May, 2021: Musa Mmasi Shikwe Spring Project Complete!
Wepika Community now has access to clean water! We transformed Musa Mmasi Shikwe 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.
A community member expresses her thanks at the completed spring.
"It will be easier for me to water my vegetables on my adjacent farm to the spring. Previously, drawing water from the water source for irrigation was cumbersome, and the whole process would contaminate the water more, rendering the other water users waterless," said Musa Mmasi, for whom the spring is named and the elected Organizing Secretary of the water user committee.
"As a man, it's true I rarely fetch water from the spring, but the water from the spring has an impact on my life. As a father, I've spent a lot on treating my family of water-related diseases. With this water protected, I am sure I'll be able to save some coins since my family members won't fall sick often," he added.
A woman collects water from the spring.
Children were just as excited as the adults about the new water point.
"I know I won't fall sick again every time as it has always been the norm. I believe this water is now much safer for our health. It will be much easier for me to get drinking water for my father's cows. Initially, before the spring was protected, I could spend so much time scooping water for the thirsty cows, and I used to hate the whole exercise," explained teenager Andrew.
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 members worked late into the evening to help the artisan prepare the foundation before the rains came.
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. 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.
Setting the pipe
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 slightly 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 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. To mark the spring's completion, community members sang and danced to celebrate their new source of clean flowing 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 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, facilitator Lillian Achieng' deployed to the site to lead the event. Twenty people attended the training, including community-based leaders. Initially, even though the date was mutually agreed upon, we did not expect many participants to attend the training. This was because the training was to take place on a Sunday, and many community members here attend church services on Sunday.
Trainer Lillian demonstrates the ten steps of handwashing.
However, to our pleasant surprise, the attendance was good as many participants came from church directly to the training venue.
We held the training in the open compound of Mr. Musa Mmasi, where the participants could sit under the shade provided by the few trees in his compound.
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.
Lillian stresses a point at the training.
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.
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.
Dental hygiene demonstration
The COVID-19 prevention session was the most memorable. "Community members amazed us with them 'We don't believe in the existence of corona' attitude," reported Trainer Lillian. "The community members admitted that they only put on masks to avoid being arrested by the police. To them, COVID-19 doesn't exist." Lillian emphasized the seriousness of the pandemic and its impact on daily life worldwide, using statistics to convey the evidence of the last year and a half.
The second most memorable topic was water handling and storage. Many community members admitted that they only washed their storage containers when they felt it was dirty, but this may not be until after a whole month. The facilitator educated the group on how to handle water and store it correctly to avoid contamination.
Question and answer session
"The training has opened my eyes widely concerning COVID-19. Not having witnessed anyone succumb to COVID-19 in my village does not mean that COVID-19 doesn't exist. I will be, from now, wearing my mask and washing my hands regularly with soap to keep the virus away," said teenager Andrew.
"The training was very beneficial to me and my household. I have been able to learn that water can still be contaminated despite the spring being protected. I have known how to handle my water now," reported Musa Mmasi, the elected Organizing Secretary of the spring's water user committee.
A woman sanitizes her latrine as part of the home sanitation practical at training.
"Initially, when this disease was first announced in Kenya, we had almost every homestead having a handwashing station. Unfortunately, this disbelief on COVID-19 had made many lower their guard. Thus no home had been filling their handwashing containers with water."
"Lillian has awakened me from the disbelief slumber that I was in. She has removed the myths and rumors on COVID-19 that filled my head. I am now ready and willing to wear my mask, wash my hands with soap, and keep the physics distance. These habits had died due to the myths and disbelief," Mr. Mmasi explained.
Area Director Catherine Chepkemoi expresses her thanks.
"Many participants in this training agree that we will go back to filling our handwashing containers with water and wash our hands regularly. As we learned from the training, we will also avoid gatherings so that we don't contract the virus."
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!