Posted by: Wasrag | November 24, 2010

First Project Planning Team heads out…

Remba Island: Imagine a large flat rock, way out in a lake, with around 5,000 people living in 1,500 “houses” (the houses are single-room shacks made from iron sheeting, usually not larger than 10 or 15 feet wide), with no health facility and almost no latrines.

Remba Island is a small fishing island in Lake Victoria, with a population that fluctuates between 4,500 and 8,000 (depending on season and local fish catch), of whom 10-15% are children less than 5 years old. Some people reside on the island seasonally, some migrate through briefly, and a portion remains for several years or more. Most residents are Kenyan, but the population also includes people from Uganda, Tanzania, and Somalia. There are approximately 1,500 households on Remba. The main economic activity is fishing. The adult HIV prevalence is estimated to be above 30%.

One of the major problems on Remba is safe water. Island residents depend on surface water directly from Lake Victoria, which is grossly contaminated, for drinking, cooking, and washing. Consistent use of water treatment methods is low. The situation is made worse by inadequate access to improved sanitation, with the majority of residents defecating in open fields and beaches. Water samples taken from 5 beaches where people collect drinking water confirmed high levels of fecal contamination, with average of 86.3 colony forming units (cfu) of E. Coli per 100 mL (range 24.3-162.6 cfu/100mL). Diarrhea is a major concern for residents; it interferes with adults’ ability to fish and children’s school attendance, and has associated mortality for young children. Diarrhea is also a major concern for public health officials, and was unaddressed before this intervention.

The six member team, traveling at their own expense, is scheduled to arrive in Nairobi on Jan. 3rd, fly to Kisumu on the 4th, then on the 5th take a one hour ferry ride to Mbita town. Still not at their destination, starting on Jan. 6th they will travel by rented boat to Remba Island daily, a 30 – 90 minute trip, to gather data and meet with local community leaders and families.

The team is made up of:

1. John Dracup, Team Leader, whose expertise is in water resource system design and hydrology.   He is a member of the Rotary Club of  San Francisco #2;

2. Kathy Dracup, whose expertise as a nurse practitioner is health care services. She will focus on the health issues of Remba Island;

3.  Ella Lacey,a member of the Rotary Club of Carbondale, Ill., whose expertise is in community health planning and development.  She has extensive experience in eastern Africa and is currently working in Malawi;

4.  Jack Christian, a retired plumber, pipefitter and medical gas mechanic.  He has had extensive experience in the construction of water systems in the Kisumu, Kenya region.  Jack is a member of the Rotary Club of Amesbury, MA.;

5.  Dr. Jeremy Penner, M.D. will host the team in Kisumu and will be the contact for the work done on Remba Island. Dr. Penner first went to Kisumu five years ago to work with AIDs patients. He has been working with the Remba Island political leadership and health agencies.

6. Dr. Mark Bean, M.D., is a member of the Rotary Club of Amesbury, MA. Mark is a retired family practice doctor who has worked on public health problems in western Kenya for the past 23 years. Fluent in Swahili, he has worked with the Bay Way clinic in Esabulu and has contacts with the Kisumu Rotarians.

The team will meet on January 4th in Kisumu by Dr. Jeremy Penner.  On Jan 4th we will take the ferry to Mbita town (one hour).  From Mbita to Remba Island it takes around 30-90 min via a rented boat (depending on the type of boat we rent).   The team will return to and stay in Mbita every evening at the ICIPE Guest House. Work on Remba Island will be undertaken from Januar 5 to the 7th.

The Rotary Club in Kenya who will sponsor this project is the Rotarian club of Nakuru – the Great Rift Valley, whose President is GPO Ogombe.  Nakuru is located about 100km east of Kisumu and about 100km northeast of Nairobi.

Obtaining the support of the local community leaders will be the key to the success of this project. This includes the Beach Management Unit (BMU) and the Remba community, Pamoja.

Working with these local community groups, a Remba Island WASH (Water, Sanitation and Health) Committee will be formed.   The community group, Pamoja, will take care of identifying contractors and receiving tenders for construction once the plans are made, but if there are specific materials/methods that we require, we may need to talk with some contractors to determine their capacity and what materials are available.


The main tasks of the PPDT will be to determine:

1.     The water demand on the Island:  We will determine the water demand for Remba Island by assessing the current water consumption on the Island.   We will try to determine both the current consumption for drinking and for cooking.  However, cooking water will be a secondary consideration for this project.

2.     Geography and geology of Remba Island: A GPS will be taken on this trip in order to map the topography,  location of sand beaches,  optimal location of storage tank(s) and kiosk’s , elevations

3.     A potential water treatment system for Remba Island. During the water assessment a number of potential water systems will be considered.  This will include but will not be limited to:

a. Water pumped from Lake Victoria to an overhead storage tank such as a concrete block tank.   The potential location of the elevated tower(s) for the storage tank(s), their height(s) and size(s) will be determined during the site visit.  These towers will be built of concrete blocks (are these blocks available on the Island?).

The water will be delivered to kiosks via a pipeline, so it probably will have to be chlorinated (do the Island inhabitants tolerate the taste of chlorine?).

b. The water treatment system currently used by the NGO “A Child’s Right” – see link below – has been suggested for use at Remba Island.

c. The Water Mission International’s water treatment system – see link below.  It has an Alum coagulator, multimedia filtration, chlorination and a built in storage system.

4.     A multi-barrier approach for water treatment systems. This includes water source protection; treatment of the water by sedimentation, filtration, disinfection; and safe water storage.

5.  The best energy source for the pump. The current energy supply for the Island is via a diesel electric generator.

6.   The payment system for the water. The water will be paid for via tokens which the Island inhabitants would buy at the local health clinic.  The charge for the water will have to be within the means of the people to pay.

6.   The number of bio-latrines that will have to be built. The compost from these latrines will be used for the Island’s gardens.   Since biogas latrines are being considered, we will need an extra day to visit Ringiti Island (a neighboring island which is constructing a biolatrine centre and central water tank/treatment).

7.       The Island’s health needs. Meetings with the Kenyan Ministry of Health to discuss support for a permanent health professional on the Island will have to be arranged.

8.       The approximate cost of the project.



  1. Dear John & Kathy Dracup,
    What a fascinating and soul empowering journey you are on. Please know how inspiring your trail blazing endeavors are to me and all you bless with your efforts.
    Keep me in the loop.
    Love & Blessings to you & the team,
    Rena Delgado
    PS. The WASRAG Project reminds of a Delgado Brothers song, “If the World could be like this” off the Learn to Fly cd.

  2. Watch upcoming newsletter for more about the Remba Island trip. Thanks for the support Rena!

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