Pfarelo Ramugondo has been awarded the Order of Baobab by President Jacob Zuma and honoured by the Water Research Commission.
MATLHATSI DIBAKWANE 

WHEN she got a call from the Presidency, Pfarelo Ramugondo - who hails from a small village in Limpopo - was overwhelmed.

Ramugondo,42, who started a project to bring water to the village, was honoured with a presidential Order of the Baobab in Bronze for outstanding service in April. Now she has been honoured again, this time by the Water Research Commission (WRC) at an event at Leriba Lodge in Centurion.

Seven years ago this month, Ramugondo, a single unemployed parent, started a project named Tshikofokofo Adopt a River to mobilise approximately 100 people, mainly women, in her community. Her aim was to clean up their water resources including the rivers, wetlands, springs and wells in their village, in order to have drinkable water.

Water in her village was a serious crisis as they did not have taps, and those that existed were mostly dry. Source water was being harmed by dumping.

“When I saw how my people were misusing the little water resources we had, I realised that I must step in to remove the rubbish accumulated in order to save my community members’ lives,” she said.

Ramugondo said she had relied on the Vhembe authorities to one day provide them with clean water, but when she realised that she could not rely on the them to deliver safe water for them, she took the initiative because, as a mother, she did not want to see people get sick from water.

She was recognised for her exceptional contribution to the upliftment of African communities who were faced with oppression and social injustice.

“To see President Jacob Zuma honouring me earlier this year, and getting awarded again now (by the WRC), I’m honoured.

“It feels unreal but I am proud to be there to help my people,” Ramugondo said.

The WRC celebrated women at the Centurion event by showcasing opportunities in self-employment for women in the water and related sectors by highlighting case studies of existing enterprises owned and led by women and introducing entrepreneurship in water as a post-qualification option for students.

Chief executive Dhesigen Naidoo said the women in the water sector were providing solutions for their personal empowerment but also for the broader society.

Ramugondo’s project has led to other similar projects.