Where is Usalama?
Usalama, a village of approximately 2,000 people, was originally established as a resettlement community when residents were forced to leave their previous homes in 1990 due to the creation of the Chyulu Game Reserve. It is located in a dry and arid region of Kenya, between Nairobi and Mombasa (as seen below).
The majority of the domestic water supplied in Usalama’s region comes from a source known as Umani Springs. This perennial source is directly linked to the water table found in the Chyulu hills leading as far west as Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Six pipelines tap the Umani Springs, two built by the British over 100 years ago during the construction of the Nairobi-Mombassa railroad and four built by various NGOs in the last 25 years. Although exact data is not available, it is estimated that the springs service 20,000 to 40,000 residents in the region.
EWB-NY began working with Usalama in 2005 upon forming a partnership with a New York City-based NGO (Mwikali’s Gift) that was established to help the community of Usalama. Through initial assessments, the team found that improved access to clean water and improved school facilities were a priority. Villagers had walked or biked along the highway to the next town of Kibwezi, or gone to surface water sources to collect water, as there was no local water distribution system in Usalama. Meanwhile, at Usalama Primary school, classrooms were becoming overcrowded due to a growing student population.
Construction of a water system was undertaken by the African Medical Relief and Education Fund (AMREF) in 2009. Afterward, between 2009 and 2010, EWB-NY constructed a library and four new classrooms for Usalama Primary School, and renovated their existing classrooms and administrative buildings. In 2010, EWB-NY performed an evaluation of the pipeline built by AMREF and found that the system was insufficient. The five kilometer-long pipeline only reliably supplied water through two of the five constructed kiosks, and the water did not meet drinking water standards. In addition, a 1-kilometer-long section of piping running through an adjacent wildlife preserve had been getting damaged frequently by elephants, causing interruptions to water flow. Thus, since 2012, EWB-NY has worked to rehabilitate this water distribution system.