How Underprivileged Communities Open up Jobs for Engineers

Illona Hartman

Illona Hartman,
Junior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 16 September 2018

In the summer of 2014, the year prior to transferring to Ohio University, I traveled to Swaziland for a mission trip.


Swaziland is a small kingdom in Southern Africa. This country is surrounded by the ocean and shares a border with both South-Africa and Mozambique.


Swaziland is a defined as a third world country. Similar to South-Africa, the kingdom of Swaziland itself and the government is not poor. However, the division between the poor and the rich communities is tremendous. For example, both countries have big Western shopping malls and massive tourism. On the other hand, those nations also know many underprivileged communities with water supply shortages and one of the highest HIV rates in the world.


Swaziland has the geographical benefit of mountains which is the biggest supplier for water in the cities. This water is drinkable without much treatment because of the natural sand and gravel layers in this mountainous area that filter the water. Nevertheless, access to water and the availability are becoming more scarce. Furthermore, water supply is often only accessible to those that are considered elite.


Swaziland is heavily dependent on its groundwater. Roughly 90% of the population, mainly in rural areas, use groundwater as their main water source. Currently only 10% of the 3,000 existing boreholes provide clear water. Most of the boreholes were drilled in this kingdom since 1980.

The main reason for the low percentages is the failure to fix existing water pumps when they break down. About 28% of water systems in rural areas broke down over the past 40 years and have not been fixed due to the lack of education and knowledge of the SiSwati population. In addition, during 2014 and 2016 Swaziland experienced a decrease in rainfall resulting in food scarcity.

It is clear that Swaziland, just like many other African countries, is dealing with drought and water scarcity issues. For this reason, a lot of foreign investors decide to do businesses elsewhere which has an enormous effect on the country’s economics too. Less access to clean water also has an immense health impact on the already high rates of HIV.

A solution could be a change in education system to start educating SiSwati citizens on how to properly reinstall and fix the water pumps that broke down in the past. Investing in exchange programs with Western universities to send civil engineers and environmentalists could also help rebuild those water systems. Those decisions will be up to the king Mswati III who is currently ruling the country.

Another environmental issue in Swaziland is the process of breaking down trash and treating wastewater. Currently there are no or limited regulations on trash logistics. Most trash of poor communities is collected in piles and burned on the hills. This has a tremendous effect on the environment. Simultaneously, it serves for job opportunities for civil engineers to come up with applicable solutions for the societal, health, economic, and environmental issues that Swaziland is facing today.

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