This project is a part of our shared program with Western Water and Sanitation Forum (WEWASAFO). Our team is pleased to directly share the below report (edited for clarity, as needed).
Welcome to the Community
This unprotected spring is located in Minyika Village, Kivagala sub-location, North Maragoli location, Sabatia Constituency of Vihiga County. It serves 35 households with a total population of 350 people, out of which 167 are male and 183 are female.
Most who live around Hedwe Spring wake up very early to start working on their farms. These farmers had been growing coffee beans for over a decade, but recently encountered a huge drop in demand. They started suffering financial loss, and decided to swap crops. They uprooted their coffee and started growing tea. If not farming, a community member will most likely rely on brick-making for income. Lately the brick market has also been a challenge, and masons are selling their bricks at a throwaway price.
The community that uses Hedwe Spring witnessed the water project recently completed at Mido Spring, and asked us to protect their water source as well. After our first visit to Givunji Village and Hedwe Spring, we accepted their application, deciding that this group will greatly benefit from a project.
The spring is a permanent water source. Even though the spring is not yet protected, people are looking to it for their physical and domestic needs. And since the spring is unprotected, it is open to contamination from surface runoff, erosion, animals, and waste. Locals know that the water is dirty, and thus choose to boil it before drinking. But this is the only portion they can afford to boil! "Getting firewood for boiling water is so expensive, and most of us cannot afford water guard to treat drinking water enough for everyone all year round," shared a woman. Spring users often complain of stomachaches and diarrhea.
Beneficiaries use jars to draw water from the spring and fill larger buckets and jerrycans. They tote these containers home and dump water into large plastic containers which are often marked for different uses such as drinking and cooking. Containers were observed to be rather dirty during the time of our visit, though.
Sanitation and hygiene is also a challenge in this community. Only a few homes have latrines, with the rest of the families using the privacy of bushes or shade of trees for relief. The latrines observed were old, filthy, and smelly. This attracts a lot of flies, and flies carry disease. Since these latrines are old, their floors are also beginning to be compromised with cracks. Many homes use mosquito nets to fence in their kitchen gardens, and most homes have dirty compounds with waste thrown in their nearby banana plantations. Only a few hand-washing stations were seen. The community is unaware of how many health issues are avoidable. The spring's landowner admits, "I believe that some of the health-related challenges we face are as a result of our lack of understanding, and if you enlighten us on water, sanitation and hygiene we shall evade many diseases." In fact, locals are asking that hygiene and sanitation training be conducted as soon as possible!
Plans: Hygiene and Sanitation Training
Community members will attend hygiene and sanitation training for at least three days. This training will ensure participants are no longer ignorant about healthy practices and their importance. The facilitator plans to use PHAST (Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation), CLTS (Community-Led Total Sanitation), ABCD (Asset-Based Community Development), group discussions, handouts, and demonstrations at the spring. On the final day of training, participants will select five families that should benefit from new latrines.
- Based on the initial visit, the facilitator decided to focus on the following training topics:
- Proper handling and treatment of water and food
- Dangers of open defecation
- Protecting, preserving, and managing community water sources
- Practicing personal and environmental hygiene
Training will also inform the community and selected families on what they can do to help make this project a success. They will mobilize local materials such as bricks, clean sand, hardcore, and ballast. The five selected families will also prepare by sinking a pit for sanitation platforms to be placed over. All community members will work together to make sure that accommodations and food are always provided for the work teams.
Local farmer Solomon Wandai says, "We thank for the project initiatives in our community. This will help us gain much knowledge on water preservation, treatment, and personal and environmental health."
Plans: Sanitation Platforms
Community members will decide on the five families most in need of a new latrine. These families will receive a sanitation platform, which is a concrete floor that makes a great foundation for a safe and clean latrine. These families will prepare by sinking a pit that the concrete slab can be placed over. These five new latrines will go a long way in reducing the level of open defecation in this community!
Plans: Spring Protection
Fetching water is predominantly a female role, done by both women and young girls. Protecting the spring and offering training and support will therefore help empower the female members of the community by giving them more time and efforts to engage with and invest in income-generating activities.
In addition, protecting the spring will ensure that the water is safe, adequate and secure. Construction will keep surface runoff and other contaminants out of the water. The sanitation facilities and trainings will also enable, enlighten and build the capacity of the community so that they can take matters into their own hands.