December, 2020: Lukala C Community, Livaha Spring Project Complete!
Lukala C Community now has access to clean water! Livaha 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.
Women celebrate completed Livaha Spring
"We have been taking dirty water from the spring, which frequently caused waterborne and water-related diseases. Given that I have a very big family of more than 25 (both adults and children), much has been spent buying drugs and hospital bills. Now that we can access clean and safe water, these illnesses will be eliminated," said Charles Muhuyi, a 64-year-old farmer in the community.
"Now that we have clean water, we will be able to maintain good hygiene to curb the spread of COVID-19 and other hygiene-related diseases. A lot of time was spent at the spring, but now it's easier and faster to fetch water, so the time that we wasted before will be used on other income-generating activities like farming and businesses."
Fetching water from the spring
Children were just as excited as the adults about the new water point.
"With the availability of clean and safe water, we will be able to maintain improved sanitation and hygiene and, as a result, reduce the risk of diseases like typhoid, diarrhea, and malaria," noted young teenager Priscilla.
"In our school, we have a TWP-funded water harvesting tank that supplies us with safe and clean water for drinking. I am happy that we have clean water at home now too. We will no longer suffer from illnesses, giving us more time in class and improving on our performance in school."
Priscilla at the spring
"This is one of the most organized groups I have ever worked with," reported Lead Field Officer for the project Christine Masinde.
"They worked really hard to make sure that the project was successful. They appreciated the love that was portrayed to them through the protection of their spring and the provision of sanitation platforms."
"God bless you so much for the kind gesture to our community, said Charles Muhuyi, our main coordinator between his community and our team.
"Our water is now clean and safe for drinking and other uses. Continue with the good work you are doing as you serve other communities!"
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. 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.
Community members and Field OFficer Christine mobilizing local construction materials
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—this help to divert the environmental contaminants identified in the pre-construction water quality test.
Excavation of the spring site
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.
Pouring the spring's foundation
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.
The artisan lays bricks while community members ferry them to the work site.
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.
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 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.
Plastering a rub wall
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 stairs
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.
It was all hands on deck during the backfilling process
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.
Fitting the tarp to the backfilled catchment area
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.
Planting grass inside the spring's fencing
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.
Fencing and digging the cut-off drainage around the spring
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 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 officially handed over the spring directly following training. Happiness, thanksgiving, and appreciation were the order of the day, flowing in all directions.
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.
Charles Muhuyi poses with his family's new sanitation platform
We are encouraging families to finish building walls and roofs over their new latrine floors and other families to replicate the design after having helped construct these examples.
A mother and son pose with their family's new sanitation platform
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.
Together with the community, we found the community’s preferred date for training while considering other events in the community calendar, such as the agricultural season and the national coronavirus-related curfew. We requested a select yet representative group of community members to attend training, relaying the information learned to the rest of their family and friends. When the day arrived, facilitators Christine Masinde and Rose Serete deployed to the site to lead the event.
Training participant shows the COVID-19 prevention pamphlet they received in Kiswahili
25 people attended training, including local leaders and a few teachers from nearby schools. We held the event at landowner Mr. Livaha's compound under the shade of trees. The location was conducive to physical distancing and nearby the spring for the practical sessions requiring water.
Christine teaches the ten steps of handwashing
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
- Contactless greetings
- How to make and properly wear a facemask
A woman demonstrates handwashing using a leaky tin
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.
Cough and sneeze using the elbow like this
The participants noted our team was the first to come to their community to sensitize them on COVID-19. As a result, they were keen to learn more about the prevention and control of the virus. Many people asked questions to seek clarification about the realities and rumors surrounding COVID-19.
Taking notes at training
"This training is very valuable to us, especially at this time when there is a fear of the spread of COVID-19. I have been educating my fellow community members about ways to prevent COVID-19, but some could not take it seriously because they think coronavirus is only in major towns. Your emphasis on how it is transmitted and prevented has enlightened them, and I am sure they will make sure that they keep physical distance, wear masks, and wash hands properly. I will also continue spreading what I have learned to other community members," said Robert Kokoyo, who works as a school teacher and whose peers elected him as a member of the water user committee.
Everyone practices the ten steps of handwashing
"Most homes have leaky tins, but people don't wash their hands as frequently as it is recommended. People only wear masks for fear of being arrested by the police, but now after the training, we know it's for our own good so that we can not be victims of COVID-19."
"Washing hands frequently with soap using the ten steps will be practiced religiously since we don't wish anyone to be affected by the virus. General body and environmental hygiene are also important to avoid diseases including diarrhea and COVID-19," Robert said.
Site maintenance session at the spring with Trainer Christine
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. We held an election for the newly formed water user committee leaders during the leadership and governance session.
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.
"This training has come in handy, especially for us women who are in charge of general hygiene in our homes and fetching water. My family members and I have been washing hands the wrong way - that is why we fall sick quite often from infections. I will make sure we practice what we have been taught so that we can lead a healthier life than before," said 22-year-old Margaret Muruya, whose peers elected her as Water User Committee Secretary.
"I have also learned how to make masks and how to wear them properly; this will prevent the spread of the virus. When schools open, I will make masks from locally available materials and supply them to my family members," Margaret added.
Christine leads the mask-making session
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!