Kenya: Bringing water closer to home

Published: 13 September 2013 12:15 CET

By Rebecca Lefort, British Red Cross

Maurice Mwalimu knows he is a very lucky man. The 41-year-old farmer from Bomani, in the coastal Malindi district of Kenya, used to be 13 kilometres from the nearest safe water supply. Each day, he or his wife would trek eight hours to and from the watering hole, carrying 20 litres of water on the gruelling return journey.

“It was tough, and when you came back you were so tired you just wanted to go to sleep. You didn’t have time to do anything else. I did very little work and wasn’t able to farm,” says Mwalimu.

When the Kenya Red Cross Society began talking to the community about creating a water pan to make it easier for people to access safe and clean water, he was thrilled. Even more so to hear the pan would be located within 300 metres of his farm.

“I just couldn’t take it in. I knew it would completely transform my life and I felt like the luckiest man alive,” said the Red Cross relief committee member with a massive grin spreading over his face. “Before the pan was created we had thought about moving home but we wanted to be with our land and hoped that something would happen to help us — which it has!”

The pan, which is 3.5 metres deep and holds 9,800 cubic metres of water, was dug by hand with the help of dozens of volunteers who spent 12 months on the project. Grass was planted to remove the threat of erosion, and animals have been kept away from the site so the water stays free of contamination.

Officially, the scheme aimed to improve the lives of 158 households, but it has been such a success that almost 7,000 people are thought to have benefited in some way. Other communities are now considering creating similar pans.

Sidi Karisa, chair of the Kenya Red Cross Society’s sub-branch in Bomani, said even people like herself, who live a few kilometres from the pan, were celebrating as their daily walk has been reduced from a ritual which consumed entire days, to a task that can be completed by the afternoon.

“People are very thankful for the project,” she said. “Now children get to go to school as they are not walking to fetch water. People can farm using the water, and they have more time to look after themselves. It has really helped the community, it has brought people together. By encouraging people to grow more food, it has also improved people’s nutrition. Everyone benefits!”