Change is as good as rest, so the saying goes. Nothing says this better than the Maasai community in Loitoktok. Since time immemorial, they have led nomadic lifestyles, depending largely on livestock for their livelihood. However, the past three years have been characterised by hardship, as the region has not received proper rainfall. Hard hit by the drought currently facing the country, the communities in this area have lost large numbers of livestock. For the Maasai community in Loitokitok, change was inevitable as they had to find a means to survive before the hand of death caught up with them.
Joyce Simon, a resident at Njukini in Rombo division, grew up in a family that depended entirely on keeping livestock. Once the drought hit the area, her family was negatively affected, and she knew that in order to survive, something had to give.“When AMREF came into our community and suggested farming as a way out for us, we were reluctant at first because that was unchartered water for us.” But after discussions with her husband and some community members, they agreed to be part of the venture as they had nothing to lose. Joyce’s husband agreed to donate part of his land for this venture. They selected twenty members of the community, and together they started to till the land and plant crops. “I have no regrets, and I am happy”AMREF went a step further and built them a giant well. They also provided a generator that was to be used in pumping water from the well to the farm through pipes that were AMREF went a step further and built them a giant well and provided a generator to be used in pumping water from the well into the farm through pipes placed in strategic places throughout the acreage of the land. Never in a million years did Joyce think that she would embrace farming, but with the positive results that she has received so far, she does not regret her mov
The Water Pipeline Project
Kara Kapali, widely known to the people of Olmapinu as Chairman, is one happy man. He recounts what life was for them before AMREF. “Access to water was a huge problem for my people as we had to walk very long distances to access it.” The nearest water point was about 10 kilometers away at Rombo, and the journey to and fro would take an entire day. He says AMREF’s intervention was like a gift from God, because life took a turn for the best when started working together.In partnership with the community members, AMREF dug a 10 kilometre pipeline from Rombo to Olmapinu. Along the pipeline, they built seven water kiosks where people from different areas could access water. The community then formed water committees to man the kiosks in order to make sure that everyone was adequately catered for.To show their appreciation for the pipeline, the community members extended it by another 7 kilometres to Tambarare so that more people could have access to clean water. According to Kipetuan Lempusel, beneficiaries of the project pay monthly contributions that go towards catering for any repairs along the pipeline.
Challenges Faced by the Water Pipeline
The residents of Olmapinu are not the only ones that are being affected by the drought. Wild animals in the neighbouring Tsavo National Park are also suffering a similar fate. The animals have resorted to causing damage to the pipeline so as to get water to drink. Kapali says that he has to repair the pipe every so often because the elephants now frequently visit the area as they have discovered that they can get water. He says that they are looking for ways to deal with this menace before it gets out of hand.
Students at Olmapinu Primary School say that they are very grateful for the water pipeline project by AMREF that has enabled them to get water in their school. They however know that it is important that long-term solutions are found that will help the area in terms of water and in mitigating the effects of the drought. With this in mind, AMREF came up with a tree planting initiative as a medium term measure. The students and teachers got involved in planting trees that would eventually grow to a kind of artificial forest, so that later on, this would act as a water catchment area. With this kind of action, it is predicted that the problem of lack of rain would be taken care of.
The greatest challenge that the students have been facing is the destruction of their project by both wild and domestic animals. Because the school does not have a fence, whenever they plant tree seedlings, they are either eaten up or stepped on by wild animals such as elephants, which usually frequent the area, or by the goats that are reared by the locals. According to George Wambua, an AMREF Project Manager in Loitoktok however, there is a plan in place to purchase an electric fence that is 100 metres by 100 metres that will help in curbing this problem. This is to be done by next month.
The Other Side of the Coin…
The story in Olbili in Chyulu hills is not yet that of complete success, but strides are being made towards that direction. According to Simon Sikorei, a resident and chairman of the water project in the area, before AMREF came, the area was very dry and there was not enough water for the residents. The only thing in sight as far as the eye could see was sand. The residents had two boreholes that had been dug by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the Community Development Fund but since the water table is very low, the water was not adequate. “Many residents of this area moved away, and the place was practically deserted. We are however thankful to AMREF because when they came, they set up a generator in the area that pumps water to a masonry tank and now there is enough for everyone.” He says that even with the drought, Olbili has become a haven of life, and people have come back and settled there. There has been no rain for the past three years, and the water levels are reducing, but they are still grateful, because the generator is still serving them well and their situation is much better than before.
Simon explains that the generator that was given to them by AMREF is a blessing but it has also come with its challenges. He says that it costs them Kshs 22,000 per week to keep it running. They have to run it every night, so that by morning, there is enough water to serve the members of their community. “This is indeed an expensive venture but we are receiving a lot of help from AMREF to help us meet these costs.” Just two weeks ago, AMREF bought them 400 litres of fuel that is forecasted to last them three to four weeks. They receive reprieve from fuel costs from AMREF every once in a while. The community has come up with a system in which all the members of the community contribute towards fuel expenses. When using the water, community members are charged Ksh 50 a month.Being a community that places a lot of value in their livestock, they are charged Kshs 10 per goat and sheep and Kshs 20 per cow. Simon says that there are times when the money they collect fails to suffice and they have to charge community members twice a month.
With the water situation taken care of, there has been a resulting progress in other areas of development. With the population increasing, and people settling back in the area, a school has been established. Previously, there were just a few classrooms made of wood, but AMREF is also building them two classrooms to cater for the rising number of children who have enrolled in the school. Peter Njoroge, a class seven teacher at the school is very grateful for the classrooms and water projects developed by AMREF. He says that last year when he was posted to the school, he almost absconded duty as the area had no water. They would have to interrupt classes in order to send their pupils to fetch water for the school’s daily use before normal learning resumed. The nearest water source was about 9 kilometres away and it would take most of the day for them to get it. Needless to say, this was costly for both the students and the teachers as they were not able to cover their syllabus on time and the students grades also suffered. He is however grateful because now-a year later, the students grades are improving as they have more time to spend attending to their school work, and with the new classrooms that have also come up as a result, the sky is the limit.