On the day our team visited the Yumbani community, it was stormy, and the roads were nearly impassable as they were slippery with mud. The village is sparsely populated with houses made of bricks and iron sheet roofing. Community members own large pieces of land, some of which they use for farming activities while others remain large bushes and thickets.
The area is prone to receiving little to no rainfall due to climate change, which has worsened the severity of the seasons here. Most community members are farmers, relying on it to make a living. However, due to the unreliable rain patterns and water scarcity challenges, people have to seek other income-generating activities to earn their daily wages such as casual labor jobs, opening small businesses, and operating motorcycles for transportation businesses.
The water crisis has significant adverse effects on the 500 people who live here. Community members have to trek very long distances to reach the nearest water point. The water sources they use are open and exposed to many contaminants including farm chemicals, dust, and animal waste.
Women have to wake up before sunrise in an effort to walk the five kilometers (three miles) to the nearest water source, draw water, and get back home in time to complete their daily household chores. Due to the exhausting walk between home and the water source, most community members - and especially the women - cannot engage in any other productive activities of their choice.
For those community members lucky enough to own a donkey, they take the animals with them to help fetch water. At a maximum, the donkeys can carry four jerrycans of water. Once back home, the women must use the water sparingly to ensure it lasts the day to fulfill the household duties at hand. But the donkeys do not offer any sort of protection to the women as they make their trek to the water in the dark. The women often face great dangers when walking alone to fetch water.
Owning a donkey, however, still does not free a family from their water crisis.
"I have a donkey, and I have established a rainwater collection tank, but the water is never sufficient because there are many needs at home. I have to purchase water for cleaning, drinking, and for our livestock," said Douglas Mutua Mulaa, a 52-year-old farmer.
We also spoke with Ndomiana Nduku Kisilu, a 62-year-old woman who does not own any donkeys. Ndomiana has to pay for someone else to fetch water when she cannot borrow a donkey from a family member or neighbor. The cost of getting water is a hardship.
"The challenges of water scarcity are very deep for me," she said.
Our main entry point into Yumbani Community has been the Wikwatyo Wa Kasunguni Self-Help Group, which comprises households working together to address water and food scarcity in their region. These members will be our hands and feet in constructing water projects and spreading the message of good hygiene and sanitation to everyone.
This particular hand-dug well will be built adjacent to a sand dam project, which will supply clean drinking water once it rains. We have supplied the group with the tools needed for excavation. With our artisans and mechanics' guidance, the excavated well will be cased, sealed with a well pad, and then finished with a new AfriDev pump.
Excavation takes a month or more on average, depending on the nature of the rock beneath. Construction of the well lining and installation of the pump takes 12 days maximum. The well will be lined with a concrete wall including perforations so that once it rains, water will filter in from the sand dam.
This well will bring clean water closer to families.
These community members currently do their best to practice good hygiene and sanitation, but their severe lack of water has hindered reaching their fullest potential.
We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with the Self-Help Group and other community members to teach about important hygiene practices and daily habits to establish at the personal, household, and community level. This training will ensure that participants know they need to make the most out of their new water point as soon as the water is flowing.
One of the most important topics we plan to cover is handling, storing, and treating water. Having a clean water source will be extremely helpful, but it is useless if water gets contaminated by the time it is consumed. We will also emphasize the importance of handwashing.
The community and we strongly believe that all of these components will work together to improve living standards here, which will help to unlock the potential for these community members to live better, healthier lives.
We typically work with self-help groups for 3 to 5 years on multiple water projects. We will conduct follow-up visits and refresher training during this period and remain in contact with the group after all of the projects are completed to support their efforts to improve sanitation and hygiene.