Project Status

Project Type:  Protected Spring

Regional Program: Western Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 175 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Jan 2022

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 05/02/2024

Project Features

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The Machemo area is evergreen with a cool and wet climate. Most community members here farm and keep cattle for their livelihood. What makes this community unique is the way they have manipulated their natural environment to their advantage. As it is a naturally swampy area, community members have dug trenches that they use to collect and spread water used for crop irrigation.

The road to the Machemo community is not tarmacked, thus it is in very rouch shape during rainy seasons. Almost no vehicles other than motorbikes are able to get into and out of the village in the wettest months. Machemo is away from the market and main road thus lending to a quiet and peaceful environment.

Here there are only a few months each year that create a short dry spell. For the 175 people in Machemo who depend on Chitiavi Spring for all of their daily water needs, they know this spring never dries out during these months. But there a lot of problems with this unprotected spring.

As it is well known, water is an essential need for every human, and most daily chores depend on water. The people in this community begin their day very early - around 6:00 am each morning - by going to fetch water before doing anything else. This first round of water is usually the cleanest of the day, so it is reserved for domestic uses like drinking, cooking, and washing eating utensils.

If anyone tries to fetch water too quickly, they risk stirring up the muck at the bottom of the spring. As a result, long lines and wait times are a daily occurrence at the spring, stagnating the rest of the day's activities until each person has sufficient water.

The spring looks like a large open puddle where community members must submerge their jerrycans to fill them. The spring is already filled with contaminants such as farm chemicals, residues from animal waste, and soil that pour into the spring with runoff. Algae, insects, and rotting leaves line the bottom of the water. By submerging their containers, people also deposit any soil on their jerrycans and hands directly into the water they fetch.

Communtiy members report that the major health consequences after drinking this spring water are waterborne diseases including cholera and typhoid. They have noticed many cases of diarrhea among young children, too, they said, and they believe all of this is linked to the unsafe water from their spring.

These water-related illnesses are expensive to treat and they rob people of the time and energy for other activities. Adults miss work, and kids have to stay home from school, often falling behind in their classes. But the cost to treat their water at home is also too high to pay. Boiling water before drinking it requires too much extra firewood and hours in the kitchen for women and girls who are already losing so much of their day to fetching water. Market-bought treatments are out of the question financially for a majority of families, especially when they are already losing the money that goes toward treatment when a family member is sick.

"Personally, I have been affected by this current situation in that some of my family members up to date have been treating typhoid that is not ending. When seeking medication, we were told to be boiling water before drinking it. But at times, you find it difficult, especially when it is rainy season  - there is no firewood to enable that," explained 55-year-old farmer James Andaye.

Accessibility is the other major challenge at the spring. In addition to their submerged containers, sometimes people's shoes and toes dip into the water as well, further contaminating it. There is just a small access point to the spring made of rocks and sticks, and it is very narrow and slippery. Falls into the water are not unheard of, especially among children. The elderly and women who are pregnant have a particularly hard time accessing the spring.

"Getting water from this spring is very difficult, especially during rainy season. During school days, it becomes very tiresome to get water after school and at the same time do house chores and school work. At times, I get to school before doing assignments and this makes me perform poorly in my academics," said secondary school student and teenager Margret.

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.

Project Updates

January, 2022: Chitiavi Spring Protection Complete!

Machemo Community now has access to clean water! We transformed Chitiavi Spring into a flowing source of water, thanks to your donation. Our team protected the spring and trained the community on improved sanitation and hygiene practices, including COVID-19 prevention.

"I am very happy," said Andrew Tuya, a 23-year-old farmer and cow herder. "This is the greatest moment of my life when I can access water without any difficulty. Access to reliable, safe water will make my work easy."

"Fetching water for my cows was very hard work," Andrew continued. "By protecting the spring, my time will be well spent for it will only take me [a] few minutes and I will be done. By me saving time, the other development activities like farming will get more attention, for it will be easy just to open drainage which will be used to channel water in my farm. The plans that will be achieved include managing time, initiating [a] vegetable production project, and also having good time to rest."

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

"Access to reliable, safe, and clean water will help me have more time to concentrate in my studies," said 12-year-old Emmanuel C. "Many are the times I have been absent from school because either I am sick or my sister is sick. [I] am happy that my performance will improve because I will have enough time to study. All the energy that I have been using to get water from the spring will be converted to books."

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 rocks 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 the community members had prepared everything, 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. Individual households provided meals throughout each day to sustain the work team.

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

At last, it was time to dig in at the spring! Locals lent their strength to the artisans each day to help with the manual labor. First, we cleared and excavated the spring area. Next, we dug a drainage channel below the spring and several surface runoff diversion channels above and around the spring. These help to divert environmental contaminants carried by the rains away from 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 the construction work.

Excavation created space for setting the spring's foundation, which is 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.

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 low enough 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. This allows room for the average jerrycan (a 20-liter container) to sit beneath the pipe without making contact.

If we place the discharge pipe 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 clay is in short supply) and placed it at an incline to ensure water flows in the right direction.

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. This helps discourage people and animals from standing in that area, which could cause soil erosion and thus a clogged drainage area.

We then turned to cementing and plastering both sides of the headwall and wing walls. These finishing layers reinforce the brickwork and prevent water in the reservoir from seeping through the walls. In turn, enough pressure builds in the reservoir box to push water out through the discharge pipe.

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 while beautifying the spring and facilitating easy cleaning of the spring floor.

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.

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 rocks with a thick plastic tarp to minimize potential contamination sources from aboveground, followed by a layer of soil. We piled enough dirt on top to create a slight mound to compensate for the backfill's future settlement.

Community members transplanted grass onto the backfilled soil to help prevent erosion. Finally, the collection area was fenced 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.

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

Due to the ongoing challenges and restrictions amidst the pandemic, we worked with 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 their preferred date for training while considering other community calendar events, such as the agricultural season and social events. We requested a representative group of community members to attend training to relay the information learned to the rest of their family and friends.

When the day arrived, facilitators Jemmimah Khasoha, Victor Musemi, and Mercy Kirui deployed to the spring to lead the event. 11 people attended the training, including seven women and four men.

Perhaps the most crucial topic of the day was our session on COVID-19 prevention and control. 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 virus and provide extra information where needed.

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; dental hygiene; the ten steps of handwashing; and how to make and use a tippy tap and leaky tin. In addition, 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 community members can use to start a group savings account for any future minor repairs to the spring and a cooperative lending group to enable members to develop small businesses.

"We are used to washing hands without soap," Andrew explained. "It was thus emphasized that if one does not use soap, then the handwashing practice is not well done. We also were taught how to make soap and this would make the practice very effective."

When an issue arises concerning the spring, 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 to assist them. Also, 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!

October, 2021: Machemo Community, Chitavi Spring Protection Underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Machemo drains people’s time, energy, and health. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a clean water point and much more.

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

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: No More Danger!

January, 2023

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

Keeping The Water Promise

There's an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Machemo Community 4.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Machemo Community 4 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!

The people of Machemo used to get their water from a slippery, algae-ridden spring dug into a swampy area. Normally, kids fetch water for families in Kenya, but in Machemo, that was impossible.

"We [kids] rarely used to get water here because the spring was in a bush and was a hole, so our parents felt it dangerous for us," nine-year-old Melvin A. explained. "The spring was also made dirty when it rained."

But since we protected the spring and made it safer, that has changed. But Melvin doesn't seem to mind fetching water for her family since it's so easy!

"We enjoy fetching water from this water point," Melvin said. "We sometimes come to fetch water and even play with it because it pleases us how it flows and [is] clean. The accessibility is easier."

Even better than the convenience of fetching water with stairs is the lack of water-related diseases like cholera and typhoid, which used to plague this community.

"We are always happy because the water is clean [and] the spring is clean, [which] encourages people from far [away] to get water here because they believe it is safe and clean," said 43-year-old farmer Shackillah Lakwanyi. "The sanitation around the spring has greatly improved. Our children are able to get clean water for consumption and other uses."

"We carry water home for cleaning our dishes, clothes, and uniforms," Melvin concluded. "We drink clean water, and when carrying water to school, we are sure it is clean."

Community members at the spring: Melvin stands in the front in the red dress, Shackillah is the woman behind her in the blue and red dress.

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 Machemo Community 4 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 Machemo Community 4 – 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.


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