Mavututu Spring serves 105 people in the Makhwabuye community, a quiet rural area. The roads here are not tarmacked, leaving them impassable during the rainy season. The area is surrounded by trees which lend a beautiful green landscape to the cool and dry atmosphere. Community members speak both the Swahili and Luhya languages.
The most common livelihoods are farming, rearing livestock, and casual labor jobs like construction and working on others' farms. Many community members grow banana plantations, selling their fruit each week. For livestock, people keep cattle and chickens. What makes this community unique is the high number of households rearing zero-grazing cattle for their milk, which they sell in the market. Though many local farming communities aspire to raise zero-grazing cattle, they are expensive to keep, and so this community's success at it makes them stand out among their neighbors.
The challenges facing this community at Mavututu Spring center around the spring's contamination and difficult access point. The water point is open, which means all manner of contaminants find their way into the water, especially after it rains. Soil, animal waste, and farm chemicals are among the top contaminants. Animals can walk into the spring and drink directly from the water as well.
People, however, also directly contaminate the water by the way they have to collect it. They submerge their containers first, then dip smaller jugs to fill up their larger jerrycans. This brings any dirt or bacteria that was on people's hands and containers into the water. This process is time-consuming and tiring, wasting a lot of women's and children's time each day.
During the rainy season, accessing the spring becomes even harder. Community members improvised a drawing point by using logs and mud to carve a small shelf over the water where they must perch while fetching. When it rains, the area becomes quite slippery, leading to injuries and spilled water. Falling into the water while trying to fetch, especially among children, is not uncommon.
Elizabeth, a young girl we met at the spring, said she finds it difficult to access water from the spring. She used to live in an urban area until her father bought land in this community, where they moved. The first day she came to fetch water she fell and broke a bucket because of the spring's poor accessibility, and this made her mother angry and punish her. Now, Elizabeth said, she hates going to the spring to fetch water because there is so much struggle just to fetch water and leave safely.
Most community members fetch water in the morning in an attempt to get the cleanest water possible, before too many people stir it up. But with everyone of the same mindset, overcrowding and long waits at the spring are part of the daily routine. Here, women are the ones in each family who get up early to run their household. They begin each day by preparing meals, getting kids ready for school, cleaning the homestead, and fetching water.
As if that is not enough, in the afternoons they do casual labor jobs in which they get paid for the income and upkeep of the family. With all these duties and chores lined up and waiting to be attended to, having insufficient, unsafe water becomes a real crisis when it delays the start of the rest of women's day. As such, the unprotected spring is impacting their lives negatively for they are not productive in their developmental works, negatively affecting the entire community in turn.
According to community members, the most reported health effects after consuming the dirty spring water are waterborne diseases such as typhoid in adults and diarrhea among children. Economically, the community members are not doing well because not only are they losing the time they need for development to sort out their water issues, but they are losing their money paying for medical treatment of the diseases they contract from the unclean water.
"Personally, I have stayed in hospital for quite some time because of illness. I was diagnosed with typhoid, which took me around six months to be cured. At the same time, I had a small child who was having diarrhea very frequently. I have spent money on medication and also on buying treatment agents like water guard to prevent the health hazards," explained Sophia Chirchir, a farmer and mother in the community. But most community members cannot afford to purchase treatment methods in the market, so most people consume the spring water untreated.
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.