Digging a well leads to much more than just water
As AMREF continues to assist communities in East Africa devastated by the drought, we want to share with you an update from one of our water projects. This success story demonstrates that, while droughts are inevitable, famine and disease can largely be prevented - through sustainable health development work such as AMREF’s.
The Ilpolosat Masai herding community in the Kajiado district of Kenya was hit by droughts in 2005 and 2007. Families, like George Olemusunku’s, lost up to 80% of their livestock, their primary source of income; malnutrition peaked; and water-borne diseases were rampant. Families relied on hand-outs for survival.
Time for Change
In 2007, the AMREF team surveyed the area. “By then it was unbelievably dry. There was no water available,” says Phillip Murkuku, the AMREF project assistant in charge of community mobilization and training in Kajiado. "When there is no water, diseases are at their highest, because hygiene and sanitation are at their lowest. Malnutrition also peaks as women and children (who usually have to drop out of school) spend a lot of time looking for water and food.
“We needed to diversify from just cattle rearing otherwise we would continue to suffer the same fate,” says the chairman of Kasaru borehole at Ilpolosat village, Kajiado, George Olemusunku, 45. “We regrouped as residents and identified water as one of our biggest problems. We had to walk more than 3 miles to fetch water from a dam. Since we did not have the expertise or funds, we decided to approach AMREF for help.”
Faced with this recurring problem, the community partnered with AMREF to drill a borehole. AMREF brought in the expertise and carried 75% of the costs, while the residents covered 25%, mostly in the form of labor and land. For the community, this project was the starting point for major transformation towards a healthier, better future.
AMREF provided lessons in hygiene and sanitation, borehole management and environmental protection to ensure that the changes were far-reaching and sustainable. “We train community committees on how to take care of their water resource. You need to make sure that they are able to maintain it, by taking care of their fuel expenses, maintenance and any breakdowns,” says Murkuku.
A New Beginning
Hear community member Phillipa Koin speak about her new way of life.
In August 2007 the village cheered at a new water source. “We piped the water from the borehole to the homesteads and encouraged people to use the water.” says Olemusunku. Community members were encouraged to use the new water supply in creative ways to broaden their nutritional base and increase their income. Some members took the cue, and diversified into commercial dairy and pig farming, others like Olemusunku, went into tree planting, poultry, vegetables, beekeeping among others.
Among the achievements he is most proud of is the fact that he is able to provide for his children’s higher education needs. “Education is the future of the community. I have a 20 year old studying law at JKUAT University and another who has completed a diploma in ICT,” he says.
“In our community there is a saying that seeing is believing. I remember one old man, laughing at my idea of buying trees and planting them in my farm. He thought it was foolish to invest in trees and not animals. Now that the trees have grown, he has followed suit. This borehole is now serving 500 community members and 4,000 animals.
Today, while many stretches of Kenya and the East Africa region are suffering under a devastating drought, this Masai community is healthy and prospering – with its dairy and pig farms, vegetable gardens, and bee-keeping facilities. Recurring droughts highlight in a tragic manner that access to clean, sustainable sources of water remains a major issue across East Africa.