Project Status

Project Type:  Protected Spring

Regional Program: Western Kenya WaSH Program

Impact: 105 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Oct 2021

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 02/03/2024

Project Features

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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:

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

October, 2021: Makhwabuye Community, Mavututu Spring Protection Complete!

Makhwabuye Community now has access to clean water! We transformed Mavututu 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.

"My family and I will no longer suffer from waterborne and water-related diseases like typhoid, cholera, and diarrhea," said Sophia Chirchir, 37. Sophia served as our main point of contact within the community. "I will now concentrate my energy on taking care of my family and income-generating activities."

Angel fetching her own water.

"My daughter, Angel, who is almost three years old, loves accompanying me to the spring," Sophia continued. "It used to scare me when she would insist on fetching her own water. Now, I don't have to worry anymore since it is easy and faster to get water not only for her but for other children and adults too."

Children were just as excited as the adults about the new water point. Mary L, 7, was impressed by the quality of the water.

"Water from the spring is very clean for drinking and washing utensils and clothes. This will help me maintain cleanliness and prevent stomach pains," she said.

Mary at the spring.

"Stairs have been installed at the spring for easy access," Mary continued. "Now, I will make as many trips to the spring as possible without being bothered about falling as a result of slippery paths."

Preparing for Spring Protection

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

Community member carrying a heavy rock to the construction site.

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 artisan 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. First, we cleared and excavated the spring 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 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, 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 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.

We pitched medium to large stones on both sides of the spring's drainage channel in coordination with brickwork. 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 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 disturb 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.

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. We requested a representative group of community members to attend training to relay the information learned to the rest of their family and friends.

When the day arrived, facilitators Christine Masinde and Samuel Simidi deployed to the site to lead the event. Twelve people attended the training, including eight males and four females.

Coughing into elbow.

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.

Sophia confessed that many people in Makhwabuye experienced pandemic fatigue. "To be honest, we used to wash our hands and wear masks just after COVID-19 was first announced in Kenya, but with time we no longer adhered to the rules. But after this training, we will observe these practices. We will ensure that everyone has constructed a leaky tin in their home to allow washing hands using running water."

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.

Handwashing was one of the memorable topics since when participants were asked to demonstrate how they wash their hands, a three-year-old girl did not hesitate to come forward. She washed her hands the way she usually does...then she was shown how to do it right.

Joshua Ouma, 61, a community health volunteer, understood the importance of the training. "This training is very valuable to us considering that it has touched on [the] importance of hygiene promotion to prevent illness and improve our health, which, in turn, will improve our wellbeing as a community."

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.

The training also had fringe benefits: while the training was going on, a lady visited Mama Margaret, whose compound we held the training. Then, this lady joined the training! She was very keen on the soap-making process, in particular. She said she was going to buy reagents to make her own soap and sell some, too. She urged other trainees to do the same.

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.

Mavututu Spring protection was a success, and the beneficiaries are now able to access clean and safe water free from contamination. The joy we see in community members after completing the project inspires us to reach more and more communities. They were indeed happy. All the gratitude goes to the donors of this project.

Thank you for making all of this possible!

September, 2021: Mavututu Spring Project Underway!

A severe clean water shortage in Makhwabuye 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. Learn more here!

A Year Later: The Confidence of Clean Water

December, 2022

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

Keeping The Water Promise

There's an incredible community of monthly donors who have come alongside you in supporting clean water in Makhwabuye Community 3.

This giving community supports ongoing sustainability programs that help Makhwabuye Community 3 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 Makhwabuye, people had to painstakingly scoop water from an open water source. The water was open to contamination, which made community members sick, and fetching the water took up too much of their precious time.

"The water was being fetched using [a] jug," said 12-year-old Leah. "We could at times wash our feet near the source, not knowing the contaminated water mixed with the one we [were] fetching, making it unsafe. There was no structure. It could get slippery, especially during the rainy seasons."

But now, fetching water is as easy as placing the jerrycan beneath the water's flow and picking it back up again. This means people spend less time trying to keep contaminants from their water and more time on productive things like farming and learning.

"Getting water here is good, with [the] confidence of clean water," Leah said. "It has really changed our life because we ensure we take treated water. It has made washing our clothes, utensils, and cleaning easier. We come to fetch water using minimal time."

Leah, right, stands with a community member and our field officer.

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 Makhwabuye Community 3 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 Makhwabuye Community 3 – 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.


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