By Betty Luke
Women and girls at Skuma village in Ngaremara, Isiolo, have for a long time borne the impact of water shortage forcing them to travel tens of kilometers away in search of the basic commodity.
While sometimes they manage to get a few litres from neighbouring villages where there are boreholes, Ms Amuasa Ekiru, 41, says they on several occasions go back home with empty jerricans.
The sight of groups of women with water jerricans on their back, tells it all that the village has for a long time grappled with water shortage.
This has not only affected residents’ hygiene but also nutrition of children who sometimes sleep on empty stomach as their mothers arrive home late from daylong water searching mission.
“We walk for more than six hours looking for water and sometimes are forced to come back home in the evening with nothing. The little available in the neighbouring villages is not enough for the locals let alone sharing with us,” says Ms Ekiru.
Water shortage remains a common challenge to pastoral communities and has been worsened by the persistent drought that is Kenya’s worst in 40 years.
Recent data from the National Drought Management Authority revealed that over 80 percent of water sources in Isiolo had dried up exacerbating the situation for pastoralists who now trek longer distances in search of pastures and water for domestic and livestock use.
“Unlike few years ago when we used to only source water for domestic use, nowadays we trek longer distances to get water for the few emaciated animals that have survived the ongoing drought and which can no longer walk for long distance to take water,” the mother of six says.
The rehabilitation of a borehole project in the area is a huge relief to the locals who will no longer need to struggle getting water for domestic and animal use.
The project, funded by the German Federal Foreign Office (OXFAM) and implemented by the Merti Integrated Development Program in partnership with the County Government, involves construction of a 50 metre cubic elevated steel tank, installation of a 1,620 metres pipeline extension, construction of two and rehabilitation of an existing water kiosks.
Mid-P Program Manager Ibrahim Kabelo said the project would benefit about 200 families struggling with water shortage due to the drought.
Project committee chair Ms Catherine Bahati says the project will benefit the locals who have also decided to establish kitchen gardens and plant trees in their compound for environmental conservation.
“We agreed as a community that we must maximally utilize the water project by ensuring each and every homestead around has planted at least 20 trees,” she said.
The pipeline extension seeks to ensure the locals can pipe water to their homes with ease.
About 15 households have so far connected water to their homes and already initiated the kitchen gardens plan as a way of ensuring they are food secure.
OXFAM County project coordinator Margaret Msundi said the program also sought to help improve personal hygiene of the locals by ensuring access to clean water.
A total of 95 households also benefited with water storage tanks, jerricans, bar soaps and aqua tabs for water treatment at point of use.
“We have identified and trained community health volunteers to help in hygiene promotion among the villagers,” said Ms Msudi.
Deputy Governor James Lowasa lauded the project and urged the locals to ensure sustainability.
“The money collected at the kiosks should not go to the committee but take care of minor repairs. Where there is need for technical support, the county government will chip in,” said Mr Lowasa.
Every household will pay Sh100 levy every month, money that will go towards maintenance of the infrastructure.