Water supply and sanitation in most rural schools are inadequate and sometimes do not exist at all. In most cases, school children have literally no source of water within their vicinity, and poor sanitation and hygiene is a norm rather than exception. Drinking water is brought by pupils from distance sources, which are normally unprotected/untreated. Pupils also fetch water for cooking their lunch-school meal programme, for their resident teachers, and dusting-off their classrooms (most classes have uncemented/mud floors). This means that pupils spend significant amount of their learning time to fetch water.
Besides water scarcity, poor sanitary facilities aggravate the learning conditions in most rural schools.
Existing toilets are in poor condition and rarely separate blocks for boys and girls, which deprive girls (especially adolescent girls) their privacy. Poor sanitation and hygiene practices are a major cause of water borne diseases (such as diarrhea) related to contamination and hence poor health, especially among young children. As a result, school attendance and retention of children is low, and hence the poor performance leading to marginalization due to low academic grades.
Poor diet and nutrition is also a major concern in rural schools, even where the government provides lunch through the school feeding programme, the diet is not balanced as it mainly consist of boiled maize and beans. Improved water supply, sanitation, hygiene and nutrition are unfortunately not prioritized within limited school budgetary allocation. Moreover, community development projects rarely integrate schools’ water supply, sanitation, hygiene and nutrition. To address environmental degradation and effects of climate change, our schools’ project also integrates establishment of tree seedling nurseries and tree planting which also target the pupils as change agents among rural communities. This leaves the responsibility of ensuring access to safe drinking water, good sanitation and hygiene and improved nutrition to the poor parents, whose efforts are limited by financial resources especially in semi-arid districts. It is against this background that Kenya Rainwater Association (KRA) was compelled to integrate a school WASH and nutrition component in community-based projects in water scarce districts of Kenya.
The main objective of the project is to improve water supply, sanitation & hygiene, food security & nutrition and environment conservation in selected rural schools in semi-arid areas of Kenya. The specific objectives are to:
Increase sustainable water availability for drinking and agricultural use through construction of rainwater harvesting systems (roof catchment water storage tanks (75m3) and surface runoff collecting farm ponds(72m3);
Improve sanitation and good hygiene practices in schools through construction of gender-sensitive ventilated improved Pit (VIP) latrines– separate blocks for boys and girls;
Increase vegetable production and nutrition for school meals programme through establishment of irrigated vegetable gardens;
Improve environmental conservation and climate change mitigation through establishment of tree seedling nurseries and tree planting (one tree per pupil per year); and
Build the capacity and increase knowledge of local communities on rainwater harvesting, improved sanitation, health & hygiene (WASH), food security & nutrition (climate-smart agriculture) and environmental conservation.
Construction of 75m3 rainwater tank
School buildings provide perfect roof catchment systems for rainwater harvesting. The main components are water storage tank and guttering systems. Water from roof catchment systems is mainly used for drinking, washing hands, and cleaning classrooms. The storage tank is constructed of locally available dressed quarry stones..
The guttering system will include a foul-flash device to prevent the first contaminated water from entering the tank. This will increase water supply and improve access to quality drinking water for school children as well as the resident teachers in each school. To promote roof catchment systems in the area, local artisans will be trained on construction of water tanks. Demonstration training approach—creating awareness through exposure—will be used during construction works from different components.
Construction of VIP and Eco-sanitation Latrines
This component includes construction of gender-sensitive sanitary facilities (especially ventilated improved pit (VIP) and/or ecological sanitation (ecosan) latrines) - separate blocks for boys and girls, and teachers). The number of units for each gender depends on the pupils: latrine ratio (i.e. 30 boys per unit and 25 girls per unit) as per government policy. On unstable soils, lining is provided from the bottom of the pit, where on stable soils lining is not required and the latrine walls are supported by the concrete slab – which also include provisions for ventilation pipes and drop holes.
Ecological sanitation is a good alternative to ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines in areas where there is hard subsurface rock, a high water table or collapsing soils (black cotton soil) as no pit is needed. The outputs from ecosan toilets are hygienically safe - the compost (organic) fertilizer removed from the faeces chamber after a certain period of time has very little smell. The by-products of ecosan (urine and decomposed faeces) will be used as organic fertilizer for the school tree nurseries, establishment of tree seedling and/or vegetable gardens. However, correct usage of ecosan requires adequate training.
Construction of improved sanitary facilities requires adequate skills and trained local artisans are used. The school communities normally provide locally available materials and manual labour for digging, while KRA provide technical skills and financial resources for other construction material and skilled labour.
Construction of Farm Pond for Micro-irrigation
A typical ground catchment system includes a catchment area, diversion/conveyance channel (earthen bunds), silt trap/sedimentation chamber (for restraining sediments) and storage reservoir. The catchment area consists of open surface (school compound or external catchment) for generating runoff, and the runoff storage structure is a 72m3 farm pond/underground tank. The farm pond is lined with ultra violet resistant plastic to control seepage and roofed with iron sheets to prevent evaporation, minimize contamination and risks of children and animals drowning. Farm ponds collect and store run-off from ground catchment which can be used for micro-irrigation for vegetable gardens, supplying water for livestock among other uses.
Establishment of Vegetable Gardens
KRA has been promoting low-cost low-head drip irrigation kits as a complementary technology for Rainwater Harvesting and Management (RHM) systems. The drip systems “Dream Drip Kit” are tailor-made to suit different clients’ preferences/specifications and land layout. The drip irrigation systems are user-friendly in terms of cost-effectiveness, operation and maintenance, and can be repaired since they are assembled from locally available components. The school-based component adopts the 230-litre mini-tank system, which consists of 16-20 laterals of 15m long, covering an area of 250m2, and 1,000 plants spaced at 30cm along the drip line.
The drip irrigation system supply water twice a day – in the morning and in the evening – when evaporation losses are minimal. The water is lifted using a simple hand pump – Hip Pump from KictStart Inc – which is an integral part of the micro-irrigation system.
Different vegetable species such as tomatoes, kale, spinach, cabbages, carrots and onions are considered to supplement any local/traditional vegetables and for integration into the school feeding programme – to boost nutrition and health of the children. The 230-litre mini-tank system supplies 460 litres per day, hence 46m3 seasonal water requirement considering 100 days growing period for most vegetables. The rest of the water is used for the school greening initiative – establishment of seedling nurseries and watering planted tree seedlings.
Training on establishment of tree/vegetable nurseries is also be integrated into the project. Tree and vegetable seedling nurseries will be established near the farm ponds and young farmers’ clubs will be encouraged to adopt them for income generation for the clubs and/or the schools. Drought resistant trees species will be included among others according to the preference of the schools.
The tree nurseries on the other hand will be used for sensitizing the children on the importance of environmental conservation and value of tree planting, both at home and in school. The trees will also be used to green the school where the children will be encouraged to take care of two trees until they are fully grown. Different vegetable species such as tomatoes, kale, spinach, cabbages, carrots and onions will also be considered to supplement any local/traditional vegetables and for integration into the school feeding programme – to boost nutrition and health of the children
To enhance project implementation process, continued capacity building, technical support and backstopping is a prerequisite. The impacts of capacity development include enhanced community participation, confidence and contribution. Thus project ownership and sustainability is guaranteed due to leading role of the community in project formulation, development and implementation. KRA in collaboration with the relevant government departments offers technical support & backstopping to enhance project implementation, management and sustainability. The training component focus on inter alia: water resources management; health and hygiene education; micro-irrigation for vegetable production; tree seedling nursery establishment & management; environmental protection and conservation, and operation, usage and maintenance of project facilities – rainwater storage tanks, farm ponds, improved latrines, etc. The capacity building targets pupils, teachers and selected parents.
Some of our successfully accomplished projects include:-
Njumbi Primary School
“The public health officials had issued notice of school closure due to the pathetic condition of the sanitation facilities. We thank God and all parties that came to our rescue. The impact of the KRA project has been felt very strongly by the pupils, teachers and parents. At Njumbi Primary there are now adequate toilets for boys, girls and teachers. We knew that to improve standards of education, you cannot bring change if you don’t think about the children and their needs."
Said Mr. Stephen Kavuanji- The head teacher
Nachu Primary School
The enrolment to the school has increased from 400 pupils before the project to 430 pupils after the project we have also recorded improved mean score since the students are now able to concentrate more on education and worry less about water.
We want to thank Kenya Rainwater Association and the donors for their involvement in transforming Nachu Primary School to be a more conducive learning institution”. Said Mr. Stephen Thiong’o – The head teacher