Bank's water, sanitation projects transform lives in Nyanza villages

Lucy Atieno selling clean and safe piped water for residents of Oyugis town from her water kiosk. [Yvonne Chepkwony, Standard]

Residents, learning institutions and health facilities in three counties have a reason to smile after the completion of African Development Bank (AfDB) funded water and sanitation projects in partnership with the national government.

The Sh114.3 million projects under the Kenya Towns Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Programme cover more than 20 institutions and five health facilities in Kisii, Nyamira and Homa Bay counties.

Before the project was initiated in 2021, Keroka Technical Training Institute (KTTI) relied on water from boreholes to meet the needs of more than 4,000 students and staff working in the institution.

“Water from the boreholes was never dependable because the pumping machines would break down occasionally. We would also rely on rain water which was seasonal and, therefore, not reliable,” said the institute’s deputy principal Kennedy Ombongi during an interview with The Saturday Standard.

This forced the management had to supplemented its water supply through water bowsers, which was costly.

“The water bowsers supply water at a cost of Sh4,900 per tank and the school needed at least three tanks after every three days. This weighed heavily on the institute’s finances,” he said.

However, tides have since changed for the institution after they were connected to the water grid from the project, which enables them to have a constant safe and clean water supply.

“The changes are tremendous in terms of the funds we are saving compared to what we are paying now for the constant supply of water.

The institution’s sanitation has also improved. Providing water for more than 4,000 people at once is not a walk in the park and this project has been a game-changer,” he said.

 It is also already making plans of commercialising its construction materials business.

Ombongi said the institute has been producing building materials such as blocks, bricks and cabros for internal purposes and never thought of commercialising it.

This was mainly because the process required a lot of water that the institution never had access to until they were connected to the AfDB last mile water and sanitation project.

“With plenty of water at our disposal, we are planning to venture into production of building materials as a business and not just for learning purposes. We want to make these materials a source of revenue for the institution, “he said.

Once approved by the relevant authorities for commercialisation, the institute is expected to increase the number of students seeking skills on production of building materials.

Miles away in Oyugis, Homa Bay county, the excitement of more than 800 students of Atemo mixed secondary school can be felt as they consume clean water after completion of the Oyugis water treatment plant. Started in the early 1990s, the school was connected to piped water despite sitting less than a kilometer from River Awach.

Deputy principal Judith Amolo said it has been an uphill task to provide water to students and ensure high maintenance of sanitation.

“We depended on borehole water which was salty and not so clean. At times, the pumping machine would break down and students would be forced to go for the water elsewhere like the river, “she said.

But the situation took a turn for the better after they were connected to piped water whose safety and supply is guaranteed.

“The school does some small-scale farming and we expect to improve our yields in the coming years now that we have constant water supply,” she added.

Besides benefiting learning institutions in the counties, the projects have also boosted both small and major businesses, which are already making profits.

Te Pema Thiazi, a mother of one who operates a small hotel business in Jua Kali area, Oyugis town, said her business has made a turn-around after access to clean water was made easy for them.

Initially, the only water they could get was from a river, which was two kilometres away.

“We would be forced to hire motorbikes to fetch water for the hotel. In a day, we would use more than sh 500 just for water. Most of the time, it would not be enough therefore we had to supplement with water from a well, “she said.

Thiazi said the hotel would incur additional costs in either treating or boiling the water to make it fit for drinking for their customers.

“At the end of the day, most of the money we made went to getting water and we would remain with so little to take home, “she added

Thiazi and other business owner’s prayers were answered when the town centre was connected to piped water from the Atemo water treatment plant that supplies them with adequate water at the doorstep.

Standing next to Thiazi’s hotel is a water kiosk managed by Lucy Atieno who aside from providing businesses with water, ensures people living around the centre have access to safe water.  Prior to the kiosk being connected to the piped water, she sold water sourced from a well which majority of residents avoided due to safety concerns.

Lake Victoria South Water Works Development Agency Chief Executive Officer Crispin Juma says the treatment plant set up in Oyugis has provided access to clean water at an affordable cost. With this, cases of water-borne diseases have significantly gone down, he added.

Dr Joash Nyangau, the superintendent at Isebania Hospital, also says the number of patients being treated for diarrhea has reduced.