Kenya Water, Energy Cleanliness and Health Project
P.O. Box 1336, Village Market Nairobi, 62100100 Kenya +254 726 295 675
Constance Hunt, Executive Director
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Comments of Constance Hunt, Executive Director, KWENCH
at the celebration of the opening of the biodigester ablution block/community kitchen project in Kawangware, Nairobi, Kenya on January 22, 2013
Background on KWENCH
We founded KWENCH in 2006 to provide innovative and site-appropriate solutions to the needs of poor communities for water and sanitation, including the need for sustainable, aquatic ecosystems.
KWENCH works with communities to identify water-related needs and exciting ways that these needs can be met. We take proven technologies and add value to them by taking them to the next level. In the case of this project, we’ve added a community kitchen to a biodigester project to provide the community with opportunities to generate income. In our proposed constructed wetland project, we’ve added a recreational park for the same reason. Our project in Kitui will combine sanitation, hygiene, hygiene education and income generation components with the development of a spring for water supply.
KWENCH is governed by a three-member board of directors. We conduct community needs assessments, develop project concepts to meet those needs, package the project concepts into proposals for potential donors and hire local labor to implement the projects.
KWENCH’s first project, the Kangeme Spring Project, is just on the other side of the Nairobi River. I would be happy to take anyone who would like to see this project to the project site following the conclusion of this opening ceremony.
You can learn more about KWENCH by visiting our web site at www.kwenchproject.org.
Background on the KHDP Biodigester and Community Kitchen
I will now give you an overview of the past, present and desired future status of the biodigester ablution block and community kitchen. A biodigester ablution block channels human waste from toilets into an anaerobic, or oxygen free, biodigester, which is constructed underground. The waste ferments in the biodigester to produce methane which can then be used to fuel stoves or generate electricity.
This project really started in May 2006, two months after KWENCH received its registration certificate from the NGO Coordination board. We conducted a community needs assessment in Kawangware, which previously included Kabiro ward. One of the top needs identified was for toilets, so we decided it would be cool to build a biodigester ablution block. Most of the biodigester ablution blocks in Nairobi use the methane to heat water over a stove for people to bath with. We decided instead to include proper showers with electrical, water-heating shower heads in our project and to use the methane to fuel stoves in a community kitchen so that women could prepare and sell food to generate income.
In May, 2007, KWENCH was a finalist in the World Bank Development Marketplace competition. As a finalist, we were automatically eligible for membership in globalgiving, an internet-based platform for raising funds for projects from individual donors in the U.S. and U.K. To date, we’ve raised about $10,000 for this project through globalgiving.
In July 2008, the Finnish embassy gave us a grant of nearly Ksh2.2 million. We hired an architect and a biogas technician and had a series of meetings with community members to comment on the design of the project. The community members told us that they wanted us to add an upper floor meeting space to the initial project design.
The biogas technician stole some of the grant money and disappeared, so my assistant, John Mwangangi, and I finished the basic infrastructure, including plumbing and electrical works, with money from globalgiving and my personal savings.
In April, 2009, I went to UNICEF to follow up on a request for the donation of two, 5,000 litre water tanksfor the project that I had sent to them the previous November. UNICEF had donated two tanks to KWENCH’s first project in Kangeme. The Chief of the WASH section had already sent me a letter saying that we couldn’t have the tanks, but I hadn’t received the letter. When I met with him in his office, he changed his mind and the tanks were ours!
In October, 2010, KWENCH received a grant from the Safaricom Foundation. I had heard that the foundation will come and paint a project, preferably Safaricom green, so initially that’s all I requested. The foundation sent a delegation to visit the project site and determined that more than a paint job was needed, so they gave us more than Ksh 136,000. We used this money to paint the exterior and interior, key the exterior and install windows.
In November 2011, KHDP received a grant of Ksh 368,000 from the U.S. Ambassador’s Self Help fund. This was a real miracle because that year the fund had received 1,000 applications and funded only 8 projects! We used this money to tile the floors and outfit the kitchen with cabinets, a work surfaces, stoves, a kitchen sink and a refrigerator.
The project is ready to open and the toilets and showers are ready for use. We anticipate that, after the toilets have been in use for three months we will have enough human waste accumulated in the biodigester to produce methane to fuel the stoves in the kitchen. We had considered exhausting one of the school’s pit latrines into the biodigester to jump-start methane production, but decided against in because the ground here is water-logged, the pit latrines are full of groundwater and the waste inside them is not of adequate quality to produce methane.
You can see that the paint job has been partly knocked off of the walls by soccer balls. We considered repainting the project just prior to this opening, but I decided that that would be a waste of money because, within weeks, the paint job would be ruined again.
You will also see that, inside, there is a stairway that leads to the roof of the project. We decided to include the stairway in the project’s first phase because it would be difficult and expensive to construct it later, after the basic structure of the project had been built.
We are trying to raise money for the following activities:
First, completion of the upper floor and outfitting it with a refrigerator for soft drinks, tables and benches and a television set. With this addition, women’s groups could rent the kitchen for an entire day and cook snacks to sell to people meeting in the upper floor. This would greatly increase the women’s ability to generate income because snacks cook more quickly and consume less fuel than staple foods such as rice and beans and because they could sell their products directly on-site.
Second, construction of a filtration system for the liquid effluent from the biodigester so that it can be safely discharged into stormwater drains, thus eliminating the need for periodic exhaustion of the biodigester.
Third, construction of a chain-link fence around the project to prevent it from being bombarded with soccer balls. And, finally, repainting of the project exterior.