This project is a part of our shared program with Africa Sand Dam Foundation. Our team is pleased to directly share the below report (edited for clarity, as needed).
This area has an approximate population of 500 community members from 24 different households.
For a normal day, fetching water takes a big chunk of the available hours. Monday, Saturday and Sunday are the primary days for fetching water. On Tuesday and Thursday, parents of students in the area meet for child sponsorship projects. Wednesday is the market day.
The Kyusyani Self-Help Group started in 2015. Mwikali Muteti, the secretary of the group explains, "Water was the major challenge. From River Tyaa, one took more than three hours. At the river, we had to queue to over eight hours. We used to help each other in terrace-digging in our farms and when we started working with the organization, they showed us how to dig the standard ones and also apply manure to improve yields in our farms. We also used to help each other in paying school fees for our children. Since we started working as a group, we constructed a sand dam then established a vegetable plot. The benefits are that we have water close to our homes, to me, I am very close to the sand dam. The environment is green now along the river compared to before."
She concludes by saying that "There’s a big difference in my home. I have planted trees in my farm and again after the farming training, my farm is different from my neighbor's. In the future, now that we have water, we will never suffer again. Our children are happy after the yields are big in our farms. Our major challenge was members not attending the group and also water was a challenge. [But] we are now 24 members."
The county government has initiated a number of water projects in the entire Kitui county. In this particular area, the government commissioned the excavation of a borehole, but the water turned out to be too saline for drinking. The county officials have deemed sand dams and hand-dug wells to be feasible projects, as they will effectively support uses beyond just drinking e.g. farming and watering livestock.
The Current Source
During the water-fetching days, families fetch water over two trips to cushion them against the other days they don't travel to the water point. These days are characterised by long lines at each of the water stations. These stations are scoop holes at the River Tyaa, where the self-help group built their first sand dam. 20-liter jerrycans are used to fetch water, and are cleaned when at the river by swishing sand and water around. When locals get this water home, they keep it in the same fetching container until it is all gone. Most families boil the river water before drinking, but cases of typhoid and amoeba illnesses have been reported.
Over 75% of households have pit latrines made of mud walls and earth floors. About the same number of people have dish racks and clotheslines built to dry their things off the ground. Previous interventions by other groups left out water projects and concentrated only on waste disposal. The community is more aware of proper waste disposal, but lacks knowledge on basic hygiene practices like hand-washing and water treatment.
Solution: Hand-Dug Well
This is the first project ASDF has done with this community. The community will be responsible for preparing before construction begins, gathering local materials such as sand and stones, and finding enough people to volunteer as labor. The self-help group and their families have already shared their willingness to do so, as well as maintain the well after it is installed.
The well will be placed adjacent to the sand dam built by the group. Construction is expected to take one month and consists of digging, walling, lining with concrete, casting a well pad, and installing the Afridev pump.
The self-help group will be trained for two days using the PHAST (Participatory Health and Sanitation Training) method, presentations, demonstrations, on-site lessons and a transect walk. The transect walk will teach locals to watch for practices that go on and facilities that are present related to good health and hygiene. Sometimes, a participant feels shame when the group arrives at their household and points out things that are unhealthy or unhygienic; but in Kenya, this affects people to make a positive change.
After initial visits to this area, the facilitator decided to focus on raising awareness on the importance of hand-washing and water treatment.
The training was held at the community sand dam site. This is where the community usually meets. The point was selected for ease of accessing it by all members of the community. It was organized one month before it actually was done. The training dates were selected in consultation with the community in consideration with other related activities. Since it was going to be a two-day training, the community had to be informed early in advance to ensure that members plan for other activities.
The daily attendance to the training was 28 members (23 females, 5 males). This included members of the self help group, but also members of the community who had not previously been a part of the group. The main topics covered included
- Water treatment
- Hand washing
- Compound hygiene
- Personal hygiene
- Methods of disease transmission
Methods used for the training included PHAST (Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Training), group discussions, diagrams, and presentations. The immediate results of the training were general increased awareness on hygiene and sanitation. The community also developed a simple action plan that emphasizes the activities to be undertaken at the household in order to adhere to the laid standards in the training conducted. The activities included in the action plan involve hand washing and tippy tap construction, utensil rack construction, and rubbish pit construction, among others.
Kakivu Mwedwa, a local farmer, said, "I have learned how basic practices like hand washing can help keep diseases away from the family."
Shallow Well Construction
The shallow well is situated next to the sand, dam providing it with a natural way to recharge as the sand dam matures. The depth of the shallow well reaches the water table level where naturally the underground water will be recharged. Regulations by the community in terms of when water will be fetched, such as a detailed schedule for fetching, water will help regulate the natural recharging process of the shallow well. Periodic water quality tests will be done to ascertain the quality of water.
The construction process took two and a half months due to poor turn out to work by the SHG group members. On average, 4 to 5 members turned up to support the artisans in the construction process. This is because of the members’ involvement in farm activities that were happening at the same time. This year the area received sufficient rains, hence there were good harvests. The excavation of the well also took more time than expected due to the prolonged rains that spilled over to February. The group resorted to hiring casual laborers to be involved in the excavation at a fee. The community provided the labor, stones, sand, and water that was used during construction.
"The construction process was very difficult but seeing the results of our work (water) we are very happy and fulfilled," said Tabitha Muimi, one of the residents.
The project has attracted great support and attention from the local government. The county government was able to excavate the road leading to the water point in order to allow easy access by all the water users. The project has also been used as a bench mark for other organizations intending to invest in sand dams, such as The Kenya Electricity Generating Company(KENGEN). Officials toured the site to learn on how the sand dams and shallow wells have changed lives. They intend to do similar projects in future in their area of operation.
Thank You to all who made this project possible. Thank You for unlocking potential!