We’re Blue for Water – real impact in Swaziland

We’re Blue for Water – real impact in Swaziland

A story of how water arrived at Kadinga Primary School

by Bruce Jameson – Field Operations Manager, Palms for Life Fund Swaziland

Some quick stats

# of students: 265        # of teachers: 8
# people benefiting from the project: ~60 or 70

Kadinga (meaning “Needy” in Siswati) is one of 120 schools selected by Palms for Life Fund for the implementation of the USAID-funded project. Since October 2010, the project has been bringing water to the participating schools, building or repairing latrines and promoting school gardens to support the school feeding schemes. A total of 40,000 children benefit from this project which also impacts the surrounding communities.

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The Situation


Students walk to school from nearby communities and are fed one meal of “mealie meal and Beans” per day normally around 10am in the morning. The kitchen is pretty nice
and all cooking is done on a wood fire stove built into the building.

School First Impression

Located in a remote region of southern Swaziland. The road leading to the school is rutted and almost impassable in the wet season but generally accessible in the dry season by light delivery vehicles. Poor and in urgent need of assistance. Many buildings are in an unsatisfactory state of repair with only one semi-completed new building being constructed by the parents.

Water Supply

Palms for Life Fund carried out a baseline survey in the school on 27th April 2012. The object of the survey was to establish the current status of the school drinking water supply, the condition of the student toilets and finally, to assess the feasibility of a garden project so students could grow vegetables for cooking as part of the school feeding scheme.

The school had no reliable and sustainable water supply. Water was either trucked in once a week from Mankayane, a nearby town, or the students were forced to collect water by buckets from a nearby polluted river. Much washing of cloths takes place up stream which renders the water unhealthy for the children.

In addition to the river supply, there was a hand pump in the school which pumped brown murky water which was again unhealthy for human consumption.

A number of rain water harvesting systems existed which were in a fairly reasonable state of repair. However they were in need of rehabilitation to bring them up the scratch. Water was being captured in many of the tanks.

The Palms for Life project team decided to look for an alternative and went to assess the situation at a nearby mountain source approximately 2.5 kilometers away from the school.

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Mountain Source

The team concluded that there was only one water source to choose from which would supply the school with water all year round. Even in the driest season, this mountain stream flowed strongly, as was largely documented by the community living in the area.


The community and school committee met with the Palms for life field team. The community would dig the trench of approximately 2.5 kilometers to a depth of 600 mm and would assist the Palms for Life builders in the construction of the water storage tank stand, on the mountain above the school.

Within 4 to 5 weeks the trench was dug and readied for the installation of the pipe line. Hendry Dlamini from the Palms for Life field team was deployed to the school and took control of the operation of installing the pipeline and developing the river crossing cableway. In addition, Hendry was commissioned to construct a robust mountain stream catchment dam using field stones and concrete. The piping was laid in the trench together with the air release valves which were mounted above the ground level but buried under a pile of rock. This is to protect them from being vandalized by heard boys. The air release valves are to ensure the pipeline does not experience air locks which pose problems with the water flow and can result in pipelines being damaged. This operation took place within a 2 week period.

River Challenge – also pretty technical

Apart from the challenge of digging the trench through the mountains, the other main challenge was the river crossing of approximately 300 metres. Building the river crossing cableway was carefully planned and implemented and completed by using local materials and barbed wire. On the one river bank above the high water mark, a robust tripod timber assembly was constructed to take the load of the cable and pipe. The opposing river bank was a steep cliff approximately 60 metres up which acted as a perfect access point for the other end of the cable and piping. The cable was secured to a large boulder and tensioned accordingly. The pipeline was attached to the cableway prior to the erecting of the cable.

Water Tank Storage System – more technical. But great.

The tank stand accommodating three 5000-liter water tanks was built on the mountain adjacent to the school and approximately 50 meters in elevation above the school. The pipeline running from the mountain source approximately 2.5 kilometers was piped into the tanks and finally piped down into the school to various water stand points i.e. kitchen, toilets, staff houses, classroom area, garden and the Kadinga preschool. In addition, as for good measure, the field team provided a water stand point to the local chief’s residence which was a short distance away.



A Better Future

The project was completed at the end of 2012 and, thanks to the amazing support of the people of the United States of America, through USAID, and thanks to everyone’s contribution, water flowed in this dry and remote school for the first time in its existence!

Sustainability and Education

The Palms for Life field team began the process of educating the school on the importance of maintaining the water system in an organized way. A training program was implemented to ensure that the community members assigned to the task would assist in the upkeep of the piping, tanks and associated system components. Field Monitors – young university graduates – were deployed to the school to deliver the training.

Since then, Palms for Life has visited the school and observed that water flows in abundance. The garden has been developed by the school with supervision from the Palms for Life field team and the school is now ready for planting.

Water Ceremony

In the case of perennial water source harvesting, a small ceremony to give thanks to the water and to God is held as a sign of respect and appreciation. As water is such an important element in our survival and development, and to bind the project officially it is felt that this is necessary. The community and school willingly take part with much joy.

Thank you

To USAID for funding this project since October 2010! In addition, a thank you goes to the Ministry of Education, the school head teacher and chairperson, the community and finally to Palms for Life in Swaziland for their commitment and dedication to the project.


Happy World Water Day!


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By |2013-08-13T14:00:11+00:00March 22nd, 2013|Our Work, Water|5 Comments

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  1. Dan Silverstein March 22, 2013 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    Wow! This is excellent. I’m so proud to be associated with Palms for Life.

  2. Naama March 28, 2013 at 12:20 pm - Reply

    How often do you see REAL results?? This is fantastic… Thank you!!

  3. Bhekisisa S. Tsabedze December 18, 2014 at 12:48 pm - Reply

    This awesome work and we looking forward to a better future for Swaziland. Thank you Palms for life.

    • Palms for Life December 22, 2014 at 12:31 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much Bhekisisa for your comment and your support!!

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