An average day for the 500 people living in Kitile B Village begins by waking up in the wee hours of the morning, around 5:00 am, to walk to the nearest source of water. Their primary water source is a river located anywhere between a 30-minute to 2-hour walk from community members' homes, depending on which side of the village they live.
People use open scoop holes dug into the dry riverbed to fetch their water and then return home. The chore is often delegated to the women and children.
The region is arid due to climate change, and it has wavering rain patterns. Due to the challenges of water scarcity in the region, community members often find long queues at the scoop holes, which are their nearest water source at the onset of each dry season.
The long wait times cause delays for everyone fetching water, affecting their daily schedules. When they are held up fetching water, mothers cannot get home in time to make breakfast for their families, and children leave for school without eating and arrive at class late.
When even the scoop holes in this nearby river dry up quickly during the dry seasons, community members have to rely on yet another river, the Athi River, which is more than 4 miles away, for scoop holes. It is very strenuous for them to walk this far, especially considering some do not have donkeys and must carry their heavy containers on their backs for the 8-mile round-trip.
"I have to walk very far to fetch water. The water is scarce, and it runs out very fast. It barely lasts us a year," said John.
Water from scoop holes or even flowing rivers is not safe for human consumption as it contains a lot of contaminants from the surrounding area. This includes human and animal waste, dirt, and farm chemicals. Livestock also rely on the rivers, drinking directly from the same source people collect from, thus exposing the locals to risks of contracting water-related diseases. Community members are often fighting cases of amoeba, typhoid, and dysentery as a result of drinking this water.
Water from these scoop holes is not only unsafe but inadequate to serve the entire community.
"Water scarcity is a great challenge in my family. We have to purchase water during the dry periods. Hygiene and sanitation practices are quite difficult to manage and sustain due to insufficient water. We neglect the basic cleanliness practices that we need to adhere to, such as bathing, washing the house, cleaning the clothes, among others. My children have been so used to fetching water after school for use at their homes and the strains of carrying water from the river at the scoop holes," explained Winfred Ndinda.
The most common livelihoods in this community are farming, casual labor jobs, and running small entrepreneurial businesses such as shops. Men tend to opt for motorcycle taxi businesses to earn a living as it is the primary mode of transportation in the area. Households are made of bricks and iron sheet roofing. The homesteads are very sparsely populated as community members own substantial pieces of land.
What we can do:
Our main entry point into Kitile B Village has been the Mbotela Women 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 a comfortable, 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 their fullest potential.
We will hold hygiene and sanitation training sessions with the Mbotela Women Self-Help Group and other community members to teach about essential hygiene practices and daily habits to establish at the personal, household, and community levels. 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 firmly 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 3 to 5 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.