Project Status

Project Type:  Protected Spring

Regional Program: Western Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 210 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Nov 2020

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 04/04/2024

Project Features

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Please note: original photos were taken before the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Sometimes we find the cows drinking directly from the spring; you are forced to wait for the water to settle before using it. This is always time-consuming on my end. You are forced to forego some activities to come and fetch water before it gets contaminated," said Celestine Mutembete, a 32-year-old farmer in Mahola.

Serving 210 people, Oyula Spring has always had plenty of water, but it has never been safe for drinking. In its unprotected state, Oyula Spring is open to various kinds of contamination. Community members spend a lot of time clearing off what they can of the spring's algae, only to collect water already contaminated from animal feces and surface runoff. The runoff carries toxins from farm chemicals and household waste. People also step into the water due to the slippery and muddy area, either by accident or simply because of the best footing needed to try to catch the cleanest water. Their feet and shoes further contaminate the water.

Overcrowding at the spring is common due to the time it takes for each person to try to clear the water, then scoop it into their containers by hand using a smaller jug.  This time wastage is especially not conducive during times of the coronavirus, when community members are trying to minimize their time in public and their numbers at the water point.

Though the water source is located near community members' homes, if they leave you at home going to fetch this water, you may think they have traveled for a very long distance due to the time they are away.

The environment around this water point is dangerous to those fetching water. This is because the area around the spring is not always kept clean. This spring is not protected by something such as a fence, and this makes it vulnerable to animal access. This happens mostly when there is much sun, community members report, when wandering animals like sheep and goats will step right into the spring to drink from it.

Community members attribute frequent back pain to the deep bend they have to use to fetch water while trying to balance on stones raised just above water level. While fetching water, you need also to be very careful not to make the water dirty, since this will lead to increased illness. Community members also complain of experiencing increased rates of stomachaches whenever there is much rain, which pours more dirty surface runoff into the spring's collection area.

Other negative consequences of having to rely on the dirty spring water are how it delays schedules and leads to conflict between community members. Having to wait for the water to clear between water users means adults and children alike waste a lot of time at the spring. This disrupts schedules both in the morning and evening as students get to school late and parents get a late start to their work and meal preparation.

"I am always forced to wake up very early in the morning to come and fetch water which we use to pour in our pots for drinking. When you get here, you might find several other people who woke up before you, so you wait for them to finish fetching. This makes me get to school late. The teachers do not understand this and punish me for coming late," said primary school student Ronald.

Though the water becomes dirty each time someone fetches from the spring, the next person fetching it always accuses the first of having done it intentionally. This leads to disagreements among spring users.

Many people have come to this area promising to help Mahola communtiy members protect their spring. But those who come, village leaders say, make empty promises and leave without ever helping them. Many people had lost hope of ever accessing safe and clean water. Now, all of that is about to change.

What We Can Do:

Spring Protection

Protecting the spring will help provide access to cleaner and safer water and reduce the time people have to spend to fetch it. Construction will keep surface runoff and other contaminants out of the water. With the community’s high involvement in the process, there should be a good sense of responsibility and ownership for the new clean water source.

Fetching water is a task predominantly carried out by women and young girls. Protecting the spring and offering training and support will, therefore, help empower the female members of the community by freeing up more of their time and energy to engage and invest in income-generating activities and their education.

Training on Health, Hygiene, COVID-19, and More

To hold trainings during the pandemic, we work closely with both community leaders and the local government to approve small groups to attend training. We ask community leaders to invite a select yet representative group of people to attend training who will then act as ambassadors to the rest of the community to share what they learn. We also communicate our expectations of physical distancing and wearing masks for all who choose to attend.

The training will focus on improved hygiene, health, and sanitation habits in this community. We will also have a dedicated session on COVID-19 symptoms, transmission routes, and prevention best practices.

With the community’s input, we will identify key leverage points where they can alter their practices at the personal, household, and community levels to affect change. This training will help to ensure participants have the knowledge they need about healthy practices and their importance to make the most of their water point as soon as water is flowing.

Our team of facilitators will use a variety of methods to train community members. Some of these methods include participatory hygiene and sanitation transformation, asset-based community development, group discussions, handouts, and demonstrations at the spring.

One of the most important issues we plan to cover is the handling, storage, and treatment of 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 and the community 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 will then conduct a small series of follow-up trainings before transitioning to our regularly scheduled support visits throughout the year.

Training will result in the formation of a water user committee, elected by their peers, that will oversee the operations and maintenance of the spring. The committee will enforce proper behavior around the spring and delegate tasks that will help preserve the site, such as building a fence and digging proper drainage channels. The fence will keep out destructive animals and unwanted waste, and the drainage will keep the area’s mosquito population at a minimum.

Sanitation Platforms

At the end of training, participants will select 5 families that should benefit from new concrete latrine floors called sanitation platforms. Training will inform the community and selected families on what they need to contribute to make this project a success. They must mobilize locally available materials, including bricks, clean sand, and gravel. The 5 families chosen for sanitation platforms must prepare by sinking a pit for the sanitation platforms to be placed over.

All community members must work together to make sure that accommodations and food are always provided for the work teams. The families will then be asked to complete their latrines by constructing a superstructure over their platforms. These 5 sanitation platforms will then serve as examples for the rest of the community to replicate.

Project Updates

November, 2020: Mahola Community, Oyula Spring Project Complete!

Mahola Community now has access to clean water! Oyula Spring has been transformed into a flowing source of water thanks to your donation. We protected the spring, constructed five sanitation platforms for different households in the community, and trained the community on improved sanitation and hygiene practices, including COVID-19 prevention.

A girl collects water from newly completed Oyula Spring

There was singing, dancing, cheers, and splashing of water due to water users' excitement upon completing the spring. Happiness could be clearly seen in the faces of the water users. This was especially true among the old mamas, a respectful term to describe the community's elder women. They had been using the spring for over thirty years in its unprotected state. With clean water finally flowing from Oyula Spring, their joy was unmatched.

"[The protected spring] will improve my health and that of my family too. No more challenges of getting clean water and wasting money going to the dispensary because of waterborne diseases," said Rose Amakove, a 39-year-old farmer and mother in Mahola.

Children were just as excited as the adults about the new water point.

"I now have access to clean drinking water; I will no longer have to suffer from waterborne diseases," remarked young teenager Elvis.

"After school, I handle the water responsibilities [at home]. Now having a good water point, I will have plenty of time to do my homework since during rainy seasons getting clean water was a big challenge as the spring was wide open and rainwater from the surface would interfere with our water point," Elvis reflected.

Elvis at the spring

Preparing for Spring Protection

Community members worked together to source and carry all locally available construction materials to the spring. These included bricks, sand, stones, and fencing poles. Some people also chiseled away at large stones to break them down into gravel. Because people have to carry most items by hand, the materials collection process can take anywhere from a few weeks to months.

Community members carrying rocks for construction to the spring site

When everything was prepared, we sent a lorry to the community to deliver the rest of the construction materials, including the cement, plastic tarps, and hardware. Then, our artisan and field officers deployed to the spring to begin work. Everyone traveled to and from the work site each day throughout the construction process, so individual households provided meals throughout the day to sustain the workers.

Delivering sod

The last step before construction commenced was taking a water sample from the unprotected spring. We sent the sample to a government laboratory for testing to identify the kinds of contaminants in the water before its protection. These often include fertilizers and pesticides from farms, animal and human feces, and any number of harmful bacteria. We then shared the test results with the community to identify extra steps they could take to help ensure the spring’s water remains clean and safe after protection.

From Open Source to Protected Spring: A Step-by-Step Process

At last, it was time to dig in at the spring! Women and men lent their strength to the artisan each day to help with the manual labor. First, we cleared and excavated the spring area. It was at this stage that the artisan discovered the main eye of Oyula Spring that the community had not been able to locate as it was initially covered by soil. This was an exciting find as the additional eye would add to the completed spring's final output.

Measuring excavation progress

We dug a drainage channel below the spring and several surface runoff diversion channels above and around the spring—this help to divert the environmental contaminants identified in the pre-construction water quality test.

Laying the spring's foundation

To ensure community members could still fetch water throughout the construction process, we also dug temporary diversion channels from the spring’s eye around the construction site. This allowed water to flow without severely disrupting community members’ water needs or construction work.

Brickwork begins at the headwall

Excavation created space for setting the spring’s foundation made of thick plastic tarp, wire mesh, concrete, and waterproof cement. After setting the base, we started brickwork to build the headwall, wing walls, and stairs.

Setting the discharge pipe

Next, we began one of the most crucial spring protection steps to ensure a fully functional water point: setting the discharge pipe. The discharge pipe has to be set low enough in place in the headwall so that the water level inside never rises above the spring’s eye, yet high enough to leave eighteen to twenty inches between the pipe and the spring floor to allow room for the average jerrycan (a 20-liter container) to sit beneath the pipe without making contact.

Plastering the stone pitching

If the discharge pipe were placed too high above the spring’s eye, too much backpressure could force the flow to emerge elsewhere. Too low, and community members would not be able to access the water easily. We embedded the pipe using clay (or mortar when the clay is in short supply) and placed it at a slight incline to ensure water flows in the right direction.

Setting the tiles

In coordination with brickwork, we pitched medium to large stones on both sides of the spring’s drainage channel. We then cemented and plastered each stone group into place, forming the rub walls. These help to discourage people and animals from trying to stand on that area, causing soil erosion and thus a clogged drainage area.

Backfilling with stones

With brickwork and stone pitching completed, we turned to cement and plaster both sides of the headwall and wing walls. This reinforces the brickwork and prevents water in the reservoir from seeping through the walls. In turn, this builds enough pressure in the reservoir box to push water out through the discharge pipe.

Backfilling with soil over the plastic tarp

As the headwall and wing walls were curing, we cemented and plastered the stairs and installed four tiles beneath the discharge pipe. The tiles protect the concrete from the falling water's erosive force, beautify the spring, and facilitate easy cleaning of the spring floor.

Building a fence around the catchment area planted with grass

We transitioned to the final stages of construction with the tiles in place - backfilling the reservoir box. First, we cleared the collection box of any debris that may have fallen in since its construction, such as dead leaves or other items. Then we redirected the temporary diversion channels back into the reservoir box, channeling water into this area for the first time. We closed off all of the other exits to start forcing the water through the discharge pipe only.

A mama celebrates clean water at the spring

With much help from the community, we filled up the reservoir area with the clean and large stones they gathered, arranging them in layers like a well-fitting puzzle. We covered the stones with a thick plastic tarp to minimize potential contamination sources from aboveground, followed by a layer of soil. We piled enough soil on top to create a slight mound to compensate for the backfill’s future settlement.

A mama posing while fetching water

Community members transplanted grass onto the backfilled soil to help prevent erosion. Finally, the collection area was fenced in to discourage any person or animal from walking on it since compaction can lead to disturbances in the backfill layers and potentially compromise water quality.

A mama gives thumbs-up for clean flowing water

The entire construction process took about two weeks of work and patience to allow the cement and plaster to finish curing. As soon as it was ready, people got the okay from our field officers to fetch water. We met them there to celebrate this momentous occasion. Happiness, thanksgiving, and appreciation were the order of the day, flowing in all directions.

Field Officer David Muthama (masked on right) "hands over" Oyula Spring to the Mahola community.

Sanitation Platforms

All five sanitation platforms have been completed and handed over to their new owners. These five families are happy about this milestone of having a private latrine of their own and are optimistic that people will no longer leave waste outdoors. We are continuing to encourage families to finish building walls and roofs over their new latrine floors, and for other families to replicate the design after having helped construct these examples.

Casting a sanitation platform in a household.

Training on Health, Hygiene, COVID-19 and More

Due to the ongoing challenges and restrictions amidst the pandemic, we worked with both local leaders and the national Ministry of Health to gain approval for a small group training about health, hygiene, and COVID-19 prevention. While community members helped deliver the materials for spring construction, we communicated our invitation to the training.

We then found the community’s preferred date for training while considering other community calendar events, such as the agricultural season and the national coronavirus-related curfew. We requested a small representative group of community members to attend training to relay the information learned to the rest of their family and friends.

Physical distancing check at training.

When the day arrived, Lead Facilitator, Emma Nambuye deployed to the site with a small team of trainers. 28 people attended training, including local leaders and members of the village's self-help group. We held the training at the home of newly elected water user committee chairperson James Manyasi. There was good tree shade, and the training participants settled on the grass for the event.

Trainer Adelaide leads the mask-making session.

Perhaps the most important topic of the day was our session on COVID-19 prevention and specific guidance in line with national and international standards. There has been tension and panic about the coronavirus in Kenya, so this was a session everyone eagerly participated in, the trainers noted. We covered:

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

- What physical distancing is and how to practice it

- How to cough and sneeze into the elbow

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

- How to make and properly wear a facemask

Emma demonstrates the ten steps of handwashing, encouraging people to include their forearms if they are returning from farmwork.

Due to the rampant spread of misinformation about COVID-19, we dedicated time to a question and answer session to help debunk rumors about the disease and provide extra information where needed. We also left behind a rice sack painted with messages of COVID-19 prevention reminders in the local language. We affixed the sign to the spring's fence during training and encouraged community members to use it as a daily reminder to stay cautious both at home and at the spring.

Community members actively participated throughout the training.

Sarah Nabari, a 23-year-old farmer and mother in the community, said she already had "a make-shift handwashing station that enables me to wash my hands every now and then, and also before leaving my home." Sarah said she was also putting on a mask and observing physical distancing, but acknowledged that the training refreshed these actions' importance.

"I have gained some knowledge like social distancing and the proper way to put on a mask. I love gatherings, but from today I will not go to any political gatherings - I will have to let go of those hand-outs. I now know the correct way of covering up when coughing and sneezing and also the proper handwashing steps."

"Also, I now have knowledge of how to make a mask by myself. I will make some and give to my children, especially when schools fully reopen," she said.

Sarah (left) celebrating the newly protected spring.

We covered several other topics, including community participation in the project; leadership and governance; personal and environmental hygiene; water handling and treatment; operation and maintenance of the spring and sanitation platforms; dental hygiene; the ten steps of handwashing, and how to make and use a tippy tap and leaky tin. During the leadership and governance session, we held an election for the newly formed water user committee's leaders.

A woman mounts her water on her head with the poster of COVID-19 prevention reminders from training behind her.

We also brainstormed income-generating activities that can be used to start both a community savings account for any future minor repairs to the spring and a cooperative lending group to enable members to develop their own small businesses.

"I have wanted for a long time to be in a group that can help me improve my financial status," Rose Amakove, a 39-year-old farmer and mother, said after training.

"From the training, we now have our own local group with leaders, me being the Secretary. And you have empowered us with knowledge on how we can better our lives - I think this is the opportunity I have been waiting for," Rose added.

James Manyasi washes his hands using the newly installed leaky tin handwashing station at the spring

The newly elected Chair of the water user committee, James Manyasi, also reflected on the training.

"It will help me to maintain proper hygiene on my body and also in the environment around my homestead. The training has also empowered me with knowledge - being the chairperson, knowledge on how I can bring together my water users and how to maintain our newly constructed spring," he said.

When an issue arises concerning the water project, the water user committee is equipped with the necessary skills to rectify the problem and ensure the water point works appropriately. However, if the issue is beyond their capabilities, they can contact our field officers' team to assist them. We will also continue to offer them unmatchable support as a part of our ongoing monitoring and maintenance program.

Thank you for making all of this possible!

November, 2020: Mahola Community, Oyula Spring Project Underway!

Dirty water from Oyula Spring is making people in Mahola sick. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a clean water point and much more.

Get to know this community through the narrative and pictures we’ve posted, and read about this water, sanitation, and hygiene project. We look forward to reaching out with news of success!

Project Videos

Project Photos

Project Type

Springs are water sources that come from deep underground, where the water is filtered through natural layers until it is clean enough to drink. Once the water pushes through the surface of the Earth, however, outside elements like waste and runoff can contaminate the water quickly. We protect spring sources from contamination with a simple waterproof cement structure surrounding layers of clay, stone, and soil. This construction channels the spring’s water through a discharge pipe, making water collection easier, faster, and cleaner. Each spring protection also includes a chlorine dispenser at the waterpoint so community members can be assured that the water they are drinking is entirely safe. Learn more here!

A Year Later: Oyula Spring Provides Joy!

December, 2021

A year ago, your generous donation helped Mahola Community in Kenya access clean water – creating a life-changing moment for Precious. Thank you!

Keeping The Water Promise

There's an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Mahola Community.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Mahola Community maintain access to safe, reliable water. Together, they keep The Water Promise.

We’re confident you'll love joining this world-changing group committed to sustainability!

Precious, 7, shared, "Everything for me has become so easy. I can go to school, and when I come back in the evening, I go [to] get water since clean water is always available in plenty. Water is no longer a stress in my life. Thank you!"

She continued, "If I can explain, my studies are a priority. I learn at Khaunga Primary School, and in school, we have no water again. Our teachers require us to bring water from home. Now I can go with water straight from home when I leave in the morning, unlike before [when] I got water from a spring far from home then went to school. I used to be late for school. Now I can finish my school work on time and also arrive at school on time."

Chairlady of the spring's water committee and local farmer, Rose Amukobe (39), also shared her joy at having access to clean water. "Life has become so beautiful! I can wake up, do my chores, prepare breakfast and even do some farming, [and] then come back home and still go get fresh and clean water. Now I can get water at any hour of [the] day or night. It is beautiful!"

Navigating through intense dry spells, performing preventative maintenance, conducting quality repairs when needed and continuing to assist community leaders to manage water points are all normal parts of keeping projects sustainable. The Water Promise community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Mahola Community maintain access to safe, reliable water.

We’d love for you to join this world-changing group committed to sustainability.

The most impactful way to continue your support of Mahola Community – and hundreds of other places just like this – is by joining our community of monthly givers.

Your monthly giving will help provide clean water, every month... keeping The Water Promise.


Credit Suisse 2019 Holiday Initiative
Solomon's Porch Sunday School
2 individual donor(s)