In Tanzania, access to drinking water is a daily challenge for many people. Many fountains and water pumps are old or malfunctioning, so people rely on the rivers to cover their water needs. To improve the sanitary conditions in rural Tanzania, non-profit Pump for Life replaces old water pumps with water tanks, giving people access to clean fountain water. Alphoncina Kanyeto is the manager of Pump for Life and attended our Water Entrepreneur Program with Swiss Re Foundation in 2017. The program helped her to transform her organization by becoming a real leader who inspires her team and uses scarce resources more efficiently. Pump for Life has modernized 155 pumps so far, providing approximately 30,000 people with clean water.
Alphoncina (in black top) next to one of the water pumps her organization takes care of.
Tell us 3 facts that people should know about you.
I´m passionate about working in the water and sanitation sector, especially with marginalized communities.
I´m excited to watch the impact of my business Pump for Life on Tanzanian communities. Every day, I observe how challenges are turned into chances.
When I was a child I lived in a very remote village. During school holidays, my parents would send me to the town to learn new things and expand my knowledge. For me, this was a window to the world. Whereas people in the Western world send their children to the countryside to learn new things, my parents sent me to the town to learn.
Why did you decide to participate in our program?
I wanted to strengthen our organization and I wanted to improve my leadership skills. A couple of years ago, we had participated in the Water Entrepreneurship Program with Swiss Re. BOOKBRIDGE was one of the facilitators connecting us to other organizations and resources. When Carsten from BOOKBRIDGE came to Tanzania to visit our project and told me about the program, I saw the chance to improve Pump for Life and my own skills.
Since I had meanwhile become the manager of Pump for Life, I realized that the program would provide me with the great opportunity to develop my skills as a leader.
Before, I had led a small project within the organization. But becoming the manager of the entire organization meant I had to work very differently and had to learn to allocate and manage our resources in the right way.
What do you remember as a highlight of your work with BOOKBRIDGE?
There were two important moments for me. Carsten asked us to reflect on leadership issues and emotions. Wait, emotions? This was very new for me as in my society, officially reflecting on emotions is not common. So reflecting not only on the program, but also on the emotions involved, was an eye-opener. Today, I include this in my work with my team – reflecting on ourselves and our feelings about our project and the team. It helps us to identify possible conflicts earlier.
Another moving moment I will always remember was at the “hippo strip”: this is a place at our local river where many hippos live. When taking the team from Europe there we started to sing a Kisuaheli song together and everyone got very emotional. We hugged each other, moved by our community and celebrating our achievements.
At the hippo beach, Alphoncina (in light blue shirt) had a special moment of uniting with her team.
Which impact did BOOKBRIDGE have on your private and professional life?
BOOKBRIDGE helped me to become the leader of Pump for Life. The program not only taught me crucial skills but also gave me the chance to apply them directly. I learnt how to be a leader, how to organize our resources and – very importantly – how to inspire my team. I grew a lot personally, learning about myself and my role as a leader.
For my organization, the program was extremely helpful as it helped us to define our goals and mission and to create new revenue streams. During the program, my colleagues and I learned how to develop a business and how to generate new ideas for revenue resources. In the end, we managed both to optimize our costs and increase our revenue.
The crucial point was when we identified a way to reduce maintenance and acquisition costs for new pumps for the communities. We introduced a water tank system that not only helps to save money (to invest in new, modern pumps), they also significantly improve access to clean water: instead of pumping, people can just open the tap . With the old pumps, pumping was hard and tiring work, almost impossible for old people and children. The new tank system provides a 1,000-litre tank with an easy-to-open tap, tremendously improving community access to clean water.
Thanks to new water tanks, people in the countryside have access to clean water.
Personally, the program helped me to set my personal career goals. I learned to participate with impact: what impact do I want to achieve with what I´m doing? Now, every time I do something, I ask myself what impact I want to see at the end.
Can you name more examples of the program's impact?
The skills I learned during the program helped me to organize my work better and to better lead my team. Our trainings are a good example: previously, when training the people who would do the pump maintenance, we focused purely on the technical aspects. With the BOOKBRIDGE experiences behind me, I introduced some of those methods to our trainings. The most impactful one was probably changing our way of improving through feedback: at the beginning of a training, I now start with getting participants to write down their ideas, pinning them on a board and then discussing them openly.
During the BOOKBRIDGE program, Alphoncina learned management methods and approaches she can now use in her own organization.
In the beginning, this was quite new for them. People felt ashamed expressing their ideas openly. But when they discovered that every idea was appreciated and considered worthy of discussion, they quickly accepted the new approach. Offering them a protected space in which they could present their suggestions to improve processes, or offer solutions, showed them that their role as team member was highly appreciated. This has led to a higher sense of participation and to increased motivation in my team.
Another thing that was very useful for us was to experience web conferences. During the program, I met regularly with the European team on Zoom. It helped me so much to communicate my ideas, challenges and concerns that I later applied it to my organization. Today, we use Zoom a lot to communicate with people in remote areas.
Thank you Alphoncina for sharing your experience and your learnings with us. We are proud that you are part of our BOOKBRIDGE Family!