Despite living in an age, like no other, where information is accessible at the click of a button, people just don’t have time to access, read and digest everything they get their hands on in a meaningful way.  There are not enough lifetimes one can live to absorb everything. This is why, as charities, we are being pushed to find new and innovative ways of getting our message across in an over-saturated ecosystem of soundbites and clickbait journalism. This is why we, at BASEflow, believe in the power of visual story-telling – where pictures tell a story that entertains, educates and, hopefully, inspires to action.

Since its inception, BASEflow has created a series of animated short videos focused on the story of groundwater in Malawi. From simple accounts about the inconvenient power of data to controversial tales about the plight of water officers in rural Malawi, we believe there is no story too boring or uninteresting that does not deserve to be heard and told.

Macmillan Chikhoza conducting the training.

But what excites us more than telling a story is hearing that those stories are having an impact.

One of our animated short videos about preventative maintenance of handpumps in rural Malawi – called ‘Handpumps Everywhere, yet not a drop to drink?’ – was used as a visual training aid by the international NGO, InterAide, to promote the benefits of preventative maintenance as part of encouraging 82 participants, from Dowa, Kasungu, Mchinji and Ntchisi districts, to have service contracts with local water mechanics.

“We used the video to spark the discussion with participants around ……what can we do differently in community financing to help prevent handpump breakdown,” said Macmillan Chikhoza, Project Manager for InterAide in Malawi.

“The video speaks to the real situation on the ground in Malawi, where communities wait to take action after their handpump has completely broken down instead of before through regular servicing. It (the video) came at a time when we were trying to promote Preventative Maintenance (service) Contracts where communities sign a contract with a mechanic who can come to conduct regular servicing of the handpump.” 

Our video helped explain, in simple terms, why preventative maintenance was important by comparing the servicing of a handpump to that of a normal motor vehicle by a local garage. But Macmillan emphasized another added benefit of preventative maintenance to his participants:

“Having a preventative maintenance contract creates more time for the community to concentrate on other spheres of their life. They don’t have to worry about maintaining their handpump – the mechanic will handle that!”

The training sessions ended with the participants agreeing to have water-point fund campaign, in each district, to target harvest time as one way of encouraging people to contribute to a maintenance fund that could cover labor costs and spare parts purchases for 12 months. The participants also agreed to fund raise not less than MWK 70, 000.00 (US$ 96.00) as a start-up for the maintenance fund and also supported the revision of the water mechanics service fee from MWK 6,000 (US$8.24) to MWK12,000 (US$16.48).

Despite this amazing impact the video had, Macmillan has one reservation: “Please make some videos in local languages so we don’t have to translate”.

We are very excited to hear from water practitioners like Macmillan, and organizations like InterAide, and how they are leveraging the power of visual story-telling to get complicated messages across to more people who might not have access to YouTube. Thank you InterAide (and we will try to create more videos in local languages – promise ;-))!

If you are interested in InterAide’s work in Malawi, check out their website here:

If you want to see the preventative maintenance video that InterAide used in their training, click on the YouTube video below.

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