April, 2021: Gideon Kakai Chelagat Spring Project Complete!
Mukhuyu Community now has access to clean water! We transformed Gideon Kakai Chelagat 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.
Women and girls celebrate the protected spring, including Jane Kakai, second from right.
"Access to reliable, safe water to me is also a good life free from challenges of waterborne and water-related diseases. This will impact my life positively because I will not be spending much in seeking medication either for me or for any other member of my family," said Jane Kakai, the water user committee's elected treasurer.
"Since my land is within this water source's area, and I have been doing farming here for quite some time, it is my high time to try and do modern farming. That is horticulture farming because the structural design of the spring can make it possible to do irrigation easily," she added.
Children were just as excited as the adults about the new water point.
"I will not be going through the challenges of waterborne diseases as it was before. This means I will not be missing going to school and, with that, I will improve my performance in school," said young teenager Stephen.
"Since this water point is complete, we will not be wasting time at the water point because you only place your container below the discharge pipe and within no time the container will be full. This will save much of my time which I can utilize for the betterment of my performance."
Stephen at the spring
Preparing for Spring Protection
Community members worked together to source and carried 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 the gravel. Because people have to carry most items by hand, the materials collection process can take anywhere from a few weeks to months.
Community member breaks rocks into gravel for construction.
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. Individual households provided meals throughout each day to sustain the work team.
Community members help mix mortar for construction.
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 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.
Forming the 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.
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 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.
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 stone pitching
With brickwork and stone pitching completed, we 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.
Setting the tiles
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 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.
Fenced in and completed spring
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.
A woman enjoys a drink of water from the spring.
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 to mark the community's ownership of the water point. Happiness, thanksgiving, and appreciation were the order of the day flowing in all directions.
Enoc splashes water to celebrate the spring's completion.
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, who will relay the information learned to the rest of their family and friends.
When the day arrived facilitators Jonathan Mutai and Wilson Kipchoge deployed to the site to lead the event. Eighteen people attended the training including the local Village Health Volunteer. We held the training outside at Gideon Kakai Chelagat's homestead under a tree beside his house. The venue was very accommodating as participants without chairs could easily sit on the green grass comfortably. Also, compliance with COVID-19 regulations, including physical distancing, was easy to practice at this spacious location.
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 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.
Dental hygiene demonstration
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. We held an election for the newly formed water user committee leaders during the leadership and governance session.
Elected water user committee leaders address the group at training.
We also brainstormed income-generating activities that can be used to start a community savings account for any future minor repairs to the spring and a cooperative lending group to enable members to develop small businesses.
"The training was very informative. I, personally, learned a lot, especially washing of hands, which is one area I have been doing contrary to what is expected. We normally pour water into a basin and we all wash our hands in it using the same water without minding the need of rinsing hands with flowing water. The new knowledge will not only help me adopt good hygiene practices but also in curbing illness resulting from bad hygiene practices," said Jane Kakai, the water user committee's elected treasurer.
A woman takes a drink from the spring.
"Knowledge gained on water handling and treatment, like the use of SODIS (solar disinfection) as a method of water treatment, will help me save on money that I could have used in purchasing firewood for boiling water for consumption," Jane added.
We asked Jane to share what life has been like in her village since the onset of the novel coronavirus, and how the training might impact the community's actions during the ongoing pandemic.
"Initially, during the onset of the COVID-19 disease, there was a directive from the area chief to be implemented by the village elders. The directive was that each homestead was to have a handwashing station and soap at the entrance. So, we had to comply with those directives and improvise a handwashing station. Also, we had to practice face masking whenever we were going to shopping centers because there was a fine for noncompliance."
"We had started not complying with the set COVID-19 protocols because most of us were thinking we are living in the village until today, when we were told in reality that the COVID-19 disease is real and still existing whether we are in the village or not," Jane said, citing a common myth in Kenya that the virus affects only those living in urban settings.
Enoc gives a wave at the spring.
"For me, I will not allow anyone entering my home without washing their hands. Also, I will make sure my kids' wear face masks at any given time. Currently, tension or worries about the virus has reduced, though we need to exercise caution in what ever we do. Especially when we are traveling with the public vehicles, we need to be face masking and, if possible, carry hand sanitizer to use every time we touch anything used by so many people."
Faith takes a drink from 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 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!