Project Status

Project Type:  Dug Well and Hand Pump

Regional Program: Port Loko, Sierra Leone WaSH Program

Impact: 487 Served

Project Phase:  In Service - Jan 2019

Functionality Status:  Functional

Last Checkup: 12/07/2023

Project Features

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Komrabai Community has three protected wells that are in great environments. Unfortunately, only one of these three wells is functioning, and only partially.

It is located at DEC Komrabai Primary School.

The one at the school is producing a low quantity of water and almost dries up entirely for parts of the year. This is common for most hand-dug wells in Sierra Leone because the water table is deep, and private contractors cannot dig deep enough to ensure a well can serve the people for 365 days.

In addition to this well, we are rehabilitating the other two non-functioning wells to ensure everyone in Kombrabai has access to safe drinking water. See the projects here and here.

That means that this community’s only reliable water source is the swamp, which is located more than a mile away from some homes. Aside from the distance, the road is in poor condition and hilly. It discourages people from using the source.

The community people use this source for more than one purpose. They will use it to bathe, farm, launder and some of them, particularly the kids, will even defecate close to the source.

The swamp water is open and not controlled, so it is prone to various contaminants. Because they share this unprotected source with other wild animals, people are exposed to the diseases of those animals.

In the morning, school children are the first to visit this source. The community people have to wait until the kids are done, by which time the whole source becomes dirty. During weekends, the kids flock to this water point for their weekly laundry and this limits the chances of other people accessing water.

The community members must wait for the water to settle before collecting it. We learned that some people in this village do filter their water before consuming it. But Most will let the water stand in containers and wait for it to settle before draining it into their drinking buckets.

People risk waterborne diseases every time they drink this dirty water. And when people get sick, they are not productive and cannot earn as much money to care for their families. People die needlessly from these waterborne illnesses like cholera, dysentery, diarrhea, and malaria.

This is a very rural community. It is mostly peaceful. People with some basic education have chosen to be traders, going to one-day markets called Lumas to buy agricultural produce wholesale to retail it in nearby villages. Others with no academic background have chosen to farm.

The school was founded in 1965 and has grown from 50 students to 471 students over the past half-century thanks to support from the community and government.

The school compound has two functioning latrines and one decommissioned one that needs some repairs. We've had conversations with the school and they say that they are thinking about rehabilitating the decommissioned latrines.

The two functioning latrines have four rooms each, for boys and girls respectively. The structure is standard but the floor is dirty and the holes are also dirty and open due to the water shortage. Even the boys' latrine environment is not clean and the doors are left wide open.

What we can do:


There will be hygiene and sanitation training sessions offered for three days in a row.

The hygiene and sanitation trainer decided it would be best to teach students, staff, and community members about the importance of handwashing, building and using dish racks, and other sanitation facilities. Pictures will be used to teach the community how to discern between healthy and unhealthy hygiene and sanitation practices.

These trainings will also result in a water user committee that manages and maintains the new well. They will enforce proper behavior and report to us whenever they need our help solving a serious problem, like a pump breakdown.

Well Rehabilitation

We want to work on the well located at the school. Most of these wells were dug by local contractors who may not have had the energy to dig further down. As a result, these wells often dry up not long after their construction. So what we have been doing is converting these wells to boreholes so that a reasonable water level can be reached. This is proving to be the best intervention for these communities.

Our team has decided to do the hard work of drilling a borehole by hand in the bottom of this well, which will not only increase the water quantity but will ensure its quality, too. A new well pad will keep contaminants out, and a new India MkII stainless steel pump will provide easy and safe access to the clean water inside.

This community has been drinking dirty swamp water and suffering the consequences. With our rehabilitating this open well, the students and the surrounding community will be provided with plenty of safe, clean drinking water.

Project Updates

January, 2019: DEC Komrabai Primary School Project Complete

We are excited to share that there is a safe, reliable water point at DEC Komrabai Primary School that’s already providing clean water! Students and neighboring community members no longer have to rely on dirty water from the swamp. Hygiene and sanitation training was also conducted in Komrabai, which focused on healthy practices such as washing hands and using latrines.

New Knowledge

The training team referred to the baseline survey for Komrabai to determine the right topics for hygiene and sanitation training. After determining the focus of training, the team put together a list of the materials needed. Their next move was to agree with the school and surrounding community about the right time to hold sessions.

Calls were made to the headmaster as constant reminders. When the team arrived, the only participants that needed to be called to the venue were the community members. After going around the community with a loudspeaker, we were able to gather over 500 participants. We met outside under the shade of mango trees since we were such a large group.

The training team gave opportunities for the teachers, pupils and community members to participate in many demonstrations. For example, during the handwashing topic, members of the audience were selected to demonstrate how to build a tippy tap handwashing station. Other topics like dental hygiene and disease transmission allowed us to call up selected members of the audience. But the question and answer sessions stood out in respect of participation. When a student knew the answer to the question, they were so excited to shoot up their hand to answer. Even the teachers and women from the community were excited to demonstrate their understanding.

Other topics included:

- Good and bad hygiene
- Pump maintenance
- Cost recovery program
- How to build a dish rack and clothesline

- Importance of latrines
- Nutrition

Dental hygiene was a highlight. Most people living in Komrabai don't have the money to buy toothpaste, so don't bother to do anything to care for their teeth. Tooth decay is a big issue, so the trainer taught about the reasons for decay and how to prevent it. Ash and salt are great substitutes for those who cannot afford toothpaste.

But things got really exciting when the trainer pulled out a giant mouth and toothbrush model! The audience burst into the laughter immediately, and even the most bored pupil came to attention. She used this model to demonstrate proper toothbrushing.

"Our lives in this school have already started changing," said Headmaster Komrabai Mansaray.

Headmaster Komrabai Mansaray

"If you look around the compound now you see that every classroom has a tippy tap erected at the door. This is enough evidence that we value what your team told us. And the kids and the teachers are using it. So if there are any diseases around before you came, now they are being washed away steadily. We have also constructed a long dish rack under the mango trees for the market women who sell to our kids. So gradually things are changing."

Our team returned to the school three days after training to see how things were going and noticed these handwashing stations being used and checked out the dish rack counter from which snacks are sold to the students.

We showed up unannounced and found students washing their hands.

Clean Water Restored

The first things the drill team did when they arrived at DEC Komrabai Primary School were to contact school leadership and find a place to set up drill camp. They actually arrived after school hours so had to go out into the village to find the headteacher. The headteacher gave them the school library to store things and room in the staff offices to sleep overnight.

Here is how we restored clean, reliable water here:

1. Raised the tripod

2. Found the original depth (for this well, we measured 42 feet)

3. Socketed the pipes

4. Installed casing

5. Lined up the drill rods

6. Drilled!

Drilling by hand is always hard work. This was actually one of the toughest drills the team encountered for 2018. It was all black clay from top to bottom. The team connected the clay bucket auger drill bit to the appropriate rod. The rod was hooked to another piece of equipment called the crank. Two men twist the crank and the resulting effect is a borehole. But since the team is strong and very resilient, they were able to improve this well’s depth up to 52 feet just on the first day. It means that a total of 12 feet was added to the total depth.

They drilled up to 77 feet on the second day, encountered a large stone, and then finished work at 79 feet.

7. Installed screening and filter pack

8. Cemented an iron rod to well lining, and fixed it with an iron collar at the top

9. Bailed the well by hand for three days and flushed it

10. Tested the yield (we got a static water level of 42.4 feet going at 25.2 liters per minute)

11. Built a cement platform, walls, and drainage system

For this well, we turned the drainage system into an area for handwashing. There is a PVC pipe that can easily be attached to the pump. When pumping, little holes in the long stretch of PVC allow students to wash their hands.

12. Installed a stainless steel India Mk11 pump

The hand-drill method allows the team to install the cylinder far below the aquifer so that the community has great water access throughout the year.

13. Water quality test

Upon news of clean water here, the team arranged for a celebration at the well. One of our team members arrived in Komrabai early to gather community members, teachers, and students. There was singing and dancing for quite a while until the headteacher stepped up to share a statement on behalf of the school and community. He thanked the drill team in particular for their perseverance through such a difficult drill.

"We are very happy for this well because we are no longer required to go outside to fetch water. When this well had problems we went out frequently to fetch water because we drink water plenty," remembered 15-year-old Haja Kabbah.

Hajah Kabbah

"We now have clean water from the pump as compared to water from the swamp. So we are happy."

November, 2018: DEC Komrabai Primary School Project Underway

Dirty water from the swamp is making the students attending DEC Komrabai Primary School sick. Thanks to your generosity, we’re working to provide a clean water point and much more.

Get to know this school through the narrative 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

Hand-dug wells have been an important source of water throughout human history! Now, we have so many different types of water sources, but hand-dug wells still have their place. Hand dug wells are not as deep as borehole wells, and work best in areas where there is a ready supply of water just under the surface of the ground, such as next to a mature sand dam. Our artisans dig down through the layers of the ground and then line the hole with bricks, stone, or concrete, which prevent contamination and collapse. Then, back up at surface level, we install a well platform and a hand pump so people can draw up the water easily.


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