Semambo © Courtesy of Water.org
By Moree Lambeth
Upon meeting Semambo, I discovered she is a determined woman, achieving her potential and living out her dreams. Strong and bold like the coffee she grows, Semambo overcame obstacles that once stood between her and the ability to earn an income to support her family. Semambo needed access to safe water at home to water her crops so she could earn a living. When I met her in 2018, not only did Semambo have access to safe water at home, she also ran a successful coffee farm, a small store, and was putting her children through school.
I met Semambo in person as part of my job at Water.org. I travel a few times each year to the countries where we work to document the stories of the people we serve. Just prior to the pandemic, I traveled to Africa to work in Uganda. When I arrived at Semambo’s property in rural Uganda, she was ready to show me her farm, her world, her success.
As we walked through her coffee farm, I noticed small water bottles scattered about the property. Semambo explained that, before she got rain storage tanks and hosing to distribute water, she hand-watered every plant on her farm.
The farm spanned several acres. She explained that she filled each of the bottles with water she and her children collected from a pond. They would place over-turned bottles in the soil right at the roots of the plants. It was quicker to place them and walk away than to wait for the bottles to empty. At the end of the day, she collected the bottles and repeated the task the next day.
Day after day, Semambo was not sure her water crisis would ever end. Then she was introduced to Water.org’s local partner in Uganda, Post Bank Uganda. Water.org partnered with the bank to add lending for water and sanitation solutions to their portfolio of loan options.
Our approach to help people in need get financing for the basic resources they need to pave a path out of poverty proved powerful for Semambo. After getting approved for a small loan, Semambo was able to fund the installation of two rain storage tanks. The tanks sit near her home where she can filter water for her children to drink, cook, and bathe. And she can run water from a tank throughout her property to keep her crops growing.
Semambo always knew her potential. After getting what she needed to unleash it, she is unstoppable. As we ended our time together, she shared with me her plans to increase the size of her farm. She said when she increases her crops, “I will sell to even more distributors and earn more for my family.”
Many mornings when I brew my coffee, I think about Semambo. Her powerful story of overcoming challenges reminds me why the work of Water.org is so important. We give our everything every day so more women and families around the world can get the safe water solutions they need to survive and thrive.
May Semambo’s story give you a new perspective on this day we celebrate coffee. Behind your strong cup of joe might be a strong, resilient, determined woman whose story was made possible because someone like you gave so she could get access to safe water.
Celebrate International Coffee Day by donating to Water.org. Together we will help transform more lives around the world.