The water situation in Yumbani Community is truly desperate. Kwa Mutuku River, where community members fetch their water, is seasonal. Once the rains have elapsed, the river vanishes. Fetching water is the most strenuous and time-consuming part of their days.
"Water scarcity is a big challenge here," said Domiana Nduku, 61. She is pictured below fetching water from a scoophole. "At the moment, the land is very bare and we are unable to engage in any farming activities due to insufficient water supply. We do not have enough food. We are unable to plant trees to protect our environment as there is [an] inadequate water supply. We have to walk for very long distances in search for water."
When the water table is high, usually immediately after the rainy season, it takes less than an hour to fetch water and get back home. But during the dry season, it can take two hours just waiting in a queue to fetch water at the riverbed. Locals dig scoopholes in the riverbed, which are open and contaminated by humans, animals, farm chemicals, dust, and surface runoff.
Although typhoid is the most commonly reported ailment in Yumbani Community, the community members also have regular issues with cholera and dysentery.
"Now, it is challenging to get water for drinking, cooking, washing clothes, and washing hands," said 4-year-old Gladys (who is very photogenic - see the picture below). "My mother has to walk for long looking for water to use here at home. Lack of water makes life very difficult."
Most community members live in poverty. If they're close enough to the riverbed, community members can rely on subsistence farming of crops such as maize, green grams, beans, cowpeas, and pigeon peas. Others who live farther away rely on casual labor, which is never guaranteed, as this involves working on the farms of other community members, which can only be done when the owners of the farm have crops or money to spare. Almost all of the community's youth have migrated to the urban areas to search for better-paying jobs. The elderly depend on their families. And all this, according to Domiana, would change for the better if the community members had a readily available source of reliable, safe water.
"If we had water or would get water near us, we would do a lot to change our environment and also improve our livelihoods," Domiana concluded.
Reliable Water for Yumbani
Our main entry point into this 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 provided the group with the tools needed for excavation. With the guidance of our artisans and mechanics, 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 significantly hindered reaching their fullest potential.
We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with the Self-Help Group and other community members to teach essential hygiene practices and daily habits to establish at the personal, household, and community levels. This training will help to ensure that participants have the knowledge 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, storage, and water treatment. Having a clean water source will be extremely helpful, but it is useless if water gets contaminated when it is consumed. We will also emphasize the importance of handwashing.
The community and we firmly 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.