Misuuni – Construction Update

Rainwater Harvesting Improvements at Miumbuni Primary School, Machakos County, Kenya

Construction has been going very well with incredible community support at every step.  At the time of this writing, the EWB-NY Civil Team has already completed their work and the Mechanical Team is wrapping up their part.  Here, the EWB-NY collaboration with Plumbers Without Borders pays off as the piping and gutters get professional attention.  

Prior to the EWB-NY team arrival on August 4, parents cleared the site in preparation for construction. The EWB-NY Civil Team, consisting of Eric Lehan (Civil Engineer) and Kohinoor Mahi (Environmental Engineer), experienced a great deal of fanfare with much of the 800-student population showing up for a greeting ceremony – even though school is not in session for the month of August.  A barraza followed in which community leaders, speaking in Swahili, Kamba, and English, presented the objectives of the project and enlisted enthusiastic support from the Community.  One agenda item was to politely keep bystanders at a safe distance while the dirt flies.

The first order of EWB-NY business was to inspect the rainwater system installed at the Misuuni Primary School last year for any lessons learned.  Though it was working quite well, some adjustments to the first flush system were needed in addition to the roofing over the water tanks which was already identified as an objective for this implementation trip.  These are all nearly complete at the time of this writing. 

Parents and school staff work to clear the site before the EWB-NY team arrival

Construction on water tanks started in earnest on Monday, August 5 with a local crew of two skilled construction foremen and seven laborers.  Labor costs were $10 per day for the skilled foremen and $8 per day for laborers.  While we are shocked at the low wages people make in rural Kenya, this is akin to Davis-Bacon wages for them.  A local welder and cement mixer were hired as well. By Saturday, August 10, all three concrete pads were placed, providing a secure foundation for six new 10,000-liter water tanks (two tanks per pad).  The hard work put in by the crew and the entire team put us ahead of a rather ambitious construction schedule.

The Mechanical Team consisting of Teja Jonnalagadda (Mechanical Engineer) and Jeff Morgan, (Master Plumber), arrived on site Sunday, August 11 and set immediately to work updating their materials list.  With a quick trip 70 kilometers back to Nairobi, they were able to purchase nearly all the plumbing and gutters and have them on site Wednesday, August 14.

We cannot fail to mention the amazing support of the Misuuni Development Self Help Group (MDSHG), who handled endless logistical issues and hosted the EWB-NY teams.  Mr. Nixon Kioko, a Kenyan Mechanical Engineer (graduate of the University of Nairobi) and Misuuni resident, assisted the Mechanical Team greatly with his inside knowledge and technical skill.

Nixon had to travel from a job site in Kampala, Uganda some 7 hours by bus to Nairobi where he was to continue on to Misuuni by car.  Unfortunately, the public bus he was riding in broke down before reaching the Kenyan border.  This left all the passengers and Nixon stranded for several hours in rural Uganda waiting for a replacement bus which never arrived.  After a while, Nixon was able to evaluate the mechanical problem with the bus and fix it.  The bus and passengers continued on the journey to Nairobi.  Nixon received a free ticket from the bus company and several offers of marriage along the way.  We can’t loose with support like this and with the support of everyone who believed in this project.

Asante Sana

Misuuni Water Project- Progress to date

Remember when your mother told you to wash your hands after going to the bathroom? Public Health practitioners world-wide back your mom on this. Handwashing – especially after using the toilet – does a lot to minimize the transmission of diseases including some very serious ones like Cholera. Now picture the Misuuni Primary School with outhouse toilets, over 270 students, and one water faucet located 100 yards from the outhouses. Don’t even ask about toilet paper.

That was the situation at the Misuuni Primary School until August of 2018. Thanks to your support, there are now six water faucets fed by a rainwater harvesting system. Even better, with routine application of a few tablespoons of non-detergent bleach, the water meets potable standards for
drinking water.

It took hard work to make these improvements. But honestly, from a technical standpoint it was simple.The material and labor are all readily available in Kenya and it was not expensive – less than $40 per

As it turns out, other primary schools in the region have similar or worse situations with water and sanitation. Why not do it again? Indeed, that is precisely the plan.

The Miumbuni Primary School has over 800 students – over twice as many as the Misuuni Primary School – and an even worse sanitary situation. The economics are almost twice as favorable. Water and sanitation can be dramatically improved for less than $30 per student.

With the experience of building one successful system under their tool belts, the construction crew in Misuuni is ready to go. All we need is a modest amount of fundraising and EWB-NY will be ready to go too.

Hold on, you might say. If it is so simple, why don’t the people of the region do this for themselves? Well, the answer is not so simple. The people of the region, along with their government, are in fact doing a lot for themselves. Development has been quite rapid albeit uneven. But it is hard to explain
how severely under-funded the public primary schools are. Picture the bare building structures and limited staff. Imagine a beleaguered Parent-Teacher Association trying to raise funds from its impoverished members for everything – even the most basic water and sanitation needs.

Will we fix all the problems? No. But improving the water and sanitation situation is one way to help children and their families from being ground down under a yoke of poverty and disease while they work towards better things to come.

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Asante Sana!