March, 2021: Peter Yakhama Spring Project Complete!
Mukhonje B Community now has access to clean water! We transformed Peter Yakhama 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 pose at the newly completed spring.
"The challenges of waterborne and water-related diseases will be completely eliminated. Therefore, my family members and I will have at least something to add value to our family, rather than the money that would have been used in seeking medical attention," said Agnes Benson, the elected Treasurer of the spring's new water user committee.
"As you can see, I am a much-privileged person. The spring itself is just next to my farm, which is very arable. My plans are to ensure that I grow vegetables here throughout the year for commercial sale because water is readily available throughout all the seasons."
Children were just as excited as the adults about the new water point.
"I will be drinking and using water which is free from diseases. Thus it will not be easy for me to contract waterborne diseases as they used to be before implementation," said Josephy, a primary school-aged boy in the community.
"Since I will be accessing safe, clean water free from diseases, it will help me not to miss going to school because I will be healthy through consuming safe water, and this will translate into good performance in school."
Joseph splashes water in celebration 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.
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.
Pouring 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 to allow room for the average jerrycan (a 20-liter container) to sit beneath the pipe without making contact.
Setting the discharge pipe
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.
Plastering the rub walls
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 stairs
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.
Children helped carry small stones to the spring for backfilling while adults delivered heavier loads.
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 also beautifying the spring and facilitating easy cleaning of the spring floor.
Backfilling as women continue to deliver clay and rocks to the artisan.
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.
Backfilling soil onto the tarp.
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.
A girl plants a piece of sod over the spring's catchment area.
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.
A man fetches water from the completed spring.
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. Together with the village elder, the elected water user committee said they were planning a future day for a thanksgiving ceremony at the spring.
A young girl takes a drink of clean water from the spring.
Training on Health, Hygiene, COVID-19 and More
Due to the ongoing challenges and restrictions amidst the pandemic, we worked with both 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 select yet representative group of community members to attend training, relaying the information learned to the rest of their family and friends. When the day arrived, facilitators Christine Masinde, Jonathan Mutai, and Victor Musemi deployed to the site to lead the event.
Trainer Christine (right) and a community member demonstrate contactless greetings as alternatives to the traditional handshake.
14 people attended the training, including community-based leaders the local village health volunteer. We held the training at Seth Lukonzo's homestead under the shade of trees. Seth, the village elder, and our team agreed on the location for its ability to host participants while observing physical distancing and because participants could enjoy a good breeze from the trees.
Trainer Victor walks participants through the steps to build a tippy tap handwashing station.
Perhaps the most important 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.
Victor watches a man practice the ten steps of handwashing.
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 and sanitation platforms; 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.
Christine leads the homemade face mask session.
We also brainstormed income-generating activities that can be used to start both a community savings account for any future minor repairs to the spring and a cooperative lending group to enable members to develop their own small businesses.
A boy demonstrates toothbrushing during the dental hygiene session.
Personal hygiene was one of the more memorable topics as everyone had different opinions on the number of times a person should or could take a bath each day. Some people said they bathe three times a day, others once or twice, and everyone had reasons why the others' practices were either incorrect or impossible. The heated debate went on until the facilitator Christine, intervened, advising the group to bathe at least once a day, and more if they desired or felt necessary.
Everyone practices using the elbow for safer coughs and sneezes.
"The training was of great value to me because I learned new things which I wasn't aware of until today. The knowledge gained on water treatment - that is, the solar disinfection method - will help me save on firewoods which I would have used in boiling water for drinking as I normally do," said Agnes Benson, the elected Treasurer of the spring's water user committee.
"I have learned a lot. For me, I have been purchasing toothpaste sold on the open markets, and I have not been reading recommendations until today when I realized that the toothpaste should be stored in a cool, dry place away from the sunlight. The knowledge has impacted me in that it is not all about the size of toothpaste. Still, quality matters more than the quantity because if the recommended size to be used is the size of a peanut, definitely even the smallest size of toothpaste will serve for a longer period of time," said Seth Lukonzo, who hosted the training. Seth also served as a Deacon in the community and was elected Vice-Chair of the water user committee.
Trainer Victor leading the dental hygiene session.
We asked Seth to share what life in his village has been like since the pandemic began last year and how they are working to prevent the virus's spread.
"Since the onset of Corona, we were told by the village elder that every homestead should be having a handwashing container at their entrance. It was a policy that everyone in the village adopted. Also, wearing face masks was mandatory because it was a policy from the state, and no one could leave their residence without a face mask. Leaving it behind and being found without it, one was to be fined Ksh 20,000 ($182), or jailed for a period not less than 3 months."
After completing training, Seth said he had some ideas of changes he would be made to step up his daily prevention routine at home.
"The most helpful part of the training was how to make a tippy tap for handwashing. The tippy tap is very good in that there is nowhere you can touch it when using it. The other thing was homemade face masks you can make using your clothes, which no one has touched, unlike the ones purchased from the market which you don't know the status of the seller and last person trying to fit into it."
Handwashing using a tippy tap.
"We will have to improvise tippy taps for handwashing because the containers are with us here, and trees for making stands are also readily available. Besides that, we have thought that liquid soap or sanitizers are the best and eliminated the virus 100%. It was not until today when we learned that even the bar soap that we have been neglecting is equally good as the liquid soap."
When asked if he had any worries about the virus, Seth said, "yeah, but not so much like when the first case was reported. We have started to live with it by adopting the set COVID-19 regulations."
Young Ben fetching water at 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' team 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!