The Lema community is found in a relatively dry part of Southeast Kenya. Most houses here are made of bricks and iron sheet roofing. The area is sparsely populated, with most community members owning large pieces of land. Indigenous thickets and bushes have been cleared to create paths. The roads used in these areas are not paved, so they are impassable during the wet seasons.
This region's water crisis is very intense, especially during the dry seasons. A common site for this community of more than 5,000 people is people walking to and from water sources with donkeys ferrying water. Most people make three two-hour trips a day to get the water they need. Those fortunate enough to own donkeys to carry the water can make fewer trips, but most households cannot afford that luxury.
These walks for water, with or without donkeys, waste community members' precious time. People have to wake up very early to fetch water at the scoop holes, which are often over-crowded.
"The water scarcity issue affects us a lot. We have to walk for long distances in search of water, and this also results in body issues such as exhaustion and fatigue," explained Damaris Katumani Mwanzo, a 51-year-old farmer who lives in the community.
Damaris relies on water drawn from scoop holes in the Kyangulumi River, but it is a seasonal source. When the river dries up, Damaris and her neighbors have to walk along the riverbed, searching for spots to dig scoop holes to reach the water under the sand. When the river dries completely, they have to walk more than five miles to the Athi River to fetch water.
The scoop holes are open and prone to contamination from toxins such as animal waste, farm chemicals, and improper household waste materials. All of these pollute the water and expose the community members to the risks of contracting water diseases.
"The water we fetch is not clean. I have been sick with typhoid and amoeba as a result of drinking water from this source. It is very costly to treat these diseases," Damaris said.
"A lot of time is also wasted in search of water. This time could be channeled to better, income-generating, and productive activities."
This community is well known for its development projects and unity in accomplishing those projects. Together, the area's self-help group constructed the church where they all go to worship. They also established a table banking system where they borrow soft loans and return at low-interest rates.
Community members support each other in social activities such as market days, church services, weddings, dowry payments, fundraising functions, among other events that bring people together.
What We Can Do:
Our main entry point into Lema Community has been the Katothya Self-Help Group, which is comprised of households that are 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.
After the community picked the ideal 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 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 this sand dam, a hand-dug well will be installed to give community members an easy, safe way to access that water.
Building this sand dam and the well in this community will help bring clean water closer to hundreds of people living here.
These community members currently do their best to practice good hygiene and sanitation, but their severe lack of water has hindered reaching their fullest potential.
We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with the Katothya Self-Help Group and other community members to teach about important hygiene practices and daily habits to establish at the personal, household, and community level. This training will ensure that participants know 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, storing, and treating water. Having a clean water source will be extremely helpful, but it is useless if water gets contaminated by the time it is consumed. We will also emphasize the importance of handwashing.
The community and we strongly 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 three to five 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.