In the Pursuit of “Lobolo”

by Nessia Fausta

1. The Candidates
I was a bit surprising when I realized that I have been in Maputo for a month. What have I obtained in a month? Have I met some ideas and willingness from other parties worth fighting for? For the whole first month I took my time investigating the construction companies; their locations, their monthly water consumption, their source of water and their future plans. At the end of my interviews, I always proposed to them for being our partners to build the pilot project of wastewater treatment plant for concrete production. Does it seem like I am searching for a spouse? It is analogically similar. I looked for their locations, asked them for a speed date, talked about their current conditions and finally showed them my intention by saying, “Will you ‘marry’ me?” Haha. Thus, perhaps it is the time for me to prepare the “lobolo”. Based on the information from my new friends here, lobolo is the term of traditional marriage proposal for the people in Southern Mozambique. In this event, the family of the groom should give some valuable gifts for the family of the bride. It usually includes a set of clothes, kapulanas (traditional cloth, usually used as a skirt or a headscarf), crops, cattle, some amount of money as a symbol of the gratitude for the bride’s parents for giving birth, educate and taking care of her, and some additional requirements which have been listed by the family of the bride. The event continues to a very big party, where people dance and celebrate the union of the couple.

The Practice of Lobolo. Source:

In my case now, 9 from 10 companies that I interviewed have said “I do”. I am very grateful! However, just like the family of the bride, the companies always come with certain requirements. For the pilot plant, our team should give sufficient water supply from the treated wastewater effluent which is reliable in quantity and quality for producing concrete. That means we need a perfect location and for the pilot plant. Unfortunately, we cannot afford it for all companies. We have to choose the most potential companies which are close to one another and have good access to any wastewater source.

Potential Candidates
The potential candidates.

There are some alternatives that we can take; the wastewater treatment plant in Infulene, the main sewer of Maputo which crosses the centre of some big streets, the small wastewater treatment plant near the fish market (Mercado do Peixe) in Marginal street or the effluent discharges from other industries. After some studies and discussions, we agreed that our pilot plant location should be in the place which is the closest to the majority of the companies.
To identify which companies are close to one another and can be chosen as the candidates of our partners, I began mapping their coordinates with some help from Noor’s colleague for GIS modelling. We have not finished yet, but so far we can see that the majority of the companies are located around Machava (right after the wastewater treatment plant), along with other big industries, such as Coca-Cola factory, laundry service company and a brewery (2M beer). As an additional important fact: the Department of Sanitation for Maputo also produces its own concrete blocks, paves and latrines for all sewer and drainage facilities in the city. The factory is in the office of the Department of Sanitation and the source is tap water. It will be advantageous to reuse the water right away from the effluent at the same location.
There are also three big companies that are located near the main sewer, but the tapping points are hard to be seen, reached and measured. None of them are located near the fish market, so we can delete this last option.

2. The Requirements
Just the same as the lobolo, the companies gave us some requirements, which are similar to one another: sufficient water quantity and quality for their concrete. The new sources should be at least similar to their current sources; tap water, groundwater boreholes, river or external providers by trucks.
Most of the companies are aware that Maputo is facing water scarcity problem, and are willing to use other resources than tap water or groundwater. They even understand if the government has to create a new regulation that all industries have to use treated wastewater for their process source, as long as the quality and quantity can be guaranteed.

Potential Sources
The Potential Wastewater Sources: Can I give a replacement for the existing ones?

3. The Preparation
To impress my “future brides”, I should prepare myself to convince them that I can meet their requirements. Thus, I conducted some field and laboratory experiments in my chosen location, the wastewater treatment plant.
Together with Nalda, I conducted the first field measurement and sampling. We were accompanied by Botelho Ferro, the engineer from wastewater treatment plant. We got some first impressions about the treatment plant, conducted the flow measurement, took samples and also shared great stories along the way through the very large and open-space treatment plant.

Field Measurements and Collecting Samples in Infulene.

The next day, I started the laboratory measurement with António. It was fun and we succeeded learning how to use some new devices. We were assisted by Dona Maria, a very cheerful technician who likes to talk with everyone. Unfortunately, we short of time and we could only test turbidity. We planned to analyse some parameters; chlorine, nitrogen, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, phosphate, sulphate and alkalinity using spectrophotometer but it was not succeeded because the test kits of the new device are not arrived yet. But, we won’t give up.

Laboratory Analysis in UEM Engineering Lab.

4. The Reward
After challenging days in the field and lab, I was very glad to be invited by some friends to see the rehearsal of UEM student orchestra. They played some jazz rhythm in a classical way. They even asked me to play with them, haha. They are preparing their annual concert in May. I hope I can see their performance!

UEM Orchestra
Rehearsal of UEM Orchestra.

As a closing note, all efforts that we made have to be returned back to the companies themselves and the people in Maputo in general. Saving, reusing and recycling water should be a habit, not only an event. It is a long-time investment, not only a trend. If the people start thinking about their future of water supply, they will understand why we are pursuing this approach.
In the end of our long days, the sky of Maputo always gave us a relaxing and calming sunset. It felt like a sign for us to keep on going and hoping, just because we want to preserve that beautiful image for the future. Dear “future brides”, please wait for our lobolo!

A Warm Greeting from Maputo.

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