It was a sunny morning when we first traveled to Ndithi Village. Ndithi is found in the Mwingi area, which is more than 300 kilometers away from the main offices in Mtito Andei. Based on the distance involved and the number of projects in this area, we camped at Mwingi Town for several days to cover as many projects as possible in one visit.
We went to Ndithi to meet with members of the Ndithi Tuinuke Self-Help Group. This group of farmers wants to tackle water and food scarcity in their arid region, so we have partnered with them to achieve these goals. We plan to install their first sand dam and hand-dug well system to bring water nearby.
This type of intervention helps people to improve their lives. Unpredictable rainfall patterns have made it impossible to guarantee water for communities all year round, as most rivers in Southeastern Kenya are seasonal. Sand dams harvest rainwater where it falls, making it available to the community until their next rain season.
1,054 people are living in this area. From our survey, we found 51% of the people here depend on farming as their main source of income while 37% are casual laborers and the remaining 13% run small businesses. The source of one's income does not depend on the level of education that one has achieved. Some 73% of the respondents reported earning an average income of fewer than 3,000 shillings ($30) in a month.
For an average day in the community, women and children wake up at 6:00am, go to fetch water, and prepare breakfast for the family as the children get ready for school. The men normally take care of their livestock in the morning.
Fetching water is a big ordeal and can take up to 5 hours. The main water source is found at a sandy, seasonal riverbed in the community. Holes are dug in the sand until water pools, giving them the name "scoop holes." These scoop holes are completely unprotected to all forms of contamination. Nonetheless, community members use this water for drinking, cooking, bathing, and cleaning.
Most of the community members walk for long distances to access these scoop holes, with some covering more than 3 kilometers to reach the water source. The available scoop holes are found on a seasonal river channel and always run dry during the dry season. This forces the community to walk even longer distances in search of alternative water sources. Available water levels at the channel are low and unable to meet the needs of the huge village population.
"Water problems have been severe in our village," said Mr. Mwanzia Muli.
"We are always forced to travel for long distances looking for water from open river scoop holes. At the end of the day, the available water is not safe for human consumption and has led to people suffering from amoeba and typhoid after drinking the unsafe water."
What we can do:
We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with Ndithi Tuinuke Self-Help Group, which are also open to non-members. These will teach important hygiene practices and daily habits to establish in the community at the personal and household levels. Taking good care of oneself and the environment will make for a healthier community.
During our baseline sanitation and hygiene coverage survey, we found the following levels of coverage in the community for each aspect:
Handwashing Stations 0%
Dish Racks 10%
Bathing Area 50%
Animal Enclosure 60%
Proper Garbage Disposal 40%
Although most families have a good pit latrine, they need to clean them more often. Latrines were found to be below average, while some owners admitted to not ever cleaning them. Upcoming training sessions will strengthen weaknesses and continue encouraging each family to understand that making the extra effort to clean homes, bathe, wash hands, and treat water is well worth it!
Building this sand dam at a spot on Mutya Wewa River will bring water closer to hundreds of people. After the community picked the spot, our technical team went in and proved the viability by finding a good foundation of bedrock. Now, our engineers are busy drawing up the blueprints. We estimate the dam will be 38.1 meters long and 4.7 meters high.
We are unified with this community to address the water shortage. As more sand dams are built, the environment will continue to transform. As the sand dams mature and build up more sand, the water tables will rise. Along with these sand dams, hand-dug wells (check out the hand-dug well being installed next to this dam) will be installed to give locals a good, safe way to access that water.
With these projects, clean water will be brought closer to hundreds of people in Ndithi Village of Mwingi, Kenya.