Project Status

Project Type:  Protected Spring

Regional Program: Western Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 133 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Sep 2021

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 08/15/2023

Project Features

Click icons to learn about each feature.

"Typhoid and diarrhea are common diseases that affect us and our family members from time to time and there is no way we can eliminate it unless we have access to clean and safe water. Much money is spent on hospital bills as we seek treatment. This money could otherwise be used to buy family essentials like soap and food," said Robai Onyango, a 58-year-old farmer and the landowner of Onyango Spring.

"The current situation in this country requires that we wash our hands frequently with soap as a preventive mechanism to combat the spread of coronavirus," added primary school-aged boy, Reagan.

"We do wash our hands, but the water is not clean, posing to us a risk of getting infected with sickness including COVID-19."

Onyango Spring is located in Malimali Village, a peaceful place with frequent sounds from birds and people conversing as they greet each other and talk about current issues. The area has large rocks that people break into smaller pieces and gravel to sell locally for construction projects. Most farms here are full of sugarcane, beans, and maize, and most houses are semi-permanent with grass-thatched kitchens.

People in this community practice small-scale farming, selling excess farm products for some income. Some men work in the nearby sugar factory while others operate as boda boda (motorcycle taxi) riders, providing transport services to the locals.

133 people in Malimali depend on Onyango Spring as their closest and only year-round water point. But as Mama Onyango and Reagan reported, the spring is not serving them well.

Since women and girls are the ones predominantly responsible for fetching water for their families, they must wake up very early to do this task before anything else. Fetching water has to be a priority since water is essential to cleaning, cooking, bathing, washing dishes, and of course, drinking.

After lunch and before dinner, the women and girls return to Onyango Spring for more water as their day's activities progress. Some have to make more than 13 trips to the spring each day to meet their basic needs, especially if they find the water too dirty to fetch at any point during the day. The latter is especially common during the rainy season.

Onyango Spring has never dried up, even during the most recent and very severe drought in 2019. But since the spring is open, resembling a large puddle, the water is dirty and contaminated. Runoff from the rains carries farm chemicals, residues from animal waste, and soil directly into the pool of water. Algae, frogs, freshwater crabs, and a layer of rotting plant material at the bottom add to the water's contamination.

The way people have to fetch water also dirties it. Without a discharge pipe or a way to create running water, people have to either submerge their container in the spring or scoop the water from the pool using a small jug to then pour into a larger jerrycan. Both processes bring any dirt and bacteria that were on the container and people's hands into the water. Sometimes shoes and toes slip into the water by accident too due to the muddy edge of the spring.

People waste a lot of time at the spring trying to fetch the cleanest water possible. If people try to fetch the water too quickly, or more than one person at a time, they risk stirring up the mud and rotting leaves from the bottom into the water they collect. The scoop-pour method is extremely time-consuming, especially when people bring multiple jerrycans at once to fill up. Time spent fetching water detracts from the rest of the day's activities, and soon many women find they are spending more time at the spring than anywhere else. Jobs, farmwork, housework, and childcare suffer because of it.

Accessibility is another challenge at Onyango Spring. The area surrounding the spring is bushy and muddy. Community members have put a few stones at the water's edge to try to help them keep their balance above the water, but these, too, are slippery. The path that leads to the spring is very steep and if one is not careful, they can fall and get hurt. The elderly, women who are pregnant, and young children especially have trouble accessing the spring.

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

September, 2021: Malimali Community, Onyango Spring Protection Complete!

Malimali Community now has access to clean water! We transformed Onyango 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.

"All along, we have been suffering from waterborne and water-related diseases like typhoid and diarrhea frequently," said Robai Onyango, a 62-year-old farmer. "But now we can access safe and clean water, which will minimize those diseases. As a result, trips to hospitals will also reduce tremendously."

Robai filling a jerrycan.

Robai continued: "Since less time will be spent at the spring, I will have more time to spend in income-generating activities to support my family."

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

Omondo at the spring.

"I will be able to assist my mum to fetch water from our beautiful protected spring and still get time to study and play, too," said Omondo, who is seven years old. "Fetching water is easy and faster than before."

"I will no longer miss school due to illness caused by contaminated water from the unprotected spring," Omondo continued. "Stairs have been installed for easy access to the spring. Therefore, I don't have to worry about hurting myself due to slippery paths."

Preparing for Spring Protection

Community members worked together to source and carry all locally available construction materials to the spring.

Community members bring artisans materials.

These included bricks, sand, stones, and fencing poles. Some people also chiseled away at large rocks to break them down into gravel. Because people have to carry most items by hand, the materials collection process can take anywhere from a few weeks to months.

When the community members had prepared everything, we sent a lorry to the community to deliver the rest of the construction materials, including the cement, plastic tarps, and hardware. Then, our artisans 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! Locals lent their strength to the artisans each day to help with the manual labor.

It's worth noting that women and children were very committed to the construction of Onyango Spring.

Malimali's women carrying a heavy fencing pole.

Most of the community's men work as casual laborers in the nearby sugar factory, which meant they were unavailable to help. The women of Malimali worked hard and made meals for the artisans and all who were involved in the construction process.

To get started on the spring, we cleared and excavated the 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, which is 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 clay is in short supply) and placed it at an 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 discourage people and animals from standing in that area, which could cause soil erosion and thus a clogged drainage area.

We then 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.

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 rocks with a thick plastic tarp to minimize potential contamination sources from aboveground, followed by a layer of soil. We piled enough dirt 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 to mark the community's ownership of the water point.

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.

Community member Mrs. Gladys Odhiambo was instrumental in planning for the training. She informed the community members who were selected to represent the community in the training. Mrs. Robai Onyango graciously lent facilitators the use of her compound for a venue.

When the day arrived, facilitators Christine Masinde and Samuel Simidi deployed to the site to lead the event. 25 people attended.

Opening prayer.

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.

Physical distancing demonstration.

"Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in our country, no one has ever come to our village to train us about its symptoms and preventive measures," Robai said. "After this training, I have now understood how serious this disease is and how we can take precautions to avoid being infected by the virus."

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.

"This training is very beneficial to us since we have learned about how we can improve our health through improved hygiene and sanitation practices," said Gladys Odhiambo, the new water user committee's secretary.

We also brainstormed income-generating activities that community members can use to start a group savings account for any future minor repairs to the spring and a cooperative lending group to enable members to develop small businesses.

After the training, Robai had new resolve for bolstering the hygiene practices in Malimali Community. "We are going to make sure that handmade leaky tins and soap are installed in our homesteads to enable us and visitors wash hands properly and frequently," she said.

When an issue arises concerning the spring, 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!

July, 2021: Onyango Spring Project Underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Malimali Community drains people’s time, energy, and health. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to install a clean water point and much more.

Get to know this community through the introduction and pictures we’ve posted, and read about this water, sanitation, and hygiene project. We look forward to reaching out with more good news!

Project Photos

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.

A Year Later: Money Wasted Turned to Savings!

December, 2022

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

Keeping The Water Promise

There's an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Malimali Community 2.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Malimali Community 2 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!

Before we protected the spring in Malimali, animals around the spring would contaminate the water, making community members sick.

"Sometimes, [the] water could be dirtified by cows which were tied to graze near the water point," explained 30-year old farmer Snowrin Khavai, who also serves as secretary of the local water user committee. "This is because they could step in water and drink it directly, at time leaving their waste in [the] water, hence becoming agents of contamination."

But since we have protected the spring's water and added a fence around it, the water hasn't made people sick like it did before. This has freed up so much time and energy for other, more productive things.

"Water drawn here is very clean and safe for human consumption," Snowrin said. "You don't even need to add any chemicals for purification. Also, since the spring was fenced, animals like cows have not been accessing it, unlike before the construction. I am no longer a victim of water-related ailments, thus the money I could have spent seeking medical attention is now set aside as savings."

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 Malimali Community 2 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 Malimali Community 2 – 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.


1 individual donor(s)