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Consulting with community Elders at proposed tank site.

As part of Voss Foundation’s ongoing commitment to transparency, we want to share with you how we identify new clean water project sites with our implementing partners.  Our wonderful partners do a lot of work researching before they even submit a project proposal to Voss Foundation! Over the years, we’ve learned that the process requires a great deal of flexibility and adaptability, and a willingness to expect the unexpected!

We asked our oldest partner, Milgis Trust, who implements Voss Foundation water systems in Kenya to explain the experience in their own words, as they were researching our next water project in Samburuland.  Helen Douglas-Dufresne, founder of Milgis Trust, provides valuable insight every step of the way!

An insider look at the site selection process:


Sketching plans for a new water project with any materials available

Step 1: Liaise with government leaders to learn about current plans in the region

The first thing to do is visit the government offices…so we called in to the office of the “Northern Kenya Water Board” in Baragoi…we drove past the very smart signpost, through the broken gate, to find there was nobody in…[we decided]that we would come back the next day as we were also told that the engineer was coming in…no such luck, and his deputy was not answering the phone!!

Involving the community is the best way to ensure success!

Step 2:  Integrate with the community to understand the need.

Because we live here, walk these areas all the time, we hear news of where there are water difficulties, plus we experience them ourselves!!  We do conservation awareness campaigns throughout the region, and we have scouts all through this area who come together every two months for Milgis Trust meetings.  So we do know exactly where all the problems are, and what they are…

Milgis Trust evaluates with community input.

Step 3: Involve the community in the details of the planning and implementation process.

Once we establish there is a water problem, we call for a meeting and the whole community gathers—from the Chief, teachers, and medical people, to the elders, women, and warriors—to discuss the situation!  We walk the area, find out how many people live there, and if there’s a school, health clinic etc.  Then we check on any old systems, and evaluate if we are actually needed.  If we think it is a good project, then we establish the best places to dig a well by getting local information from the community, so that the well does not dry up but is still safe and out of floodwaters’ reach!  If there is a borehole, we find out the size of the casing, and the depth, quantity, and quality of the water.  Then we check the height above sea level by taking GPS coordinates, walk up the proposed line that the pipes will go in to make sure it’s possible to dig a trench and bury the pipes, and finally take a GPS measurement of where the tank should go, so that we can work out the height for the pump to pump water and establish which pump to use, depending on how much water is needed!!  Then water access points must be established—but most important is the community participation in helping to dig the well and trenches and cover the pipes. Finally, we summarize all this information and present our proposal to Voss Foundation for approval!

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