Charles Banda

The Ashoka community mourns the loss of Fellow Charles Julius Banda who passed away on August 5, 2013 in Blantyre Malawi.

Related TopicsCivic Engagement, Waste, Environment & Sustainability


This profile was prepared when Charles Banda was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2013.
The New Idea
Access to safe and affordable drinking water is a very serious problem in the rural areas of Malawi. Charles is providing access to clean water and decent sanitation facilities to rural areas as an entry point to engage people in community development initiatives. Through Freshwater Malawi, Charles drills boreholes in villages and schools to provide safe and clean water for household use so that people no longer rely on contaminated water sources that expose them to fatal waterborne diseases like cholera, typhoid fever and dysentery. Villagers are stimulated to assess their social environment to identify water and sanitation problems themselves. The boreholes are drilled using the simplest raw materials most of which can be sourced locally from the communities, like sand, cement, water, bricks and labor. The community does a self-assessment on what they will be able to source from amongst themselves and contribute to the development and Freshwater provides the rest of the materials including technical expertise. This builds community ownership for the borehole, an aspect which ensures commitment from the whole village towards its sustainability and maintenance, and is concretized by local water supply governance bodies that Charles helps establish.

However, Charles realized that only providing clean water to the communities will not necessarily solve the problem of persistent outbreaks of waterborne diseases if decent sanitation facilities are not available. As such, he conducts campaigns to create awareness of the importance of decent sanitation facilities on top of clean water. Through these campaigns, willing communities approach Freshwater to seek assistance on how to introduce safe sanitation practices throughout the village. Freshwater then assists in building simple and low cost but sustainable pit latrines according to the needs and capabilities of the individual households. The latrines are built in a way that allows the ‘waste’ to be harvested, treated and be used as manure which then helps to boost produce in the kitchen gardens. Further, Freshwater encourages the communities to use surplus income from the kitchen gardens to engage in other community development projects for the village in line with the needs of each respective community.

Through this model, Freshwater has reached out to over 750,000 people with clean water and sanitation services through over 3,000 boreholes and 5,000 pit latrines provided to rural communities within and around Blantyre district. Most of the villages he works, with especially in Blantyre rural area, have reported zero deaths from cholera over the past five years. Further, most communities have gone beyond worrying about the ill effects of water and sanitation and now spend their time engaging in community development initiatives. Freshwater now works in six districts in the Southern region of Malawi and two in the central region, and is planning to scale regionally into neighboring countries.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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