Monday, June 30, 2008

Safe Water Workshop in Kenya

SCI has recently initiated a Safe Water Initiative and will incorporate simple and safe water testing into current international programs involving solar cooking and water pasteurization. SCI’s Board President and one of its founders, Bob Metcalf, is the designer of the Portable Microbiology Laboratory (PML) that is being introduced to government ministries to assist with official water testing procedures at the grassroots level. Contacts made last year with officials from Kenya’s Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA) and Ministry of Health (MOH)~ the leading institutions involved with clean water in Kenya, enabled representatives from each of these ministry’s primary locations throughout the country participate in the Safe Water Workshop provided by SCI in June, and in turn train others in their districts, who will then train others, and so on creating a trickle-down effect all the way to the village level.

SCI's goal is to provide a simple and inexpensive method of testing water in remote areas that heretofore has not been possible due to scarce laboratory facilities and costly transportation fees. This is a revolutionary process that will significantly increase the ability of people in Kenya to know the quality of the water they drink, and to purify contaminated water with simple and inexpensive solar technologies. Here are some photos of the first Safe Water Workshop, involving detailed instruction on specific PML water-testing techniques, the importance of cleanliness and sanitation, and practical methods of treating contaminated water.

Bob introducing the Safe Water Workshop and getting acquainted with participants.

There were approximately 50 participants present for the workshop, 20 from WRMA and 20 from MOH.

Each sample is tested in two ways: in a test tube to test for presence of E-Coli, and on a Patrifilm to determine the number of E-Coli present in a sample.

This photo depicts Faustine placing a test tube in her bra to incubate overnight. The final process of testing water with the PML is to incubate the tests for 12-24 hours ~ and the perfect temperature for incubation happens to be body temperature. (Let us learn from the chicken!) So when you're out in the bush without any modern amenities, incubating water samples on the body is the logical solution. The incubation process is the part we've had the most resistance about ~ many (especially older) villagers equate incubating something on your body to voodoo, or just find it too weird. Even some of the government workers were uneasy with the process ~ these are the petrifilms that were left to incubate on the table overnight; an option (especially since it was warm out) but incubation takes much longer at inopportune temperatures.

This is a 'hay pouch' created by Mr. John Rumberia ~ a water testing expert from the village of Embu: understanding the cultural discomfort with incubating water samples on the body, John fashioned this method of incubating tests with a hot water bottle and a couple of cloth bags. The process of this 'hay pouch' is modeled after the hay basket for it's insulative qualities ~ rather than incubate a water sample on one's body for 12-24 hours, it is possible to keep it warm in an incubating pouch like this one.

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