August, 2022: Lawrence Matati Spring Protection Project Complete!
Ebusang'ang'a Community now has access to clean water! We transformed Lawrence Matati Spring into a flowing source of naturally filtered water thanks to your donation. Our team also trained the community on improved sanitation and hygiene practices. Together, these components will unlock the opportunity for community members to live better, healthier lives.
"Water is not only essential but also a basic human right," said Maurine Shihonji, a businesswoman from the community. "Each person has the right to access clean safe water for use when the need arises."
Maurine pours water into her hand.
"Access to this newly constructed water point will speed up [our] time for collection as the discharge has increased and also accessibility has been eased. [The] protection of the catchment area will allow for the collection of clean, safe water, meaning [I] am assured of good health. Cases related to water-borne diseases will now be a thing of the past.
Maurine fills containers at the spring.
"With sufficient water throughout the day, I will be able to access it at any given time of need without any pressure, and this will allow me to create sufficient time for my income-generating activities."
Children were just as excited as adults about the new waterpoint.
"There has been a great improvement in this water point," said 13-year-old Lindah N.
"Initially, we did find it a challenge accessing the water point during the drought season due to the large crowds and also during the rainy season as accessibility was tricky then. [The] installation of the stairs will allow for fast accessibility of the water point, thus reducing [the] cases of accidents. Water collection will be fast, and this will ease congestion at the water point. With the availability of clean safe water, cases of water-related diseases will reduce."
Lindah with a jerrycan full of water from the spring.
"Right now, I enjoy coming to fetch water due to the good accessibility, and the discharge rate is high, allowing me [to] spend minimal time at the water point. Being a student, I will now enjoy ample time for other activities such as playing with my friends, washing my clothes, and [will] also have ample time [to do] my homework."
Preparing for Spring Protection
Community members worked 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 material-collection process can take anywhere from a few weeks to months.
When the community was ready, we sent a lorry to deliver the remaining construction materials, including cement, plastic tarps, and hardware. Then, our construction 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 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 runoff diversion channels above and around the spring. These help to divert surface contaminants away.
To ensure community members could still access water throughout the construction process, we also dug temporary channels from the spring's eye around the construction site. This allowed water to flow without disrupting community members' tasks 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 establishing the base, we started brickwork to build the headwall, wing walls, and stairs.
Once the walls had grown tall enough, we began one of the most crucial steps: setting the discharge pipe. The discharge pipe needs to be positioned low enough in the headwall so the water level never rises above the spring's eye, yet high enough to allow room for 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, backpressure could force water 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.
In coordination with brickwork, we pitched stones on both sides of the spring's drainage channel. We then cemented and plastered each stone, forming the rub walls. These walls discourage people and animals from standing in that area, which could cause soil erosion and a clogged drainage area.
We then cemented and plastered 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 cured, 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.
The final stage of construction is backfilling the reservoir box behind the discharge pipe. We cleared the collection box of any debris that may have fallen during construction. 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 water through the discharge pipe only.
We filled up the reservoir area with the large, clean stones community members had gathered, arranging them in layers like a well-fitting puzzle. We covered the rocks with a thick plastic tarp to minimize potential contamination sources, then piled enough dirt on top to compensate for future settling.
Backfilling the spring box with stones.
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. Compaction can lead to disturbances in 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 the spring was ready, people got the okay from their local field officers to fetch water.
Training on Health, Hygiene, and More
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 Elvis Afuya and Rachael Dorcas deployed to the site to lead the event. 17 people attended the training, including ten women and seven men. We held the training at a local church compound since it was easily accessible for everyone.
We covered several topics, including community participation in the project, leadership and governance, personal and environmental hygiene, water handling and treatment, spring maintenance, dental hygiene, the ten steps of handwashing, disease prevention, and how to make and use handwashing stations.
During the leadership and governance session, we held an election for the newly formed water user committee leaders, who will oversee the maintenance of the spring. We also brainstormed income-generating activities. Community members can now start a group savings account for any future minor repairs to the spring and a cooperative lending group, enabling them to develop small businesses.
Everyone's favorite topic was soap-making, during which community members were eager to take part in each step of the process.
Curious community members come closer for a better look as soap is made.
"The training on soap making was an eye-opener to me, and I am indeed grateful for the knowledge imparted to us," said Maurine, who was quoted earlier. "I plan to start soap-making in large quantities [to] sell to the community members."
Another notable topic was tooth-brushing when our facilitators learned that some of the elders of the community had never once held a toothbrush. Those who had never brushed their teeth told us that chewing sugarcane would serve as adequate dental hygiene, but we explained that this would actually be harmful.
A training participant brushes her teeth.
"Hygiene and sanitation are paramount to the sustainability of a healthy generation," said Nicholas Matati, who was elected as chairperson of the new water user committee.
Nicholas at the spring.
"Today's training has been an eye-opener for us as we have been well equipped with the best hygiene and sanitation practices. Most often, we ignore key areas such as handwashing, bathing at least once a day, and brushing teeth, thinking [they don't] mean a lot to our personal health. With the knowledge gathered here today, I see this community raising a healthy generation in the coming years."
This project required a substantial collaboration between our staff, our in-country teams, and the community members themselves. 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 their local field officers to assist them.
Also, we will continue to offer them unmatchable support as a part of our monitoring and maintenance program. We walk with each community, problem-solving together when they face challenges with functionality, seasonality, or water quality. Together, all these components help us strive for enduring access to reliable, clean, and safe water for this community.
With your contribution, one more piece has been added to a large puzzle of water projects. In our target areas, we’re working toward complete coverage of reliable, maintained water sources within a 30-minute round trip for each community, household, school, and health center. With this in mind, search through our upcoming projects to see which community you can help next!
Thank you for making all of this possible!