Usalama: 2017 Closeout Trip

From January 6th to the 16th, 2017, the EWB-NY Usalama team traveled back to Kenya on the first leg of our closeout/monitoring trip. This trip was intended to review and inspect the technical aspects of the work that Usalama and EWB-NY implemented over the past ten years. Read more to learn about what we accomplished on the trip - and stay tuned for a future update from our public health team (Judy Hodge and Katie-Sue Derejko), which is Kenya-bound in just a few short weeks!

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The January travel team included Matt Sisul (president emeritus of EWB-NY and longtime friend of Usalama) and Patrick Farnham (current vice president of EWB-NY and technical team lead for the Usalama project). With more than 30 hours of door-to-door travel at each end of the trip, plus time traveling from Nairobi to Usalama (4 hours on a good day), the team was very busy for the duration of their stay.

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Above Image: Matt Sisul interviewing the 8th Grade class at the Usalama Primary School

Matt and Patrick were able to sit and speak with many stakeholders in the project, including longtime friends and community contacts Jackson and Priscilla, and learned more about recent developments in the water management scenario in Makueni County. They conducted detailed inspections of EWB-designed infrastructure including the classroom buildings (installed 2010), library (2009), and water tank (2013). Signs of aging were noted on some of the components, but it was encouraging to note several examples of community-initiated maintenance, repair, and improvements. For instance, multiple additions have been made to the water distribution system, all planned and executed by Jackson with help from the Usalama Water Board and Community members. Additionally, the roof truss design at the Usalama Secondary School’s new science lab (currently under construction) was noted to be similar to that utilized during EWB-NY library construction in 2009.

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Above Image: Usalama Primary School Library (constructed 2009)

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Above Image: Usalama Primary School Classrooms (constructed 2010)

Though the water system is still in functioning condition, the volatility of the regional water supply situation has rendered the tank and piping empty for most of the time that has elapsed since implementation in fall of 2013. Continued damage due to elephants has cut into the available water coming from Umani Springs through the Kibwezi Forest en route to Usalama, and the water level in the spring itself has been consistently lower as a regional drought takes its toll. The EWB-NY team was able to meet representatives from KIMAWASCO (Kibwezi-Makindu Water and Sanitation Company) and discuss plans to increase access to water in the region during the coming years.

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Above Image: Usalama Water Storage Tank (constructed 2013)

Water testing conducted while on the ground showed that chlorination of Umani Springs water is still necessary, as bacterial contamination is still common. Though residents of Usalama are currently utilizing alternative sources of water due to the empty system, they remain committed to the chlorination process that was implemented by EWB-NY in June 2014 and are prepared to re-instate kiosk-based disinfection once the system contains water.

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Above Image: EWB-NY water testing underway at a KIMAWASCO water kiosk near the Nairobi-Mombasa Highway

The team is currently at work processing the data collected during the trip and preparing a program closeout report for submission to EWB-USA. Information gathered during the public health team’s visit to Usalama in February will be added to the report, which will wrap up our time in Usalama as members of EWB-NY. However, we move forward as friends of the community - and it was made obvious during our visit that this will never change.

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Above Image: Jackson, EWB, and ten years of collaborative infrastructure (left to right: water tank, library, classrooms)

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