Bringing Water to Makhava and Hlushwana Schools in Swaziland

Bringing Water to Makhava and Hlushwana Schools in Swaziland

Project Period: started 20/01/2013 and concluded  03/03/2013.

MAKHAVA PRIMARY SCHOOL (114 Female students and 137 Male students)

HLUSHWANA PRIMARY SCHOOL (156 female students and 200 Male students)





Makhava and Hlushwana primary schools are located in the south eastern part of Swaziland in a dry rural area. Makhava primary school is located on a small hilltop overlooking the Stilo River to the south and Swazi rural farm lands to the north and east. Hlushwana primary school is located south of Makhava, approximately 6 kilometers away and is located adjacent to the main road which leads from Nhlangano, a town to the west, to the Lavumisa border gate in the south east of the country.

The first impression one gets of these schools is that they are dry, dusty and desolate with no running water for miles around and no school agricultural gardens to speak of. The only source of water for both schools was from either a few rain water harvesting systems located on the classroom roofs which were mostly faulty or from a water tanker service from Hluti, a nearby rural town approximately 10 kilometers away.

The baseline survey revealed that both schools were in dire need of assistance which prompted Palms for Life team to formulate a workable and affordable solution to the problem. A reliable and clean water supply was needed to assist the schools to develop the gardens for vegetable production and to provide clean water for drinking, cooking and cleaning.

Step one was to survey the pipeline route and to calculate the quantity and grade of piping required to carry the water. Many ravines, dongas and river courses lay along the route so it became apparent that a carefully detailed assessment of each aspect of the project was necessary in order to ensure it fell within the budget available without compromising on quality and durability.

Following the survey, it was estimated that approximately 8 kilometers of class 10 piping plus all the associated couplings and accessories would be needed to complete the task of bringing water to both schools. The schools agreed to contribute financially to the material costs and following lengthy discussions with the community, it was further agreed that the parents of both schools would undertake the digging of the trenches and assist the PFLF field in laying down the piping.

Hendry Dlamini of PFLF outlining some of the details of the project with the school parents

Hendry Dlamini of PFLF outlining some of the details of the project with the school parents


The Water Source

To the south west of the schools flowed a perennial river which originated on a lush farmland owned by a local cattle farmer. On inspection, there appeared to be no major agriculture nor any forms of development on his farm. The farmlands were purely dedicated to cattle grazing. Had there been any source of pollutants, the health of the water would have been compromised and PFLF would have had to abandon this stream and would have been forced to seek an alternative source of water. Based o these findings it was therefore agreed by Palms for Life and the community that water would be captured and piped to the schools from this source.

The position of the catchment dam was critical and would need to be constructed as close to the farmers fence as possible so as to prevent any local women in the area from using the river for the washing of cloths, which proves to be a problem in most rivers in Swaziland. Most of the rivers in rural Swaziland are polluted by the washing soaps used by the women on wash day.


The proposed location of the catchment dam as indicated by Mr Khumalo, the Nduna of the area (Standing on the left) Mr. Mhlungu the chair persons of Hlushwana primary schools (Standing middle) and Mr. Ngobese Makhava committee member and member of the inner council (White overalls) Community police member Mr Dlamini squatting in front

The proposed location of the catchment dam as indicated by Mr Khumalo, the Nduna of the area (Standing on the left) Mr. Mhlungu the chair persons of Hlushwana primary schools (Standing middle) and Mr. Ngobese Makhava committee member and member of the inner council (White overalls) Community police member Mr Dlamini squatting in front



With the permission of Chief Gasa Wangwane who gave his blessing, construction on the dam wall commenced. By using local materials and concrete blocks, a stepped dam wall would be built on a suitable bed rock formation in the river bed. The stepped dam wall system allows the water through but prevents the silt from reaching the outlet sump where the pipe leading to the schools is located. (See schematic diagram below)

Lastly a concrete spillway would be constructed to the right hand side of the dam wall to accommodate the overflow.

Schematic of Catchment Dam

Schematic of Catchment Dam


The community came out in great numbers. Male and female, old and young, and lent a helping hand to dig the trenches. The Palms for Life field team were on site on a number of occasions during the contract to ensure that the process was done correctly and that the trenches followed the agreed route and were dug according to the work plan.



Heavy rains washed away the coffer dam and struck a blow to progress on the dam construction. On inspection, it appeared the semi completed dam was still intact and that no major damage was incurred. However the coffer dam which was built to divert the water was destroyed and would need to be reconstructed. This was resurrected speedily and work continued on the main dam wall.


All’s Well That Ends Well – The Finished Dam

Trench being inspected by a Mr. Shlongonyane

Trench being inspected by a Mr. Shlongonyane

Once the trenches were dug to the satisfaction of the PFLF team, the installation of the piping commenced and within approximately two weeks, the piping was down and coupled up.  Numerous dongas, rivers were crossed in order reach the school. In the case of the any major crossing, wire cableways were erected and the piping was attached to the wire accordingly. These cables were anchored to large granite boulders on either side of the river or donga and tensioned by means of a ratchet tensioner. Extra precaution was made to ensure that the cable was sufficiently strong enough and that the anchor points would carry the load of a 40mm PVC pipe full of water. The longest crossing made was approximately 75 metres.

As a prerequisite of the project as requested by Palms for Life and USAID, it was important to train as many local people on various aspects of the project. In this instance, plumbing and specialized building skills were shared with many of the local folks and they took to it with great enthusiasm.


While the pipe was being installed in the trench, members of the community were bringing up the rear and backfilling and compacting the trench in order to prevent erosion which often results in dongas being produced if not done correctly.

While the trenching and piping contract was underway, preparation for the arrival of the much needed water was being made at the schools. Palms for Life had employed the services of Mr. Solomon Dlamini to build a tank stand in Makhava primary school to house three of the 5000lt water tanks. In addition, the builder constructed 4 water stand points within the school grounds where the water would be drawn.

After weeks of hard work and countless obstacles, clean running water finally reaches Makhava and Hlushwana primary schools for the first time in their history. The schools immediately took this opportunity to develop their vegetable gardens and to date the garden are fences and vegetables have been planted and are being cared for.


Garden Component

In anticipation of the imminent arrival of water in the school, the head teacher and student committee set about preparing the gardens for vegetable cultivation. Fruit trees were planted on the 22nd of April and vegetables were planted shortly after when the water arrived.

The following crops were planted in the vegetable garden:

1.            Cabbages – 500 seedlings – 149

2.            Onions – 500 seedlings – 110

3.            Tomato – 100 seedlings – 139.56

4.            Spinach – 50g – 93.9

5.            Green pepper – 100 seedlings – 60.3

6.            Beetroot – 20g – 9.3

Total area planted is = 562.06

Carrots are yet to be planted


This contract shows just how communities can work together. If primed and motivated correctly, rural folk can achieve enormous successes. With funding from USAID, technical backup and monitoring from PFLF and the valuable contribution from dozens of Swazi rural folk, eight thousand metres of PVC piping was laid, kilometers of trenching dug, major rivers and dongas crossed, two large size water tank stands were built, fifteen water stand points constructed, a new toilet block constructed at Hlushwana primary and last but not least, water flowing in once completely dry schools in rural Swaziland.

About 250 members of the surrounding communities benefitted from the project. Many of the community members along the line were lucky enough to receive a water stand point near their kraals from which they can collect clean water directly from the catchment dam. In addition, many of the community members benefitted from the experience in the form of plumbing training and skilled building practices. This proves invaluable as they can now apply for employment with these additional skills

Overall this project was a great success and exceeded the expectation of the Palms for Life team.

Special thanks goes to people of the United States of America for their valuable contribution, to the PFLF team for the technical backup and motivation and to the humble Swazi rural folks for their hard work, determination and goodwill throughout the project

By |2013-08-13T14:00:10+00:00June 27th, 2013|Our Work|0 Comments

About the Author:

Leave A Comment