Project Status

Project Type:  Protected Spring

Regional Program: Western Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 140 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Jul 2020

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 07/04/2024

Project Features

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Life in Mahira, Kenya

Mahira village is highly vegetated with trees and farm crops. The setting is rural with the place being peaceful. The people in this village construct both permanent and temporary houses. The temporary ones are made of mud, wood, and iron sheet roofs.

The livelihood of this community largely depends on farming. They grow sugarcane on a large scale for commercial purposes. They also grow crops for home consumption including arrowroot and greens.

The majority of people in this village are Christians, but everyone comes together during several occasions like weddings, funerals, and house construction. Some have formed small welfare groups and meet in the members' houses regularly.

Relying on Contaminated Water

Litinyi Spring serves 140 people, most of whom have to make 13 trips to the spring and back every day to fetch enough water for all of their drinking, cooking, and cleaning needs. On laundry days, that number increases. Each walk takes from 15-30 minutes, depending on where community members live in relation to the spring.

That is a lot of time spent on fetching water, especially considering the water is not even safe for consumption.

"This water is not safe for our life. The spring is open to contamination," said teenager Zipporah, whom we met at the spring.

The area leading to Litinyi Spring is steep. At the time of our most recent visit, the farms around the spring had been plowed in readiness for planting once the rains started. Once they come, however, the downhill runoff carries chemicals from the farms in addition to animal waste and human waste. Since it is open, animals can even drink straight from the source.

The contaminated water brings many waterborne and water-related illnesses to the community members including diarrhea and typhoid. Treatment of typhoid, in particular, takes a lot of money to buy medicine, which is an added cost to the members of this community that they would have otherwise spent on basic needs, school fees, or other development projects.

Then again, many people here do not have money to buy the medicine at all. Some have died because of the waterborne diseases they caught from drinking water from unprotected Litinyi Spring.

"I personally had diarrhea and when I went to seek medication, I was told that I had taken dirty water. The medication cost was too high for me," said Agnes Kutoto, a farmer in Mahira.

The number of latrines across the community is low - about 50% of all households have them - which means some people have to share their latrines with their neighbors. Others are left to use the bushes. People here already understand the importance of covering the containers they use for storing drinking water, but they need to be trained on keeping their water containers clean, treating water before storing it, and how to handle it at the spring, on the way, and at home based on the practices we saw during our initial visits.

What We Can Do:

Spring Protection

Protecting the spring will help provide access to cleaner and safer water. 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.


We will hold a 1-day intensive training on improved hygiene, health, and sanitation habits in this community. 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 Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST), Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD), group discussions, handouts, and demonstrations at the spring to cover a wide variety of topics.

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 will also emphasize the importance of handwashing. 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 series of follow-up trainings before transitioning to our regularly scheduled support visits throughout the year.

Training will result in the formation of a 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

July, 2020: Mahira Community, Litinyi Spring Project Complete!

Mahira Community now has access to clean water! Litinyi Spring has been transformed into a flowing source of water thanks to your donation. We protected the spring, constructed 5 sanitation platforms for different households in the community, and we trained the community on improved sanitation and hygiene practices.

A woman fetches water from protected Litinyi Spring

"Apart from accessing reliable, safe water from the protected spring, and the training we had about hygiene, the community members will improve on cleanliness both at home and at the protected spring."

"The water point will help us with farming during dry seasons. We shall have sufficient time to work on our farms knowing that our water supply is assured. In addition, cases of medical expenses will be minimal because the water is clean and safe," said the Community Health Volunteer Terry Meshack.

A young girl fetches water from Litinyi Spring

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

"I am happy now for clean and reliable water. I will not waste time fetching water. The protection of the spring has assured me more time to concentrate on my academic work. I will improve academically because I will take a short time to fetch water and concentrate on my studies. I believe I will perform much better in my forthcoming examination," said primary student Kevin.

Being silly 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.

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. While the field officers traveled to and from the site each day throughout the construction process, the artisan remained in the community. To accommodate him, individual households provided meals and a place to sleep each night.

Women deliver materials to the spring construction site

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

Mixing cement at the spring

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.

Wall construction

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 the stairs.

Stairs construction

Next, we began one of the most crucial steps of spring protection 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 18-20 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.

Setting the discharge pipe

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 easily access the water. 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.

Stone pitching

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, which could cause soil erosion and thus a clogged drainage area.

Plastering the interior headwall

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.

Cement and plaster work on the stairs

As the headwall and wing walls were curing, we cemented and plastered the stairs and installed 4 tiles beneath the discharge pipes. The tiles protect the concrete from the erosive force of the falling water, beautify the spring, and facilitate easy cleaning of the spring floor.

Setting the tiles

With the tiles in place, we transitioned to the final stages of construction - 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.

Water flows from the completed spring with fencing and grass around the backfilled area.

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 sources of contamination 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 mother shows her son how to fetch water from the discharge pipe.

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.

The entire construction process took about 2 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 begin fetching water. We met them there to celebrate this momentous occasion. Happiness, thanksgiving, and appreciation were the order of the day flowing in all directions.

Sanitation Platforms

All 5 sanitation platforms have been completed and handed over to their new owners. These 5 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.

Sanitation platform construction

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.

A woman stands with her new sanitation platform

New Knowledge

Community member Mrs. Litinyi helped organize the training in coordination with our team. Together we found the community’s preferred date for training while considering other events in the community calendar such as the agricultural season and expected gatherings. When the day arrived, Facilitators Janet Kayi, Wilson Kipchoge, and Ian Nakitare deployed to the site.

Due to public gathering concerns at this time, we worked with trusted community leaders to gather a select group of community members who would then relay the information learned at training to the rest of their family and friends. As a result, 16 people attended training, which we held under the shade of trees in Mrs. Litinyi's compound.

Trainer Janet Kayi leads the session

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.

Constructing a leaky tin handwashing station

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.

Janet teaches the 10 steps of handwashing.

During training, we installed a new handwashing station with soap near the community’s water point, along with a sign with reminders of what we covered.

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.

Handwashing using the new leaky tin handwashing station

Other topics we covered included 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; and dental hygiene. During the leadership and governance session, we held an election for the leaders of the newly formed water user committee.

On-site training at the spring, held while it is under construction, includes how to clean and maintain the spring.

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, as well as a cooperative lending group to enable members to develop their own small businesses.

A community member asks a question during training.

"The training has opened my understanding on matters of hygiene and sanitation. I will apply the knowledge to better my own hygiene standards and those of my family. I will not be mean, I will also share [what I have learned] with the other members of my community. I have learned many things I previously didn't know," said Mrs. Litinyi.

Installing the COVID-19 prevention reminders chart at the spring

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 team of field officers to assist them. In addition, we will continue to offer them unmatchable support as a part of our ongoing monitoring and maintenance program.

Thank you for making all of this possible!

June, 2020: Mahira Community, Litinyi Spring Project Underway!

Dirty water from Litinyi Spring is making people in Mahira 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 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!

Giving Update: Litinyi Spring

June, 2021

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

Keeping The Water Promise

There's an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Mahira Community 3.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Mahira Community 3 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!

"Sometimes after school, my friends and I used to play at the spring and make the water dirty. This was part of our games," said Fernando.

"Now the water is clean and safe for human consumption and other domestic uses. I don't have to queue at the spring and it takes less time."

"It saves my time for homework. I can also wash my school uniform more regularly because I have enough water."

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 Mahira Community 3 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 Mahira Community 3 – 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.


ESLKJ Foundation
3 individual donor(s)