maria Teresa Sacambovo, a nurse. “We had to keep them wrapped in ice and in thermal bags, but that wasn't very safe. Now we can do visits and make deliveries at night time with no problems. The cold chain works all day long and we don't have to go to the capital of the province to buy ice. Now I even have electricity at home and I can watch TV. I wasn’t used to getting any news on politics or events in my own country, but now I can get updates every day.”