Shango Spring is located in rural Makale village, where a majority of the houses are semi-permanent and not connected to electricity. The roads are in good working condition thanks to the efforts of the area member of the county assembly, who has aided in this development. Most community members here practice sugarcane farming, though there are those who are employed as casual laborers at the West Kenya Sugar Factory while others engage in running small businesses. Makale community members are known for being a loving people who welcome visitors as they believe visitors are a blessing from God.
Shango Spring is the nearest and only year-round water source for 250 people in Makale, but the spring is not serving them well. The spring has no cut-off drainage above the spring, meaning most surface water drains into the spring when it rains. This runoff carries farm chemicals, residues from animal waste, and soil directly into the water people fetch.
The spring looks like a two-tier puddle. The upper tier is where the spring water (and runoff) pools. In this pool, algae, rotting plant matter, frogs, and insects call the water home. Community members tried to improvise a collection point by building a wall out of sticks, stones, and mud. They placed a discharge pipe in this wall to carry water out of the pool and into their jerrycans.
The water then creates the second tier of the puddle below the wall, where community members have to step in several inches of water and mud to reach the pipe. Without a drainage system in place, the stagnant water serves as a breeding ground for snakes and other animals, including mosquitoes that carry the dangerous disease malaria.
Typhoid has been rampant in the community, people reported, and it has been linked to the dirty spring water time and again. Typhoid is particularly expensive to treat, depleting families of their financial resources and taking them away from other productive work while they are sick. Adults lose time at their jobs and kids have to stay home from school, often falling behind in their lessons.
"Water from the spring is not safe for drinking. On several occasions, I have experienced sore throat issues and I link this to our spring waters," said Sabina, a pre-primary school-aged girl.
Accessibility is another major challenge at Shango Spring. In addition to the wet and muddy access point, the area around the spring is challenging to water users and there are no stairs guiding the path to the waterpoint. During the rainy season, community members said they sometimes slip and injure themselves, especially while trying to leave the spring carrying water, due to the path slick with mud.
"Accessing the spring has been a challenge to me, especially when it rains. On three occasions, I have slipped and injured myself forcing me to seek medical attention," said 52-year-old farmer Martin Musungu. These hospital visits compound families' time, energy, and money lost on treating their water-related illnesses.
What We Can Do:
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.