College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota
College of Science and Engineering

Evaluating water systems in Kising'a

Team Kising'a includes Jessie, Mark, Kathryn, Maria, and Paul from the University of Minnesota, Ben from the University of Iringa, and Peter from St. Paul Partners of Iringa.

We made the two-hour drive from Iringa to Kising'a, located in a fairly mountainous region of the central highlands.

Our first impression of Kising'a was that the village was situated in one of the most spectacular settings any of us had ever seen. The lush rolling hills, covered with natural vegetation and a wide range of crops, set a contrasting backdrop for the rust brick buildings and carefully swept red clay streets.

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The villagers were clearly skillful farmers, setting their crops in the rich soil rolling downward to a river. In the area, we saw potatoes, corn, avocados, tomatoes, carrots, sunflowers, bananas, squash, and wheat. The villagers also nurtured thousands of pine seedlings that were grown for timber as a cash crop.

Shortly after arrival we were greeted by Pastor Cornelious Wahale, who welcomed us into his home and provided excellent meals and comfortable beds. While each room was fitted with mosquito nets, Kising'a altitude of over 5,400 feet was a sufficient deterrent for the dangerous insects. The lookout from the pastor's porch gave a fine view of the village and its 3,302 inhabitants.

Hidden behind Kising'a's beautiful setting was the real problem of quality drinking water. The river running through Kising'a was fed by the waters from rolling hills of crops and livestock, which polluted the river for all purposes beyond washing.

In 2008, the villagers dug five shallow wells by hand, which were fitted with hand pumps. Due to bedrock resting approximately10 meters below the surface, all of the wells were shallow and had either dried up or become inoperable due to mechanical difficulty.

In 2010, a young villager named Sajeni discovered a new source of water approximately 2 km from the village center. Encouraged by the clear water coming from a crack in a rock face up the steep hillsides, he built a small concrete cistern to catch the water, which he then delivered to the village via a 1-inch PVC pipe he buried in the terrain.


The excitement of the women - who do virtually all of the hauling of water - has been tempered by numerous breaks in the thin-walled pipe, which to date have been repaired solely by Sajeni. Rough estimates suggest that Sajeni's water source could supply a maximum of 2 gallons/minute to the village, or 11,000 liters per day. While this would be less than the estimated 33,000 liters of water per day needed by the villagers, it would be clean water for drinking and could be supplemented by other water holes in the village for cooking and cleaning.

After a four-hour hike to Sajeni's water source and a circuitous route back to the village - which was necessary to avoid going down the dangerous and steep direct route back to the village - we were greeted by a wonderful meal of rice, chicken, and fried bananas.


Day two brought new adventures as we set out to an untapped water source roughly 7 km from the village. Our adventure was halted shortly after when our jeep became buried in mud on a remote village road.

As we tried to push the vehicle from the mud hole, we noticed villagers coming from the nearby woods. Soon there were eight village men digging for gravel and filling in the hole to release our vehicle. Very little was spoken - there was simply an understanding that helping one another was part of life in Kising'a.

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With the villagers' help we were back on our way. Eventually the clay road gave way to trails that rolled across farmland and woodland, ending at the base of a steep wall where we could hear a nearby waterfall.

Another 30 minutes of steep hiking and bush whacking brought us to the new water source, located at an elevation of nearly 6,000 feet - more than 500 feet above the village center, which meant a great opportunity for a gravity-fed system.

We estimated that the water flow exceeded 80 liters per second, which could supply Kising'a in the wet and dry seasons. We knew there was plenty of engineering design work ahead of us, but we were encouraged by the potential of bringing drinking water to the village.

On Saturday afternoon we met with the village elders and members of the community interested in our visit. We explained why we had come and said we hope that in some small way we might improve the quality of life in Kising'a.

Given the disrepair of the existing wells, we asked how the villagers would maintain a new system if we were fortunate enough to secure funding. They agreed that they needed to take more personal responsibility and said they would form a water committee of 12 people - 6 men and 6 women - with representation from all sub-villages making up Kising'a. A list of the water committee was delivered to the pastor's home within two hours.

Our evenings were spent talking with the pastor and village guests who came to his home to see us. The visits were illuminated by small fluorescent light that charged during the day by a small solar panel. We were entertained by Ben and Mark, who bantered about life in Africa and America, which often didn't seem so very different. Peter also taught us how to sing, "We are dancing in the light of God" in Swahili, to perform at Sunday's mass. The first verse is provided below:

    Twatem baya, new loo nee m'wa kay, Twatem baya, new loo nee m'wa kay

While Mark had perhaps our best voice, he was not a quick study in Swahili, which of course led to good-humored teasing.

I think we all felt a very close bond being together in Kising'a and agreed that our trip to Tanzania would not have been complete without the experience.



A wonderful story about a wonderful project. Best of luck to you all, and especially to the people of Kising'a. But you might want to find some allies in the law school at William Marshall or elsewhere; just because indigenous peoples have water, that doesn't mean the corporations will let them keep it.

It is ridiculous that in this day and age that people are still going without fresh water. We try to do our best and donate but it seems most of the charities that the money goes to, get's lost in the charity.

It's refreshing to see someone who actually goes over and assists.

Keep up the great work guys!


Its great ideas to manage the water to save energy and money. Good sharing.

It really breaks my to see these people still struggling to have electricity and fresh water. We should provide them a solar panel system so that they will have atleast some electricity at night.

Wow awesome stuff.
It,s an interesting post and valuable blog Thanks for sharing.

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