What you need to know:
- For years, thousands of families in Kasgunga and surrounding areas have suffered from water shortage.
- Farmers in the area have been unable to grow crops on a large scale because of perennial water shortage.
The land in Gembe, Lambwe and Kasgunga in Mbita sub-county is characterised by dwarfed crops, trees with needle-like leaves and greying grass scorched by the sun.
Most homes are located in dusty and bare open fields. There is hardly any vegetation in sight, forcing the livestock to roam from one end to another in search of pasture.
During the day, the blazing sun beats down on the ground as stunted crops fold their leaves to survive the heat.
The heat drives cows, sheep and goats scurrying under trees stripped bare of their leaves to seek shelter from the intense heat and protect themselves from being dehydrated.
The region receives scanty rains, making it daunting for farmers to survive the vagaries of the weather.
Villagers have gone without rains for several months, and when the rain comes, it usually only drizzles.
Farmers watch their crops shrivel before they mature, leading to food insecurity.
Despite the challenges that residents face, farmers are determined to ensure their families do not go hungry.
No planting season passes without farmers growing crops, hoping for better times and improved yields.
But the situation has remained grim as farmers continue to struggle only to end up with little to show for their efforts.
There has been some good news, though, following interventions by the Ministry of Water and Irrigation to supply water to communities in Mbita and transform livelihoods.
Perennial water shortage
The ministry has started building two water pans in Kamreri in Kasgunga ward as part of the national government's efforts to help families in arid areas end perennial water shortage.
The two projects, worth Sh19 million, will help up to 2,000 households to overcome challenges associated with water scarcity.
For years, thousands of families in Kasgunga and surrounding areas have suffered from water shortage.
Water Principal Secretary Samuel Alima said farmers are unable to grow crops on a large scale because of perennial water shortage.
He said the hardships in Mbita are the reason the government is undertaking the projects.
This is besides other water projects that the ministry has undertaken in different parts of Homa Bay. They include Tweta, Min Arot, Aringo, Gogo Goro, Kokiko, Ondiegi.
Mr Alima said some projects include drilling boreholes and setting up water pans, which are already being used by farmers.
In Kamreri, the ministry is undertaking two projects - Yao Kokech and Yap Tinga - that will supply 25,000 cubic metres of water to transform the economic lives of families.
"Families around the target area spend a lot of valuable time looking for water. This can be used for other meaningful activities that can transform their livelihoods,” Mr Alima said.
He spoke during the commissioning of the projects, expected to be completed in the next month.
“We are targeting tap water during the next rainy season. All the projects will be ready by mid-February," he said.
At the home of Rispa Owino in Wadianga location, Kasgunga, with lunchtime approaching, children play in the blazing sun as they battle gnawing pangs of hunger.
All the dishes that were used the previous night have been washed and placed in the sun to dry.
There is no sign of lunch being prepared at the home and the children are keeping themselves busy singing and playing.
Four months ago, Ms Owino said she had plenty of beans from her previous harvest and could afford to cook lunch.
“I harvested six bags of beans and 12 of maize from a three-acre piece of land. This is half of what I should get. I have suspended cooking lunch at my home," she said.
She is among thousands of farmers whose crops have failed to mature this season.
In Homa Bay, farmers have two planting seasons - in April and October. But for farmers in Mbita, the October planting season is usually a big gamble because of the unreliable rainfall patterns.
Ms Owino lost all her crops and she is not expecting anything from her farm by the end of February.
"I used to sell the crops and pay school fees for my children. But this time around, things went very badly and we have very little food in the house,” she said.
Gembe Central Location Chief Joseph Kodo said water shortage is a major problem in most parts of Mbita.
The area does not have rivers that can supply water for domestic use.
Beneficiaries of projects
The Lambwe River, which passes through most locations, has dried up and only has water when it rains upstream.
Mr Kodo said the water table in some locations is low, making it difficult to sink wells for use by communities.
“This location has fertile land. Water shortage discourages many people from venturing into farming," the chief said.
Water shortage has disrupted learning in schools in the region.
"It is common to see children walking with containers as they look for water. This affects their studies," the chief said.
The major beneficiaries of the projects are livestock farmers who used to walk long distances to Lake Victoria to provide water to their livestock.
Mr Alima said the pan will serve both humans and livestock.
"I encourage families to use water from the pans for irrigation. They can have a kitchen garden at their homes for domestic use and to sell," he said.
Mr Joshua Okinyi, a farmer in Kamreri, said the projects will save their animals from dying.
“Walking many kilometres in search of water affects our livestock. The projects are a huge relief to the community,” he said.