Project Status

Project Type:  Protected Spring

Regional Program: Western Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 420 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Jun 2021

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 06/08/2024

Project Features

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"Really, water is life. In this community of ours, people have suffered in different ways such as waterborne diseases, or expectant mothers having a hard time collecting water. Doing manual cleaning [of the spring] takes time, and a majority of the people spend most of their time looking for water," said 28-year-old farmer Josephine Embusi, who lives in Malekha West.

All has never been well for the 420 community members who depend solely on Soita Spring for water, such as Josephine. For these families and especially the women, who do the majority of domestic work, a lot of sacrifices have to be made when losing time and energy at the spring. To avert congestion at the spring in the morning, the women leave as early as 5:00 am to fetch as many containers of water as possible before planning for other daily tasks. For those who fail to get to the spring early, they must reschedule the day's activities by waiting in the long queues just to ensure they have enough water for the minimum domestic needs.

To aid in fetching water, community members created a makeshift discharge pipe lodged between rocks and a wall of mud they built. The water is then forced to flow through the pipe from where it collects in an open pool above. But a lot of water seeps up through the ground around the pipe, reducing the current output. And to reach the pipe, people must balance among rocks and the pool of water always below the mud wall, risking slipping off the rocks if they use them or tripping in the mud if they don't.

The water's arc from the pipe reaches just beyond a very narrow opening in a tall mound of solid earth. This forces community members to fit what jerrycans they are able into the opening, or use jugs to fill their containers by hand. The latter is extremely time consuming and tiring, lending to the long lines.

The area around the spring is slopy, allowing waste products carried in the rains' runoff to directly enter the spring's pool of water. Animal waste, farm chemicals, and soil are the biggest sources of contamination, along with the green algae and rotting leaves that live inside the water. This water is unsafe for human consumption, but since it is the only available water source for this community, they consume the water regardless of its dangers.

Community members reported high rates of water-related illnesses among families who depend on Soita Spring, including typhoid, fever, cholera, and bilharzia. People spend a lot of resources seeking medical treatment for these illnesses - money that would have been put to use elsewhere such as children's school fees or critical needs at home or on their farms. When they are sick, adults miss out on productive work time and kids miss their school lessons, falling behind.

"This is great chance and change in this community of ours," said primary school student Elizabeth, or "Lizz" for short, speaking optimistically of the future spring protection.

"We have been facing difficult moments, especially when we are in school. Most of us come from poor backgrounds leading to absenteeism and poor performance as children spend most of their time looking for water and becoming sick due to the unsafe water we take."

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

June, 2021: Soita Spring Project Complete!

Malekha West Community now has access to clean water! We transformed Soita 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.

"As a parent, much will change in my life. Hygiene standards will increase, there will be minimal cases of disease, which will contribute to good health among us. Having access to clean and safe water will allow me to be in a good position to empower myself to do agribusiness," said Margret Musa, a female farmer.

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

"The entire community hygiene standards will increase. Personally, I will live a healthy, happy life full of joy with minimal cases of disease. This will ensure that I get more time on academics to achieve my goals and no absenteeism due to lack of water. I will also do agriculture in our community," said student Abigael.

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.

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.

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

We turned to cementing and plastering both sides of the headwall and wing walls with brickwork and stone pitching completed. 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 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.

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. We officially handed over the spring directly following training to mark the community's ownership of the water point. Then leaders were elected who will ensure proper maintenance of the spring. Happiness, thanksgiving, and appreciation were the order of the day flowing in all directions.

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.

We communicated with the area chief and community members who assisted during construction about the upcoming training during the project. 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 Victor Musemi and Jonathan Mutai deployed to the site to lead the event. Twenty-two people attended the training, including thirteen female and nine male community-based leaders. They were excited as it was their first time attending a training event and having piped water in their community. The weather was nice. The training was held outside near a tree which was enjoyable for all. This gave us space for practical demonstrations and also to ensure physical distance.

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.

In one session, the facilitators shared the importance of coughing and sneezing into your elbow to protect one another. After demonstrating, the group discussed that the majority of them use their hands, not their elbows. They determined it is dangerous since most continued to greet one another even though they did not wash their hands first.

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.

"The training made me change my normal way of doing cleanliness, especially personal hygiene. This will help me share with others to ensure that everyone else also has the same knowledge. This will promote a good standard of hygiene in our community," said Edith A.

As a result of the training, the attendees plan to take steps to ensure that everyone in their community observes the guidelines of washing hands frequently, wearing masks, and avoiding public meetings. They also plan to share with other communities to create increased awareness.

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.

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!

May, 2021: Soita Spring Project Underway!

Dirty water from Soita Spring is making people in Malekha West, Kenya 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

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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: Mind Eased by Protected Water!

July, 2022

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

Keeping The Water Promise

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

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Malekha West 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!

Collecting water from Soita Spring used to be difficult and tiring for those living in Malekha West Community.

"Initially, we fetched water directly from the ground flowing through either a banana stalk or a piece of plastic or iron sheet. It did not sit well with me," said Sabina Andayi, 18.

But now that the spring is protected, things are different for Sabina and other community members.

We asked Sabina how the protection of the spring has made a difference for her.

"I feel better knowing the water is protected," she said. "When I come to get water, I don't have to prepare myself mentally just in case there is an issue. I come here knowing I will get clean water easy."

She concluded, "Since its protection, we have felt it better to come get water here and conduct our cleaning because we know that the water is clean and safe. [It has] improved our overall hygiene."

Sabina at the spring.

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 Malekha West 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 Malekha West 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.


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