Empowering Local Leaders for Water and Sanitation Data Collection

Bushwacking and Baselines

It’s a pretty exciting time to be a part of Nuru because we’re scaling up to new locations. Of course, “exciting time” can also be translated to mean “crazy time” since there’s so much going on. One of my main priorities during my time in Kenya, in addition to training, is to perform baselines of the new locations to which we are expanding. This is a crucial step in the Nuru model because it allows us to find out what the people’s needs are in these new areas. We basically go bushwhacking throughout these new locations, armed with pens, GPS, and Google forms, and listen and document what people are saying.

This time around, we’re not simply performing baselines. (That would be too easy.) Part of our “secret sauce” at Nuru is to develop the leadership of our Kenyan staff so that they are able to sustain the programs themselves. After all, we don’t plan on being here forever. Accordingly, we’ve been training our staff to operate GPS devices, record data using Google forms, and to ask villagers pertinent questions. Once our field work is complete, we will compile all the data onto a map on Google Earth. With the data organized, the Water and Sanitation (WatSan) staff will analyze it together in order to have an informed conversation with the community about the issues they face.

The WatSan staff has been superb in the field during the data collection phase. Once they’ve plotted the point on the GPS device, they’re striking up conversations left and right at the water sources, digging deep to hear how people are struggling. We hear stories about fights breaking out at water sources, and people waiting in line for 4-5 hours during the dry season when water just trickles out from the springs. Other times, the WatSan staff is sharing a great joke with the villagers collecting water as they all burst into laughter (of course, I just nervously chuckle along, hoping they’re not laughing at me). I don’t think that I could have engaged the villagers at the level that the WatSan staff does. There’s no way I could have the same empathy or understanding that they have. It only makes sense to empower those who truly understand to fight extreme poverty.

p.s. You might be wondering, what does the WatSan team do in the 20-30 minutes of walking between water sources? Well, you need not wonder anymore… Eliza, one of our amazingly talented Field Managers, wrote a song for Nuru recently. Yes…Nuru has a song. It’s another part of our “secret sauce”.

About Matt Lee

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