Early in 2023. our Founder- Sarah Evans- and lead engineer- Kathryn Bergmann- visited our Kenya team, and journalist- Dominic Kirui- tagged along to learn about the work Well Aware has been doing in Kenya. Read his article below.
Laikipia County, Kenya: The wind blows with immense strength at Tangi Nyeusi village in Kenya’s Laikipia County, as Nelius Lemiruni washes the dishes outside her makeshift house before she walks down to the school compound to fetch water.
The 22-year-old mother of four moved here to the village just over a month ago, after a borehole was sunk within the school compound, ending their struggle for water.
“We used to walk five kilometers and back for us to get water, and that was only for a single 20-liter jerry can of water that would not be enough for my household use, including even drinking,” Lemiruni says.
She represents a struggle that many people, especially in northern Kenya go through for them to access clean, drinking water. Well-wishers have now come to their rescue, bringing them to hope with every drop of water.
Now, for the first time since she was born, Lemiruni can now smile at the thought and sight of very clean, potable water just at her disposal; something she says she’d never have dreamed of.
The borehole at the school was drilled by Well Aware, a non-profit working in East Africa to bring water to communities.
To ensure a steady supply, the non-profit Well Aware has introduced the Well Beyond app.
The organization was started by Sarah Evans, a corporate lawyer who was asked to help with a project in Kenya to help raise funding for cattle and goats for a Maasai village. At this time, in 2007, Kenya was experiencing one of its worst recorded droughts, and the livestock in rural communities – their livelihood – was diminishing.
But, once Sarah researched the problem, she realized the source of this devastating issue was a lack of water, so she insisted on drilling a well there, instead, a solution that could potentially solve the livestock problem, as well as the many other growing and life-threatening challenges the entire region was facing.
After raising the funds needed for that water well, Sarah traveled to Kenya in 2010 to see the first well drilled, an experience that changed her life after she saw first-hand what clean drinking water can do in one’s life.
From the joy of the community when they received access to clean water, Sarah understood her purpose. Well, Aware has provided clean water to over 350,000 people in East Africa.
To ensure a steady supply, Well Aware created the industry’s first mobile application for ongoing water system maintenance, The Well Beyond App. The software is used to monitor and report any issues in the water supply chain.
In case of pipe leakages, for example, the person responsible reports using the app, and a plumber is sent to fix the pipes. This is done online using the mobile app.
One such user is Lawi Mugambi, a teacher at Sweetwaters Girls’ High School in Nanyuki, Laikipia County. Lawi uses the app to report on the condition of the water pipes and the solar system installed to pump out the water into the taps around the school.
“We would be served with two water bowsers in a week by the county government and this would still not be enough because the water needs were high. The girls (students) would hear the sound of the water bowser entering the school compound and they would no longer concentrate on their studies as they would scramble for their buckets so they could get some”, Mugambi explains.
He says that the installation of a borehole at the school has made it easy for the students there as they are able to concentrate on their studies and save the time they would spend looking for water in the nearby streams.
The school has also been able to cultivate a kitchen garden to provide vegetables for the students’ meals instead of buying them from the market, sometimes at high prices, especially during the dry seasons.
“When a community discovers that their water system is not working properly, the water committee system manager is dispatched to the water system with their smartphone in hand. The app then leads them through a decision tree to troubleshoot any issues that may be happening and provides step-by-step instructions to help them fix the system and get water running properly themselves” explains Sarah Evans, Well Aware’s Founder and Board Chair.
Once initially downloaded, the app is fully functional offline, further ensuring accessibility for even the most remote populations in developing regions. Local leaders can even remotely chat with experts in real-time, saving communities days or weeks for repairs without their only source of water. It also lengthens the life of the water system and results in significant savings of both time and money.
A tourist destination north of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, Laikipia County lies within the Arid and Semi-Arid region of Kenya, where low rainfall of below 600mm is received on average every year.
According to the county government, climate change is disrupting weather patterns, leading to unpredictable water availability and exacerbating water scarcity. These impacts have affected the quantity of water needed to meet the demand in the county. With the several failures of rains over the years, the county faces an acute shortage of water within its catchment area of Mount Kenya and Aberdare forests.
This, the non-profit says it’s working to solve in the next five years.
“We have seen significant growth over the last year, and we’re really excited about where we’re heading. We’re expanding our project capacity, partnerships, corporate sponsors, and awareness of our work. In the next five years we expect to provide even more communities with lasting clean water and continue to be the leading nonprofit organization maintaining a 100% success rate”, says Evans.