This project is a part of our shared program with Safe Water and Sustainable Hygiene Initiative (SAWASHI). Our team is pleased to directly share the below report (edited for clarity, as needed).
Like people of many other communities, Ikoli people are peasant farmers who grow sugarcane as their main cash crop. Some of the community members are employed by the nearby sugar factory known as the West Kenya Sugar Company. Most of the young people are jobless, which has negatively affected the overall economic value of this community. According to the women with whom we spoke, most husbands neglect their responsibilities, forcing their wives to carry them out.
Most children cannot complete their studies due to the high poverty level, and young girls and boys are prone to early marriages.
The Current Source
She has been married and living in this community for over 27 years; blessed with four children and six grandchildren, Mama Agnes Kinyambu does not hide her joy while receiving us in her home.
"I came from the eastern part of Kenya where water is an issue. When I first came to this place, I could spent the whole day just watching and wondering how water can flow from a stream without drying up for many years and nobody seems to be amazed like me," Mama Agnes describes. "In Eastern Kenya, to have rain is a historic thing... With this mind in me, I did not mind drinking any water until when I was diagnosed with typhoid." Mrs. Agnes tells of how she used to go fetch water from an unprotected stream until she and other women began complaining of chest pain.
Mrs. Agnes says that she spent a lot of time in a hospital bed for chest treatment. And finally, a well was dug by the Kenya Finland Company in 1990. "I was excited when a pump was installed on the well. At least the distance covered and time spent was reduced. Because we did not have knowledge on how to repair the well once it fails and where to access the spare parts, the pump was dumped and people went back to access water from the old spring. Knowing that I have health problems, I decided to mobilize a few community members and contributed towards the reconstruction of the well pad after the pump was vandalized."
Even though she appreciates the fact that she no longer has to walk so far to the spring, she also worries about the quality of the well's water because there is continued recontamination happening as a result of using a bucket tied on a rope. With a bucket and rope instead of a working pump, the well is now open to surface runoff and other contaminants. "I pray that the good Samaritans will come in very soon so as to have a new pump. This will be of help to me and other old women in this area. With safe water, I am assured of having a bonus of living long," said Mrs. Agnes, tears rolling down her cheeks.
About 75% of homes have pit latrines, and everyone in the community has access to one. These latrines are semi-permanent structures that have doors, but the holes are not covered. This allows bad odor and flies to leave the facility and contaminate the surrounding environment. No hand-washing stations or tippy taps were seen in the area. The majority of families dispose of their garbage in large, open spaces such as the banana plantations. During the initial visit, it was obvious that only a few people have any knowledge about good hygiene and sanitation practices.
Two more hand-washing stations will be installed in the form of “tippy taps.” Tippy taps are containers tied to ropes, which tip to pour water for hand-washing. Community members will learn how and when to use these stations during hygiene and sanitation training.
Hygiene and sanitation training will inform Ikoli community members of the practical ways they can take care of themselves and their environment. Participants will be trained for three days on various topics. Some of these topics are:
– Proper water storage and effective treatment
– Food preparation, handling, and storage
– Forming an effective water user committee
The water user committee will fund repairs, maintain, and keep the well site secure.
The training facilitator plans to use the PHAST (Participatory Health and Sanitation Training) method to teach the above topics and more, and will return in July to hold a refresher training, check the new well, and assess if the community has made any progress.
Project Results: Training
Hygiene and sanitation training was held in the community for three hours, three days in a row. When it started earlier in the morning, attendance was low because many members prioritized working on their farms. By around 10am, at least 20 people arrived for the training, giving each household in the community at least one representative. The training was interactive as both men and women were able to discuss issues of poor hygiene and sanitation affect them on a daily basis. The trainer covered the planned topics, and the community members appeared to greatly appreciate what they learned. They realized all of these things are very important to their health and should be put in practice immediately.
After training, housewife and mother Silvia Khati Ashiono said, "I have been ignoring the aspect of water treatment thinking that it's more expensive. Only to realize that at 20 Kenyan shillings, I have chlorine that can help me for one and a half months. I choose to treat my water before drinking!"
Repairs began on April 18th. The team started by removing the old cracked well pad with chisels and mallets. When demolition was complete, they could mix concrete, sand, water, and cement to plaster a new well pad. This was then left to cure for three days before installing a new Afridev pump.
There were no challenges encountered during the rehabilitation process. All the while, the community provided meals for the construction team and made sure they were well-taken care of. Farmer Agness Kinyambu said that "the construction work is done well. I love the cooperation the team has, and more so the endurance of the conditions in our community. We really appreciate their good efforts!"
By the end of training, the community had also formed a water user committee in charge of security, management, and maintenance of the rehabilitated well.
On conclusion of the rehabilitation project, the community came together full of joy to receive their new water system. The women could not hide their happiness, since they now have the assurance of accessing clean and safe water for their families. This water well has helped lift some of this huge burden from their shoulders.
(Editor's Note: GPS coordinates for this project are approximate.)