June, 2021: Malava Housing Spring Project Complete!
Malanga Community now has access to clean water! We transformed Malava Housing 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.
Water User Committee Secretary Pamela Kulecho holds a pitcher of clean water from the protected spring.
"As a father, I believe I have a sigh of relief from waterborne diseases among my family members. My children have been highly affected, and that has always taken a toll on my finances. I now believe the case won't be the same again," said Daniel Mutongoi, who serves as a Pastor in the community and was the main immobilizer for his community to see the spring protected.
"Actually, we had goals as a savings group to start bottling pure water for drinking from the spring. The only challenge we had was protecting it, but now the dream has been realized, and so we intend to bottle the water for commercial purposes. We also intend to have our own fishpond at the drainage end."
Children were just as excited as the adults about the new water point.
"As much as fetching water is more of a woman's chore in my community. I'll have always helped my mum fetch water from the spring. With the spring protected now, it will be much easier for me to help her out. And, when I am at school, I can be sure that she is fetching water that is easy to collect, unlike before," said teenager Davis.
"During this school vacation, I'll be able to get some time to look in my books and study. Much time won't be wasted fetching water."
"The community members are so grateful to the donors who have sacrificed so much just to see that they get clean and safe drinking water. Their prayer is that our teams and all the donors may never get tired of helping other communities that are in dire need like they have been," reported the lead Field Officer for the project, Lillian Achineg' following the project's completion.
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.
Setting 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.
Setting the pipe
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 slightly incline to ensure water flows in the right direction.
Rub wall construction
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 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.
Setting up the fence
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. Happiness, thanksgiving, and appreciation were the order of the day flowing in all directions.
Complete protected spring
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, facilitator Lillian Achieng' deployed to the site to lead the event. Fifteen people attended the training, including community-based leaders and teachers from the area. We held the training in community member Daniel Mutongoi's compound next to his gate, as he was the one to help mobilize community members to attend the event. The space was somewhat limited, but we were able to space ourselves under the shade provided by the trees.
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 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 session on environmental and personal hygiene was the most memorable. The participants actively participated in planting trees and slashing long grass in Mr. Mutongoi's home. Some wished their homes had been chosen as the training venues to receive the trees and their grass trimmed.
Practicing contactless greetings
The second most memorable topic was water point maintenance. The participants discussed how they could keep their water point intact since it is located near Malava town, and those wishing to vandalize the spring might show up. The water user committee plus the area subchief took up the responsibility of arresting anyone who would be found causing damage or tampering with the spring.
"I have not known that I can make my own mask at home. Money is a challenge for me. Thus buying surgical masks or tailored ones are hard. I am happy that I'll be able to make my own mask courtesy of this training," said farmer Juliah Khabakali.
Homemade mask-making tutorial
"I've learned something new today: that water can be contaminated by myself despite the spring having been protected. I now know this to handle my water and also how to store it safely," said Mary Yiswa, a teacher from the community who is also the elected Treasurer of the water user committee.
"My fellow community members have been practicing handwashing, several homesteads have handwashing stations, but some don't have soaps. From today's training on COVID-19, I've come to realize that stopping the spread of the virus starts with me and not the government. It's up to me to mask up, keep the physical distance, avoid handshakes and crowded areas, and wash my hands regularly," Mary reported.
Safe water handling session
"From today's training, we shall avoid converging as a savings group, and we shall avoid attending any function that is crowded like weddings and funerals. We have always flouted the government's directives concerning the same," she continued.
Regarding the pandemic overall, Mary said, "I'm worried because when I watch the news on television, I see how many lives it's claiming. The laxity towards precautions is because I haven't witnessed anyone in my community succumb to it. But my mindset has been changed today."
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!