This project is a part of our shared program with Western Water and Sanitation Forum (WEWASAFO). Our team is pleased to directly share the below report (edited for clarity, as needed).
Welcome to the Community
Each day begins very early with the men of this Shitaho community milking their animals and tilling their small plots of land for harvest. Maize, sugarcane, and fruits are most commonly grown here. A few of these same men earn extra money as night guards in nearby Kakamega Town.
The women must make several trips to fetch water, often with dirty, open 20-liter containers. They struggle to clean their homes, wash, cook and send their children off to school. Then, some of these women head to Kakamega to work at their businesses until late evening. They either sell roasted maize, sugarcane, fruit, seedlings, charcoal, or firewood.
Many families in Shitaho walk down a slope to fetch their water from Mwikholo Spring. Animals come and go, people wade into and dip their hands, and rainwater washes dirt and feces into the spring's water. The rainier the season, the muddier the spring's water becomes. Adults and children use uncovered plastic containers as big as they can carry to and from the spring. Many of these are dirty; we heard one woman say she doesn't wash her water containers more than once a month.
When water is delivered home, it is separated between the living room, kitchen, and latrine (if the family has one). Most families have been able to afford large plastic storage containers to decrease the number of trips needed to fetch water.
Community members constantly suffer from typhoid and other waterborne diseases after drinking water from Mwikholo Spring.
Less than a quarter of families have their own pit latrine. Those there are made of mud walls and wooden floors, which rot out and endanger the user. Because of these poor conditions, open defecation is an issue; locals relieve themselves out in the open and rainwater and flies carry that feces to other places.
None of the homes visited had a place to wash hands, nor did many have dish racks or clotheslines. Garbage is thrown at the edge of gardens, because it is believed to produce a better crop. However, chickens and dogs dig through this garbage and carry it from one end of the compound to the other.
Plans: Hygiene and Sanitation Training
Community members will attend hygiene and sanitation training for at least two days. This training will ensure participants are no longer ignorant about healthy practices and their importance. The facilitator plans to use PHAST (Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation), CLTS (Community-Led Total Sanitation), ABCD (Asset-Based Community Development), group discussions, handouts, and demonstrations at the spring.
Training will also result in the formation of a committee that will oversee operations and maintenance at the spring. They 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.
Plans: Sanitation Platforms
On the final day of training, participants will select five families that should benefit from new latrines.
Training will also inform the community and selected families on what they need to contribute to make this project a success. They must mobilize locally available materials, such as bricks, clean sand, hardcore, and ballast. The five families must prepare by sinking a pit for the sanitation platforms to be placed over. All community members must work together to make sure that accommodations and food are always provided for the work teams.
Plans: Spring Protection
One day, as some of them traveled through another village on their way to the funeral of their church-mate, they witnessed the transformation of what they had known as "an open hole with water." Curiosity caused them to ask how this had happened, and the learned this was called a spring protection system.
Now they want safe, clean water too. As Lewis K put it, "You may not know the amount of help you will be giving to this community by protecting our only source of water. It is us that stay here who understand how much we've suffered as a result of using contaminated water from this spring. I strongly believe that we sometimes make this water dirty through our own unhealthy practices without our knowledge. We need help, please. We need clean water."
Fetching water is predominantly a female role, done by both women and young girls. Protecting the spring and offering training and support will therefore help empower the female members of the community by giving them more time and efforts to engage and invest in income-generating activities.
Protecting the spring will ensure that the water is safe, adequate and secure. Construction will keep surface runoff and other contaminants out of the water.