Water is running from taps for the first time in Mpumalanga’s rural Dixie village where about 175 families have faced a daily battle to find water that is safe to use and drink. As well as a fundamental human right, access to clean water is essential to protect people against the Coronavirus by allowing them to wash their hands regularly and keep surfaces clean.

The sustainable water system, built in just six weeks, relies on solar energy and gravity to pump water from boreholes into 15 taps that were installed across the village. It has been made possible through Eurolab’s corporate social investment programme.

Daily battle to find water is over for Dixie villagers

For decades, people living in the Dixie Village have had no running water in their village. Up until the Easter weekend when the system was activated, community members were walking long distances with buckets or pushing wheelbarrows with containers to find water. Others were packing hired bakkies with containers to travel even further in search of water.

Gabe Simaan, Chairman of Eurolab, says, “The water system in the Dixie village is sustainable – the community here will continue to have access to clean running water for years to come. Furthermore, there are no running costs, easing the financial burden that most people living in Dixie face on a daily basis. In addition, they no longer have to spend money on transport to get to water.”

When the Covid-19 lock-down began towards the end of March, community members were unable to leave the village in search of water. Thankfully, the water challenges in this poor rural community had come to the attention of Eurolab as far back as 2019.

After identifying the right technical partner to build the water system in Dixie, funds were identified, and work began.

Eurolab helps residents in the face of Covid-19

“When construction of the water system in Dixie began earlier this year, little did we know that we were on a very urgent deadline to deliver clean water to this community before the coronavirus began spreading across our country,” says Simaan.

Eurolab also supports the Dixie community by providing monthly food parcels and sponsoring skills development and training courses to help people living in the village find employment.

The right technical partner and community buy-in

In keeping with Eurolab’s culture of innovation a partner that would provide an environmentally sustainable solution whilst respecting the community’s culture was identified. Innovation Africa is a specialist NGO with a solid track record in building sustainable water and energy systems in rural communities throughout Africa.

Earlier this year, representatives of Eurolab and Innovation Africa visited the elders and the people of Dixie to introduce the project.

Access to safe water – essential for human health and development

Speaking to the community, Eurolab’s Gavin Steel said, “Water safety and quality are fundamental to human development and well-being. Access to safe water is one of the most effective instruments in promoting health and reducing poverty. While our business focuses on cancer care and taking quality chemotherapy to people in rural areas, as a healthcare company, water is a crucial issue for us too. Water, health and human dignity are the cornerstones of this project.”

Community participation

 Construction took place with the full buy-in of the community and in close consultation with the Mnisi tribal authority. A water committee was established, and ten Dixie community members were employed on the project. They have now acquired skills that they can now offer to future construction or water projects.

The count-down to Dixie’s new water system  

The development of the system that pumps water from boreholes into 15 taps strategically located across the village took place in phases.

Abraham Ngobeni, chief operating officer at Innovation Africa, said, “We used advanced technology to find water, and our engineers first focused on identifying dolerite dykes. Once we found the water, we followed five key steps to complete the project.”

  1. Drilling – Technical teams drilled to the aquifer to reach clean water and create boreholes.
  2. Construction – A structure was built, a solar pump installed and a 10,000-litre water tank was fitted with solar panels.
  3. Piping – The community workers dug trenches for the piping.
  4. Training – Innovation Africa’s project managers and specialist engineers conduct training with the Dixie community on how to use the water system and minimise waste.
  5. Implementation – Clean water started flowing from 15 taps spread across the village.

“Ongoing monitoring of the water system will take place to troubleshoot any issues. This monitoring is done remotely as well as on-site,” said Abraham. “We have also registered each borehole in Dixie with the Department of Water and Sanitation.”

“It’s difficult to believe that in South Africa today there are still communities without clean running water. As a healthcare company, we decided to put this right,” says Mr Simaan. “And the project was completed in the nick of time.”

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*In the photo above: The Eurolab and Innovation Africa team with Patrick Gumede who coordinates Eurolab’s CSI contributions with village leaders

A Dixie community member celebrates running water in her village

One of the 15 taps installed in the Dixie village

Dixie community members were trained by Innovation Africa to build and maintain the water system. Ten community members were employed to build the sustainable water system.