Karibu! Welcome!

Since 2004, EWB@ MSU's professional and student volunteers have worked with community members in Khwisero, Kenya to provide water and sanitation infrastructure at the district's 58 primary schools, making it easier for Khwisero's children to avoid waterborne disease and get an education.

In that time, the group has grown from a small club to one of MSU's premier student organizations, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund seven borehole wells, six composting latrines and a biogas latrine that serve thousands of community members.

Thank you for joining us as we continue to work hand-in-hand with local partners to make a difference in one small part of our world. As Western Kenya's limited internet access allows, we will update this blog while in-country with the successes, stories and lessons provided by our work.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Management and Mutatus: Joe

A mutatu ride can be a harrowing experience.

The team caught a Mutatu (passenger van) to Kisumu this morning. In the US, 12 passenger vans aren't exactly comfortable, but Kenyans have made the long, uncomfortable car trip an art. Mutatu drivers must have some engineering training to so efficiently cram such a mass of humanity into such a small space. As for comfort...let's just say the guys hanging out the door had it made.

Still, you can't complain when you take the time to look out the window. Kenya is gorgeous. Looking out over Lake Victoria, watching banana trees zip by, and seeing locals go about ther daily lives is the experience of a lifetime.

Today we are in Kisumu to price out materials for the pipeline we are constructing in Khwisero. Tomorrow we have our first meeting with the local Distribution Pipeline Committee, a group of leaders in the are of the pipeline that will be vital to the success of our project.Talking with Jackson (our incredibly talented, incredibly smart Kenyan Team coordinator) we affirmed to ourselves how much work we have left to do. By the end of this trip we need this committee to be able to organize community support and create a managment structure for the most complicated project EWB has ever attempted. We want the community to take ownership of the project, and we had hoped that they would demonstrate their support by trenching for the pipeline before we return next summer. According to Jackson, that might be optimistic.

One issue with foriegn development is that the Kenyans know we want to do the project. They expect, from past experience, that foriegn aid is free, with few strings attached, and though we might talk tough, in the end we will complete the project regardless of whether the community has contributed. Our goal is to guide the community to truly care about the pipeline. We want a system that will be maintained and is capable of operating for years to come, so we have to put in the time on the social end of this complicated endeavor to make sure it lasts.

In tomorrows meeting we are going to try to guide our Kenyan counterparts to create a committee that can get the community excited, and we are going to ask them to come up with some way that the community can prove to us before next summer that they are ready to build and maintain the pipeline. It might be trenching, it might be another sort of community contribution, but we are sure it is necessary for this project to succed long term.

If I've learned anything so far this trip, I've found that it is easy to underestimate Kenyans. There is so much talent here, there is so much hope, and with a sliver of luck, conditions in Khwisero are going to keep improving at a faster and faster pace. Personally, I think its an incredible thing to be a part of, and I can't wait for tomorrow.



mary stein said...

Glad you have all arrived safely. Keep up the great work.

Mary Stein

Molly said...

Joe- great points! I hope you all are doing well, and thanks for doing such a good job of keeping us informed. Happy New Year!

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