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).
Kisaila Self-Help Group was formed in the year 2011 by 24 females and 14 males. The average size of each household is six. 32% of people are in the age bracket of 18‐35 years, while 36% are of the ages 35‐60 years and 32% are of the ages of 60 and over. This is a balanced group in terms of having both the youthful and the elderly; a perfect blend for executing heavy work such as building a sand dam! The elderly provide wise counsel while the youth use their hands and feet.
The population of this area is estimated to be 790 community members who come from 38 different households. (Editor’s Note: While this many people may have access on any given day, realistically a single water source can only support a population of 350-500 people. This site would make a great location for a second project. To learn more, click here.)
The group united to find ways of improving their living situation. The main activities that the group engage in include welfare services such as merry-go-round (collecting finances that are given to one member each month), and supporting each other with farming. Of particular concern to the group was the drying up of their main water source.
The Current Source
"This place is always very hot and dry during the dry seasons of the year. Usually, water becomes a major challenge in this time... Worse still is that this water is not clean for human consumption, but we have no choice. Cases of waterborne diseases such as typhoid, amoeba are very high in this area. Am certain that with water from the sand dam which has a protected shallow well will be safe for us to drink. We will witness a drop of these diseases," says self-help group chairman Anthony Maweu Mwaluko.
River Mithini used to be permanent, and is the only natural source for the entire community. Degradation of the banks has affected the persistence of water in the river during the dry seasons. The water used to be available throughout the year but just recently started drying up during June. This leaves the community in desperation, spending more than one hour to fetch water from any alternative source. 84% of the respondents fetch water from the river. Alternative water sources in the area include a borehole where people are charged 30 Kenyan shillings per 20-liter jerrican of water, a price which very few can afford.
To access water at the river, community members dig scoop holes which are fenced with thorny bushes to prevent the entry of unwanted people and livestock. The livestock have their designated points where they go to drink water. Before fetching water at the scoop hole , an individual will scoop away stagnant water and allow the water to recharge. However, degradation of the river has increased the amount of time that water flows, so recharging a scoop hole can take quite a bit of time. During the dry seasons, even more time is spent in line as people wait for the scoop holes to refill.
Past experience with water shortage has taught the community to invest in reservoirs with large capacity. These are a common item within households, with most having a 200 to 300-liter water tank. Most of the group's families have children who are still in school. Most families are able to afford day schools, which afford children time to also help their parents fetch water. During the weekends, this is the main assignment of children: to fill the large reservoirs and spare their parents frequent trips to the water source. Waterborne disease has been reported after consumption of the river's water, especially during the dry seasons.
100% of households have a pit latrine, most of which are made of mud walls and iron-sheeted roofs. The group is located near a main town, so the income of the self-help members is fairly stable. This was obvious in that the quality of latrines is far above normal, with a few walls painted and even some doors that lock! They are comfortable and cleaned regularly.
Over 75% of households have tools like dish racks and clotheslines. Most also have a dust bin kit within their homes, and a compost pit outside in the back of their yards. Because most of the group members received a formal education, they understand the implications and consequences of poor hygiene. Hygiene is perceived as a symbol of class and well-being.
Solution: Sand Dam
The self-help group has always wanted a sand dam. Of their own volition, members have already been able to gather stones at a designated point near the river. One member from the community attended a forum organized by ASDF, where they met and started a community-organization relationship. After visits from staff, it was determined that the group showed willingness and preparedness to have this sand dam constructed.
The dam is projected to be 21.2 meters long and 5.6 meters high. A hand-dug well is being built alongside this dam so that as the water table rises, this water will be a safe and accessible alternative to scoop holes.
Group members will be trained over the course of three days:
Day 1: Members will see presentations about the consequences of poor hygiene and sanitation. Members will participate through providing daily experiences of the practices commonly used.
Day 2: Members will be introduced to some common hygiene practices such as hand-washing and the need for tippy taps (hand-washing stations), household cleanliness, water treatment, and many other topics.
Day 3: Members will come up with an action plan of implementing some of the practices learned, and will provide a schedule of when they will actually implement these.
The facilitator will use a mixture of PHAST (Participatory Health and Sanitation Training) and lectures to teach the above lessons.
Project Results: Training
The community decided that training should be conducted at a group member's compound. This was done to provide a conducive environment for the community to learn. The venue was chosen also because it is central to the community. It also has a kitchen for cooking the lunches that were provided by ASDF so that training could go uninterrupted. The training was organized in late April to allow the community enough time to work on their farms. The rains usually subside in May, hence the community could have time to attend training.
The community actively participated during training. By being arranged in smaller groups, each and everyone had the chance to contribute to each topic discussed. Each member gave examples of their daily practices regarding hygiene and sanitation in their households; this activity made training relevant and applicable for all participants.
The main topics covered were: common causes of waterborne diseases and how to prevent them, water treatment, sanitation facilities, and the community's role in maintaining clean and safe water points. The facilitator used demonstrations, discussions, lectures, and other PHAST methods to teach the above topics. The training team also demonstrated how to build a tippy-tap handwashing station. Community members could apply some of the practices they learned immediately after training, such as treating water, washing hands, and constructing dish racks and clotheslines. Farmer Agnes Pius, a woman who benefited from hygiene and sanitation training said, "I now now that clear water may not be safe water! It is only treatment of water that makes water safe for drinking."
Construction on the Kisaila Self-Help Group's new sand dam began on February 3rd. There were many phases to construction, including these three main phases:
- Mobilization of local resources
- Trenching for the basement rock
- Building up of the actual sand dam
The community members spent five hours, three days per week during January to collect all of the necessary materials. Using the same schedule in February, the community began trenching the riverbed to reach the rock basement. This proved challenging because this began immediately after rains subsided, so the riverbed was still flowing full of water. Construction of the actual sand dam began in late February and continued until mid-March.
The community members made huge contributions to the completion of this sand dam. The number of people showing up for work was above average, and they worked longer than required. They even chose to work six days a week! The majority of participants were young and had not done this kind of work before. They were eager to complete the task!
The main challenge during construction was a lack of sand. The community had to buy sand from elsewhere, and gathering the funds took longer than usual. There were misunderstandings about who should come forward with funds. Once ASDF stepped in to make sure the self-help group was held accountable for their financial management, these funds could be procured.
The sand dam ended up being 3.45 meters high and 51.7 meters long.
The community has also dug terraces on both sides of the sand dam to prevent erosion. They will also designate separate water points for humans and livestock. The self-help group has been registered with the Ministry of Water so that the community can also work with the government to develop and maintain their water projects.
The community members are very excited to have a sand dam at River Mithini. Once construction was completed, farmer Jackson Katumo said that "the sand dam will help in providing water to the community throughout the year. We intend to use the water to grow vegetables as income for generations."
Thank You for your generosity towards the Kisaila Self-Help Group and their community. You have provided hope for the future!