What you need to know:
- Loosuk Water Supply Project in Samburu North was done by Kenya Red Cross in conjunction with the United States Agency for International Development.
- Previously, trekking in search of water made women and girls venerable to sexual and gender-based violence and girls could miss school.
It is 8.30am when we arrive at the freshly built water point in Tingasap village, about 30 kilometres from Maralal town, Samburu County.
We find women lining up as they patiently wait for their turn to fill their jerrycans.
The recently commissioned Loosuk Water Supply Project in Samburu North was undertaken by Kenya Red Cross in conjunction with the United States Agency for International Development, much to the happiness of girls and women here.
Among the women is Veronica Leakono. She tells us she has been queuing for the last 30 minutes. We arrive when it is almost her turn to fetch water. Finally, she fills her four 20-liter jerrycans smiling.
Also read: Drought leads to poor sanitation in Samburu
“This will be enough for me today for my domestic use, including watering my few goats. I am glad that I have managed to get it this early, which will give me time to do other work back home,” she says as we strike a conversation with her.
Previously, she relied on a borehole in another village about six kilometres away. She says she could only fetch two 20-litre jerrycans of water per day because of the long distance. “I left home at 4am in the morning to enable me to get to the borehole by 5am. This ensured that I did not get a long queue.”
And even though the new borehole is two kilometres away from her home, Veronica and other women here are a happy lot. She says the project is a godsend. “We thank God for the water project. It has been long overdue and we are grateful that it will ease our suffering. Before the project, I could not do other jobs like farming and domestic chores effectively as most of my time was spent looking for water.”
As she carries the water on her back and embarks on a two-kilometre journey back home, we cannot help but note the joy the mother of seven has, perhaps due to the realisation that henceforth, she would be covering a much shorter distance.
The area experiences perennial drought, whose effects are evident. Trees are almost dry, rivers have dried up and herders arrive to water visibly weak cows and goats.
Water scarcity is part of life for nomadic pastoralists, but women and children bear the greatest burden. Among the Samburu, women are responsible for getting water for livestock and for home use. This requires them to trek and spend the better part of their day fetching water.
Routine monitoring by the National Drought Management Authority showed that at the height of the 2017 drought, women in some areas walked up to 15km a day to find water, leaving them with little or no time for other chores, including childcare.
Susan Leaduma, a member of the committee running the project, terms it the best thing to ever happen to the community. She tells Nation.Africa that women and girls in this area used to spend many hours looking for water.
SGBV and health risks
“The young mothers and girls have been trekking looking for water, making them venerable to sexual and gender-based violence and girls to miss school. It has also been hard for women to do other jobs, as most of their time is earmarked for fetching water,” she says.
The mother of two reveals that an acute water problem had prompted women and girls to get water from a local swamp, which posed serious health risks as they were vulnerable to waterborne diseases.
“Many locals, especially children, have been having stomachache and diarrhoea after consuming water from the swamp. We are happy that the new borehole has enabled us to have access to clean water, which will drastically reduce cases of waterborne diseases.”
Gabriel Letukei, the secretary of the project committee, terms it a glad tiding. The project benefits more than 5,000 households across Tingasap and Loosuk villages. “Everyone is excited here that finally the perennial water problem has come to an end. Women will now till their land and do other domestic chores. Girls will no longer be required to miss school to look for water. It is a project that has been long overdue,” he says.
Mr Letukei, however, fears that if the ongoing drought persists, the borehole could dry up and water shortage could bite once again.
To reduce operational costs, they have installed a solar system for pumping water to storage tanks to be stationed across the villages to ease access.
Morris Anyango, the Kenya Red Cross regional manager for Upper Eastern, says they have trained select locals who will repair the system whenever it breaks down. He says Red Cross has so far rehabilitated eight water projects in Samburu County that will see 25,000 residents have access to clean water.
“These water projects will be instrumental in helping fight sexual and gender-based violence against girls and women. Many defilement cases and cutting of girls normally happen early in the morning or late in the evening, mostly when they have gone to look for water,” says Mr Anyango.
According to the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development(Acted), over half of the people living in the county get their water from unsafe sources such as contaminated shallow wells and seasonal rivers. The contamination often stems from open defaecation, which pollutes water sources. The situation is worsened by the fact that only one in 10 people treat their water prior to consumption.