Wekoye Spring is the only source of water for the 600 people living in Shivagala. The area around the spring has gradual slopes with trees and sugar plantations surrounding it. Farming is this community's most common livelihood.
Community members have endured the contaminated water and difficult access point at Wekoye Spring for a long time. A few years back, desperate for clean water, the community tried to protect the spring themselves. But without the proper materials or technical expertise, they were unsuccessful in their efforts. All that remains is a discharge pipe stuck into a small cement wall, but on all sides of the wall, the spring's water remains open to the environment, prone to contamination, and unprotected.
The environment around the spring is bushy, making it risky to access, especially for women and girls in the evening. The area in front of the discharge pipe is constantly backed up with several inches of muddy water, putting community members at risk of snakebites and bilharzia, both of which live in this environment.
People here queue for long periods of time to fetch water due to the limited yield their wall and pipe were able to capture from the spring's total output. This slows community members down, as does the tricky and slippery access area. This wasted time could otherwise have been used for incoming-generating activities, home chores, or work on their farms. Fights commonly arise at the spring due to disagreements over places in line and hierarchy of needs, causing tension among community members.
"I have had fights with the members of the community over the water," said Wilbroda Ayeta, a farmer and mother.
Community members report frequent cases of waterborne and water-related diseases, especially diarrhea and typhoid. These further drain families of their time, energy, and financial resources as they seek medical treatment. When it rains, the spring water becomes even more contaminated as runoff carries dirt, animal waste, and farm chemicals into the water. During the rainy season, cases of water-related illnesses in the community rise.
"I have suffered from diarrhea a few times due to the contaminated water," said Esther.
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.