The Shikulu area is in a rural set up but next to the highway. It is very rocky, providing community members with a readily available raw material to sell and also to break down into gravel for sale. Despite the rocks, people manage to plant some crops to sustain their families. Some people also work as day laborers to earn a living. The houses here are made of mud with iron sheet roofs. Christianity is observed by the indicators of several churches in the area. Shikulu ia a unique, cosmopolitan community settled by people from all over Kenya. Together they live here united and in peace, providing a very hospitable and welcoming place for outsiders.
105 people in Shikulu depend on Mikalo Spring for water, but the spring is not meeting their need for clean and accessible water. One of the biggest challenges with this spring is how it comes to the surface almost directly under a large rock embedded into the earth. Without the ability to excavate it on their own, community members have only been able to improvise a plastic discharge pipe by lodging it directly into a small patch of grass around the rock. The pipe is barely secured with mud and rocks, and it often comes loose in the heavy rains this area frequently experiences.
The plastic discharge pipe also misses a portion of the spring's natural output, slowing the discharge speed - and community members - down. Most community members fetch water very early in the morning or in the evening to try to avoid the daytime crowds. When there is a long queue of people at the spring, many are forced to wait. These lines take away community members' time for other crucial activities and work.
The drawing point at the spring is slick with mud due to a lack of a drainage system. Falls are common as people try to leave the spring, cracking jerrycans and even leading to injuries.
"Accessing water from this point has been a challenge over time. Due to the lack of staircases, one of my children slipped and fell, dislocating her leg. This made me sad and again I yearned to get the spring protected," recalled 46-year-old Hellen Mikalo.
"I have been affected personally when I had gone to fetch water and that day my jerrycan fell off my head and broke. It was good that I still stood strong. What is needed is ensuring the spring is protected to avoid accidents, and it will save the issues of damage," explained teenager Silvya, recounting her most recent slip at the spring.
The quality of the water from the spring is questionable, as community members cannot be sure how much the runoff from the rains carry farm chemicals, residues from animal waste, and soil into the water they drink. People here report cholera and typhoid as their most common water-related illnesses, both of which they think stem from this spring's dirty water.
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.