Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program
Back in 1987 when the Kumina Wauni Self-Help Group (SHG) was formed, life was relatively easy. Farmers experienced huge harvests! But in the late 1990s, water in all the main rivers began to dry up, and rainy seasons passed by with no rain. The closest river became Athi, which is more than a 12-kilometer journey. Half the day became fetching water, and there was never enough for fertile farms. Drinking this water also resulted in water-related diseases, and some group members even died.
Kumina Wauni means “to finish thirst.” They joined together with us to fight water scarcity by building sand dams on the riverbeds that used to flow with water.
The group has been successful in building some nearby sand dams, which make water accessible by digging holes in the riverbed. However, these holes are open to contamination and are not safe for human consumption.
As rains failed and the rivers dried up, agriculture could no longer support farmers and their families. The community started relying on relief food which was unfairly distributed to families. That’s when the overlooked families decided to take things into their own hands, uniting and mobilizing to address water and food insecurity.
Kumina Wauni SHG was thus formed, pledging to bring water back to the dry riverbeds through sand dam technology. As more sand dams are being built, these farmers once again have enough water for their crops. Now, holes are dug in the riverbed by the dam to fetch water for farming, cleaning, and drinking. All who drink this water are continuously subjecting themselves to waterborne diseases like typhoid and cholera. They are still in need of clean water from a protected source. They can’t find that from an open hole in the ground, but that’s just what a hand-dug well with a pump will provide!
Not only is the water consumed by Kumina Wauni members and their families dirty, but so are many homes, facilities, and belongings. Even the water containers are neglected, with green algae growing on the bottom and sides.
We’ve been working with this group since 2011, though, and have seen great improvements in latrine use. Open defecation is no longer an issue, with 100% of families having their own pit latrine. Most also have their own bathing room for personal hygiene.
Our staff has had a continuous relationship with Kumina Wauni. After assessing the current strengths and weaknesses of sanitation facilities and hygiene practices of this community, trainers have decided to focus on the daily habits that are not yet embraced: hand-washing, cleaning utensils, and using helpful tools like dish rack and clotheslines. Only about half of the community had built dish racks and clotheslines to dry their belongings up off the ground. Our trainers will continue to teach the importance of each practice; they’re not just trivial suggestions! There are germ-filled consequences to drying shirts and dishes on the ground.
This training will also be a great opportunity to encourage them about what they’re doing right, such as using latrines and composting garbage.
This project presents a new technology to the SHG. Our artisans will remain on the site to coach local men and women through construction of their own well, which will be lined with concrete and finished with a new AfriDev pump. This will be located next to the group’s first sand dam, which is fully mature with enough water to be safely accessed through a pump.
72-year-old farmer Rebecca Katuvee is motivated by the improvements that came with the sand dams. She told us, “Our work has borne fruits. We were the first community to have sand dams in the area. They have changed our lives! However, we still do not have enough clean water. The shallow well will be used to reduce clean water scarcity.”
ASDF are a Kenyan NGO that helps farmers in arid and semi arid lands gain access to clean water as well as improve their income and food security. Their mission is to enable communities to conserve soil and water by building sand dams, digging terraces, planting trees, and developing farms.