Makueni County is in the former Eastern Province of Kenya. The area experiences two rainy seasons, namely the long rains (March to May) and short rains (October to December). According to residents, up until the 1970s both the long and short rain seasons were reliable, and the community used to plant and harvest twice a year. However, from the 1980s onwards, the long rains have been unreliable and inconsistent, leaving the community with only one dependable annual harvest. The area’s vulnerability to climate variations is exacerbated by the community’s heavy reliance on crops such as maize and beans, that are very sensitive to drought. In addition, natural resource degradation, inadequate provision of social services and under investment are key challenges facing the area. The issues in climate variability in the area lead to frequent and prolonged droughts, severe water shortages and famine.
In April 2014, with the funds raised through Cambridge Weight Plan activities, Just a Drop began to carry out a programme of activity with our local partner, African Sand Dam Foundation, to directly help 392 members of Musunguu village (comprised of 95 households – average household size is 4), 406 members of Muuo Wa Methovini Village (68 households – average household size is 6) and 463 pupils at Kanyenyoni Primary School.
The programme would aim to:
- Increase access to safe and clean water supply through the construction of two sand dams (completed in July 2014), one at Musunguu Village and another at Muuo Wa Methovini Village and through the provision of rainwater harvesting tank in Kanyenyoni Primary School (completed in November 2014)
- Decrease distances walked by children and women in search for water, which will increase the time available for education or employment (thus decreasing poverty) and decrease the number of physical problems caused by carrying heavy containers over long distances
- Decrease the incidence of disease caused by drinking dirty, unsafe water
- Decrease the loss of life caused by both water-related diseases and also through attacks by animals
- Increase food security through the provision of a reliable water source so farmers are able to grow crops and keep livestock. This is also achieved by the:
- Implementation of a food production and security training programme
- Growing of trees – these are vital to help slow soil erosion and are also grown for medicinal properties
Sand dams store water in the sand, preventing run-off (and therefore water being lost to erosion). The sand filters and cleans the water, and also tops up the ground water aquifer. This means if the rains fail, the communities will still have access to water. Shallow wells can then be dug to access the clean water and livestock are also able to access water. Sand dams are one of the most sustainable water solutions, they use local materials and labour, need minimal maintenance and last from 30-50 years. With minimal operation and maintenance costs, sand dams provide a remarkably low cost and sustainable solution to providing a rural water supply.
A large number of schools in Kenya will only let children attend if they bring sufficient water to last them throughout the day (this causes a lot of non-attendance). Having a tank at the school addresses this issue and ensures that there is sufficient clean, safe water for the children to drink and enough to cook their lunches too. The tank stores rainwater collected by harvesting from the roof of the school. This water is stored and used daily, and also stores enough to provide water during dry periods. They are also a low cost and sustainable solution for schools.
Muuo Wa Methovini self help group constructed their 4th sand dam during this project, benefitting 406 from their Village, while also reaching the wider community of 3,954 people.
Although the SHG selected the project area, the dam was sited and designed by ASDF’s technical team the group. The community supported the legislation and approval of land giving where the sand dam was to be constructed and collected local materials (sand, stones and ballast). The group then carried out the trenching of the sand dam foundation to the basement rock. Hardware materials were then purchased and delivered to site and the construction of the sand dam was soon underway.
The only challenge encountered was a low turnout during project implementation. Nearby Self Help Groups supported Muuo wa Methovini SHG to construct their dam who will in turn support these other communities during their project implementation.
Additionally, Muuo wa Methovini SHG members have already completed 150 metres of terracing near their dam site. They have also raised 130 seedlings in their tree nursery in preparation for planting during the November – December rains, which they are still waiting for mid-November.
The recently completed facility has not had the opportunity to harvest and store water and therefore the average time and distance on water collection haven’t yet reduced. The distance still remains to be 1.5 – 8.5 km in the driest months of the year. Once the facility has had the opportunity to harvest and store water it’s expected to reduce the time and distance taken to collect water. The three sand dams earlier constructed by this self help group are used, since they are the only ones that had the opportunity to harvest and store water from the recent rains in the area. However, the facilities still aren’t meeting the local demand and more needs to be done.
Musunguu self help group constructed their 1st sand dam during this project, benefitting 392 from their Village, while also reaching the wider community of 4831 people.
Although the SHG selected the project area the dam was sited and designed by ASDF’s technical team the group. The community supported the legislation and approval of land giving where the sand dam was to be constructed and collected local materials (sand, stones and ballast). The group then carried out the trenching of the sand dam foundation to the basement rock. Hardware materials were then purchased and delivered to site, and the construction of the sand dam was soon underway.
The only challenge the group faced was that during construction, which started towards the end of the rain season, there was some water flow within the river channel the trenching to the basement rock wasn’t easy. The members used PVC pipes to drain water within the dam area to enable progress with construction.
Additionally, Musunguu SHG members have already completed 270 metres of terracing near their dam site and on their farms. They have also raised 894 seedlings in their tree nursery in preparation for planting during the October– December rains, which they are still waiting for mid-November. Farmers have already started to raise vegetable nurseries using the water from the sand dam. This is expected to contribute to food production, as well as income generation for the farmers.
The average distance and time to collect water will now be 1 km and 1 hour for the members of Musunguu Self Help Group. This has been achieved due to the surface water collected during the April-May 2014 rains. Both Sand dams were completed in July 2014.
Kanyenyoni Primary School
In July 2014, work began at Kanyenyoni Primary School, to provide increased access to clean drinking water to school going children, as well as increase school attendance by reducing the burden of carrying water to schools, through the construction of a rain water harvesting tank. This, in the long term, will also improve sanitation standards within the school.
This project directly helps 463 pupils, 12 teachers and 2 support staff. Previously, the main source of water was through children carrying it in containers to the school from the seasonal rivers within the area. This water was carried in unhygienic conditions and resulted to contamination, hence water borne disease infections became an issue.
The community was involved in the planning and request for the support to construct water tank in Kanyenyoni Primary School. Seeking authority from the school management committee, community sensitization (other parents who aren’t part of the community) and local materials collection (sand, stones and water) and the provision of unpaid labour during the actual construction of the water tank.
The community faced problems in fetching water to be used for construction since the already existing water sources had dried up. This meant that the community, especially women, had to walk long distances to collect water on their backs. When they didn’t walk, they had to buy water from vendors or buy and transport it using donkeys to the project site by themselves.
The collection of sand and stones as part of the community contribution was faced with the challenge that the stones and sand were not readily available within the school compound. The self-help group members had to arrange for collection or pay other people to do the work as this was part of their contribution to the project.
This project will meet future demand since the community and the school management have put in place checks and controls which will ensure sustainable use of water within the school. This includes lock and key policy, where fetching of water will be regulated, more so during the dry spells where the school faces lots of challenges. This then ensures water is available throughout the dry season. Cases of pupils’ absenteeism will decline, and hence boost the performance of the school as the pupils will have more time to study. There is minimal maintenance that is needed on this facility, which will be carried out through the contribution of the Parent Teacher Association.
Kanyenyoni Primary School received CHAST trainings through our WASH department, meant to enhance personal and general hygiene amongst the pupils. A Health Club was also established in the school and would be in-charge of ensuring that hygiene practices are observed within their school. The Health Club officials were trained and tasked with the responsibility of teaching proper hygiene practices among the pupils. The training also resulted in assembling and strategic positioning of hand-washing facilities all around the school compound.
An interview with the school Head-teacher Mr. John Kiilu has revealed that they anticipate no more cases of pupils’ absenteeism will be reported on a daily basis as a result of infections from water related ailments (typhoid, dysentery and bilharzia), as it has been happening in the past. This would result to improved general academic performance of the school in the near future.
“I did not expect to ever have a water tank in this school. It will be extreme joy for the two years that I will be in this school, I will study comfortably”, says 11 year old Eric Muli a standard six pupil at Kanyenyoni Primary School.
Eric is determined to be a doctor in the future. “I will achieve my dreams because I will work hard”, he says.
Eric’s main challenge was carrying water to school every morning. “It wasted a lot of our time. Now, we have water at school and we can wash our hands, and my performance in class will improve. When we have dirty hands it’s easy to contract diseases thus becoming sick and this makes us miss classes hence poor performance. Such cases will reduce”.
Our sincere thanks to everyone at Cambridge Weight Plan for making this project possible.
To see the video of the Cambridge Weight Plan visit to the completed project in October, featuring Anne Marsh – the CWP Consultant who raised the most funds – please click here and to read an account of the visit, please click here.
Date of project: September 2014
Just a Drop was overwhelmed by everyone’s support at Cambridge Weight Plan and we have an album of highlights on our Pinterest page, which can be seen here. Thank you very much indeed!
Here are some further highlights from the project:
First stages of the project!
Mutanu Mbaluka’s Story:
In a place where age counts, being the last born can create hardships.
Each day as the sun rises, Mutanu – the youngest child in a family of six – clings anxiously to her donkey as she lets the older children past her place in the queue. It is already very hot as she finally reaches the scoop hole. The water is brown. She quickly fills her jerry can and mounts her donkey again. She wishes that collecting this water wouldn’t make her late for school.
In the afternoon, after school, she collects her donkey again and goes back to the scoop hole. The walk itself is half an hour each way. “This means no time to do my homework”, she says.
In a place where collecting water is essential to survive, the youngest is sometimes left behind and high levels of absenteeism are often the result of the search for water, especially during the dry seasons. This was a stark reality for children like Mutanu, and despite the meaning of her name – ‘joy’ – her surroundings often made her feel very sad.
Now, thanks to the new water tank which was built at Mutanu’s school, she has one less barrier to survival and can pick up her education again. She says, “With the new tank I will no longer have to fetch water from the scoop hole. But most of all, we will have better health and a cleaner environment.”
Mutanu can now reclaim her joy!
A letter written by 13 year old Mbithe Mualuko, who explains the benefits of the schools new water storage tank – namely, that the teachers will stop punishing students for arriving late to school because they have had to walk long distances to find water. She also looks forward to having a much cleaner school uniform!