Wind power and community spirit brings fresh water to 50,000 people

Published: 3 October 2011 12:31 CET

By Nancy Okwengu in Turkana

Villages around the salty Lake Turkana in northern Kenya have a rustic charm that conceals serious danger. From a distance only three fishermen can be seen fishing in the early afternoon. Crocodiles have in the past attacked and killed fishermen in these waters, and the rocky shore is also home to scorpions and snakes.
Humans and crocodiles have fought for control of these waters since time immemorial. And drought has led people to fight even harder as they try to access the now rare commodities of water and fish. Fishing remains the main source of income and food in these communities, but the once busy lake shores have now been reduced to battleground where only the fittest survive.

Luckily, the situation is about to change. Thanks to community volunteer work, Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) supervision, and UNICEF funds the salt-free water has been made more accessible though various projects, giving the community a helping hand towards food security.

But Lake Turkana is not the only option for this community. The KRCS is using alternative springs in the area to access fresh water. “Because of these projects, the villagers will easily access water and will not need to travel for hours to the dangerous Lake Turkana,” says Paul Emekwe, who works for the KRCS. “Women and girls have had to travel for hours to fetch water and carry it back to their villages in this hot weather.”

Paul Waikwa, KRCS water and sanitation officer adds: “The water project will ensure that salt-free water is harvested from a spring near the lake and then pumped onshore and offshore by wind power. This is cheap and sustainable, and the water reaches over 50,000 villagers.”

So far community members have dug trenches from the spring to villages around 50km away. Pipelines have been purchased and will soon be used to transport water to 50 tanks where people can collect their clean water. The windmill is also under construction.

In addition, KRCS is rehabilitating boreholes and looking for more viable areas where more can be dug around the lake area. These efforts will go a long way to saving lives during the current drought and beyond.