Project Status

Project Type:  Dug Well and Hand Pump

Regional Program: Southeastern Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 500 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Jan 2018

Functionality Status:  Low/No Water or Mechanical Breakdown

Last Checkup: 03/19/2024

Project Features

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Community Profile

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).

Welcome to the Community

Katalwa Jipe Moyo Self-Help Group was formed in 2009 and later registered in 2013. It currently has 24 female members, making it an all women’s group. Most of the women are from Katalwa Village which has a population of 43 people. Their larger area is home to 2,256 people.

The average age of these women is 53 years, and their average household size is six.

Their main reason for forming was for social welfare activities, farm terracing, table banking and poultry keeping.

Water Situation

Water in most parts of Kitui County is collected from scoop holes in sandy riverbeds. There’s no water flowing aboveground, but if community members dig deep enough they’ll find it. This is no exception for the women of Katalwa Jipe Moyo, who walk to the Katalwa kwa Kutu River to fetch water for drinking, cleaning, cooking, and all other needs. However, they do have an unprotected shallow well located in the riverbed that gives them a select place to fetch water. When not being used, a cover is placed over the hole. When being used, a bucket is lowered for water and raised with a rope.

20-liter jerrycans are filled and transported on dokey or ox-drawn carts. Other households are able to afford motorbikes – people are getting really good at balancing heavy loads as they ride their motorbikes! But those who cannot afford any of the above must resort to hefting these heavy containers on their backs.

The unprotected well has a large contamination entry point at the hatch. This open well does not keep bugs or litter out of the water, and the bucket and rope themselves directly introduce new contaminants.

Rampant waterborne disease is a daily reality for people who rely on this dirty water for drinking. Any money that was saved from farming is instead used on treating these sicknesses.

Sanitation Situation

We were able to visit with Agnes Mwende and Tabitha Munywoki at their neighboring homesteads to talk about hygiene and sanitation in their community.

A little over half of households have at least some sort of pit latrine, though most of the lack doors and just have a curtain hanging in the opening. The materials used for the latrine walls depend on a household’s economic status. But because so many people still don’t have their own latrine, open defecation is an issue in this community. Waste left out in the open like this attracts flies that spread germs throughout the community, endangering all.

A handful of hand-washing stations were seen, along with dish racks and clotheslines for drying things safely off the ground. Half of households dispose of their garbage in an open area, while only a third have a pit.

As for water hygiene, 20 out of 23 people surveyed don’t treat their drinking water.

Plans: Hygiene and Sanitation Training

To address gaps in hygiene and sanitation practices in Nzalae Community, training will be offered to self-help group members on three consecutive days. The members will learn about useful practices and tools to improve health, and then will be able to share those with their families and neighbors. Water transport, storage, and treatment methods will be taught, and hand-washing will be a focus. Group members will learn how to make their own hand-washing stations with everyday materials. To motivate participants, we must show the links between these activities and their people’s health. Open defecation certainly won’t be overlooked; everyone will be aware of how not using a latrine endangers the entire community. Since it’s such an issue here, we will be leading the community through CLTS (community-led total sanitation).

Plans: Hand-Dug Well

This hand-dug well is one of many construction projects taking place to transform this area. We spend a total of five years unified with each community to address their clean water shortage. More sand dams will be built to transform the environment – And as the sand dams mature and build up more sand over time, the water table will rise. To safely access this water, hand-dug wells like this one are installed.

The wells are always located next to sand dams, since they rely on the water stored by sand dams. The sand dam location is proposed by the self-help group and then approved by the technical team. The group always proposes sites that will be central and convenient for every group member to access.

This particular hand-dug well is being built adjacent to this group’s ongoing sand dam project (click here to see). We have supplied the group with the tools needed for excavation. With the guidance of our artisans and mechanics, the excavated well will be cased, sealed with a well pad, and then finished with a new AfriDev pump.

Excavation takes a month or more on average, depending on the nature of the rock beneath. Construction of the well lining and installation of the pump takes 12 days maximum. The well will be lined with a concrete wall with perforations so that once it rains, water will seep in through the sand.

Project Updates

August, 2020: Through Their Eyes: COVID-19 Chronicles with Mary Kitheka

This post is part of a new series by The Water Project meant to highlight the perspectives and experiences of the people we serve and how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting them. We invite you to read more of their stories here.

Our team recently visited Katalwa Community to conduct a COVID-19 prevention training and monitor their water point. We checked in on the community and asked how the pandemic is affecting their lives.

It was during this most recent visit that Mary Kitheka shared her story of how the Coronavirus has impacted her life.

Our team met Mary outside her home to conduct the interview. Both our staff and Mary observed physical distancing and other precautions throughout the visit to ensure their health and safety. The following is Mary’s story in her own words.

How has COVID-19 impacted your family?

All my working children were sacked and others their companies closed, sending them home with no pay, this has brought a lot of financial challenges at home. In the past rain season, I only had a handful harvest which has been depleted because of the increased consumption at home, the situation is terrible because market days are now suspended, and I cannot even sell livestock and get money for upkeep.

What steps is Kenya taking to prevent the spread of the virus?

The government has imposed movement curfews across the country with no movement of people being allowed past 7 PM up to 5 AM. Counties with high cases of the virus are locked down. No travel is allowed in and out of the counties to control its spread to other areas. Our local members of the county assembly supported us with masks in our village so that we can be able to protect ourselves while in public places.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Kenya, has fetching water changed for you because of restrictions, new rules, or your concerns about the virus?

As a community, we had implemented two sand dams and shallow wells over the years in our village. Water is now accessible to all from within. I only walk to the well with my children and grandchildren, draw water, and walk back home. Having water from within is helping us avoid interactions with people from outlying areas while also making the stay at home guidelines easy to follow.

Mary washes her hands

How has having a clean water point helped you through the pandemic so far?

The shallow wells are fully functional and have been providing us with clean water all the time. We put to use our knowledge of handwashing and soap making. We make soap for use in our tippy taps to enable regular handwashing with soap as a way to protect ourselves from the Coronavirus.

How has getting food been at this time?

I depend on my small farm produce as the primary source of food for my family. The food is little compared to the population at home and with no adequate extra funding. Getting supplies from the local markets has been a challenge as the markets are closed, while others have taken advantage of raising the prices of essential food commodities.

May, 2020: COVID-19 Prevention Training Update at Katalwa Community

Our teams are working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Join us in our fight against the virus while maintaining access to clean, reliable water.

We are carrying out awareness and prevention trainings on the virus in every community we serve. Very often, our teams are the first (and only) to bring news and information of the virus to rural communities like Katalwa, Kenya.

We trained community members on the symptoms, transmission routes, and prevention of COVID-19.

Due to public gathering concerns, we worked with trusted community leaders to gather a select group of community members who would then relay the information learned to the rest of their family and friends.

We covered essential hygiene lessons:

- Demonstrations on how to build a simple handwashing station

- Proper handwashing technique

- The importance of using soap and clean water for handwashing

- Cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces including at the water point.

We covered COVID-19-specific guidance in line with national and international standards:

- Information on the symptoms and transmission routes of COVID-19

- What social distancing is and how to practice it

- How to cough into an elbow

- Alternative ways to greet people without handshakes, fist bumps, etc.

- How to make and properly wear a facemask.

During training, we installed a new handwashing station with soap near the community’s water point.

Due to the rampant spread of misinformation about COVID-19, we also dedicated time to a question and answer session to help debunk rumors about the disease and provide extra information where needed.

Water access, sanitation, and hygiene are at the crux of disease prevention. You can directly support our work on the frontlines of COVID-19 prevention in all of the communities we serve while maintaining their access to safe, clean, and reliable water.

May, 2019: A Year Later: Nzalae Community Well

A year ago, your generous donation helped us construct a hand-dug well for Nzalae Community in Kenya. The contributions of incredible monthly donors and others giving directly to The Water Promise allow our teams to visit project sites throughout the year, strengthening relationships with communities and evaluating the water project over time. These consistent visits allow us to learn vital lessons and hear amazing stories. Read more...

January, 2018: Nzalae Community Hand-Dug Well Complete

Nzalae Community, Kenya now has a new source of water thanks to your donation. A new hand-dug well has been constructed adjacent to a sand dam on a local river. The dam will build up sand to raise the water table and naturally filter water. Community members have also attended hygiene and sanitation training, and plan to share what they learned with their families and neighbors. You made it happen, now help keep the water flowing! Join our team of monthly donors and help us maintain this hand-dug well and many other projects.

The report below from our partner gives the latest details of the project. We also just updated the project page with new pictures, so make sure to check them out!

Project Result: New Knowledge

The training officers communicated with self-help group committee members to plan four days of hygiene and sanitation training. Total attendance was wonderful, with both the area chief and his assistant chief there. It was held at Janet Musili's homestead, which was a central meeting point for participants.

The first day was set aside for sharing expectations, discussing issues common to Nzalae, and taking a transect walk. This walk around the community and its homesteads revealed both the strengths and the weaknesses that we would need to focus on the next few days.

On the transect walk

The next day, we met to talk about how much waste the community generates, and how much that waste can then contaminate the environment and cause illnesses. We also calculated the medical costs to show that yes, properly disposing of waste is worth it! It may require capital investment when building a latrine, but community members will save money in the long run.

The third day we focused on the transmission of germs. How are germs spread, and how can we build barriers for those routes?

Last but certainly not least, we gathered together to make an action plan for implementing all of these new things. We also taught how to build hand-washing stations and how to make soap.

Mixing soap

69-year-old Jedidah Mue expressed her gratefulness by saying, "It was a good training. There are two activities that we did during the training: the transect walk and the water contamination activity that have challenged us to construct latrines. I’m sure that open defecation will no longer be practiced in our area. Calculation of medical bills has made us realize that we spend a lot of money for treatment that we are supposed to be utilizing on developing ourselves. During elections, I spent over 8,000 shillings on treatment. This was as a result of drinking dirty water. From the knowledge I have gained, I’m sure that our water has been contaminated with feces. I have already started warning my family not to practice open defecation and lied to the young ones that some police officers have been deployed to monitor those defecating in the open."

Project Result: Hand-Dug Well

We delivered the experts and materials, but the community helped get an extraordinary amount of work done. They collected local materials to supplement the project, including sand and water.

Local women helped by making meals for the workers.

A hole seven feet in diameter is excavated up to a recommended depth of 25 feet. (Most hand-dug wells don’t reach that depth due to the existence of hard rocks between 10-18 ft.).

The beginning of the well excavation process

The diameter then shrinks to five feet when construction of the hand-dug well lining is completed. This lining is made of brick and mortar with perforations to allow for water to seep through. As sand builds up around the well walls, it will naturally filter the rainwater that’s stored behind the dam.

Once the lining reaches the top, the well is covered with a concrete well pad.

Once the construction of the lining reaches ground level, a precast concrete slab is laid on top and joined to the wall using mortar. Four bolts for the hand-pump are fixed on the slab during casting. The mechanics arrive to install the pump as community members watch, learning how to manage and maintain the pump for themselves. The well is then given a few days after installing the pump, allowing the joints to completely dry. After it rains, communities are advised to pump out the first water that seeps into the well because it often has a foul smell and a bad taste. After pumping that for a while, the water becomes clean and clear for safe drinking.

This hand-dug well was built simultaneously with its adjacent sand dam (to see the sand dam, click here). The sand dam will collect sand that stores and filters huge amounts of water, water that will then be accessed through the pump.

November, 2017: Nzalae Community Hand-Dug Well Underway

Nzalae Community in Kenya will have a clean source of water, thanks to your generous donation. A new well is being constructed adjacent to a new sand dam, which will bring clean water closer to hundreds. Together, these resources will go a long way in stopping disease, hunger, and thirst in the area! We just posted a report including community details, maps, and pictures. We will keep you posted as the work continues!

Project Photos

Project Type

Hand-dug wells have been an important source of water throughout human history! Now, we have so many different types of water sources, but hand-dug wells still have their place. Hand dug wells are not as deep as borehole wells, and work best in areas where there is a ready supply of water just under the surface of the ground, such as next to a mature sand dam. Our artisans dig down through the layers of the ground and then line the hole with bricks, stone, or concrete, which prevent contamination and collapse. Then, back up at surface level, we install a well platform and a hand pump so people can draw up the water easily.


1 individual donor(s)