My name is Janeth Langat (age 33 years). I am married and have five children; two boys, and three girls. I have been a resident of the Lemolo community for the last seven years. We are farmers with 2.25 acres of land and have been practicing crop farming as well as goat rearing for the last seven years. Farming is our source of livelihood as well as food for the whole family. Living in a semi-arid area was not easy in the beginning. It was unbearable as gaining access to basic services was almost impossible.
There was no school, no hospital, no reliable source of water and to make the matters worse, there was no capital to begin farming the land. When we settled on our Lemolo farm in early 2013, access to water became a great challenge for my family and the entire community. Not only was clean, safe water unavailable, but the dirty water available in open dams and temporary streams was scarce in the dry season. The dam completely dries up during the dry season and water flows in the seasonal river only when it is raining as the water in it is surface running water. When it rained we only had an hour to collect water running down the river before it stopped. I used to join other women from the community in search of water for our families.
I am calling it “the search for water” because there was no specific point where you could go and get water regularly. We used to walk along the dry, temporary river, looking for potential spots where we could dig out the sand to find water which we would fetch using a cup and larger container. In our most desperate situations, when water found in the holes in the temporary river, women and children are forced to walk for long distances to fetch water in a permanent river which is approximately 12 km away. The search for water came along with other challenges for my family and other households in the community.
Challenges such as confrontations that would happen with others in the queue when the wait lasted until the late night and little water was available. Given the area is semi-arid, there are many snakes, making it risky to fetch water at night. My children greatly felt the impact of the water problems as they missed several classes in school not once, not twice but quite often to join me in search of water. It is normal for students in our community to miss afternoon classes and at times the whole day of school because of this. Mostly with the girls as it is their responsibility to help mothers in fetching water for the family.
The use of unclean water has been a major health concern for my family. I have taken my children in for medical treatment on more than one occasion because of stomach sickness caused by unclean water used for drinking and cooking. About two years ago when I went to fetch water in the holes and I found a group of women who were having a conversation about water. The discussion was so much emotional as the women were passionately making their contributions. When I asked what they were talking about, one of the women told me that there was word going around that a borehole would be drilled for the community and that the women were wishing it could be done immediately so that they could be relieved of the hard work and time wasted looking for water.
The rumours went viral in the community for quite some time as the community anticipated the creation of the borehole. At around September 2019, we had a community meeting and though the agenda was not about water, somebody from the village stood up and told us that plans were underway for the borehole to be drilled. In the meeting, we were informed that Irene Wairimu was working with a Canadian based charity organization known as KIDS initiative was the one funding the project. During that meeting, I came to realize that the rumours going round in the community about the borehole were true. The conversation from that moment took a different form. Some people, like myself, believed that the chances of getting water underground were very limited given the area is semi-arid and that even if it was successful, there would not be enough water and it would be too hot and salty for human use. The majority of the people were optimistic that water would be found. On a material day, we were told Irene was coming to hand over the site to the contractor and as members of the community we were required to attend. At first I was reluctant to attend but when I saw the drilling machine approaching the site and people swarming in large numbers for the groundbreaking ceremony I also joined.
We witnessed the machine being set, started, and Irene with the assistance of the machine operator officially commissioning the drilling process. As this was taking place our hearts were faithfully bowed down in prayers with the hope that water would be found. The drilling continued and at first, a lot of dry sand and dust was coming out and after about three hours’ things started to look different. We could see wet sand and mud coming out, later followed by a continuous flow of water. The community broke into celebration when the pump testing was done and the report showed that the quantity of water was sufficient to be used. Later water samples were taken to the laboratory for analysis and the report indicated that the water met the WHO and Kenya recommended standards.
For years our community woke up praying and wishing for a time when the water shortage would come to an end. It has been a societal, social, political and financial problem that there has been outcry over for years. Once, a delegate from our community went to the government offices to express our grievances on water problem but nobody from the government seemed to have been bothered as nothing happened.
Our communities hope was restored on the day they struck water.The children celebrated because they would not have to miss school and could bathe and have their uniforms cleaned regularly rather than once a week. Families will now be able to prioritize water usage for cooking, washing utensils which always came secondary to drinking. Going forward once the project is fully operational and the borehole becomes the main source of water for the community, I can say the sole objective of the project will have been achieved and on that note, I foresee a situation where the following being amicably addressed;
1. Promote permanency concerning the residence.
Families will find it fit to live in Lemolo permanently without the idea of relocation due to lack of water. Many of them have been saying there is no need of living in a place that there is no water as by itself is life.
2. Promote peaceful coexistence and integration.
Lemolo residence was internally displaced persons who were resettled by the government. Communities are neighbouring us and are the host communities who received us. Scrambling for the little water resources that are available in seasonal dams and rivers has brought in the element of competition and conflict of interest and as those of us from Lemolo as seen as visitors who have come to overstrain the already limited water resources.
3. Promote good quality health.
The project will go along way in ensuring that cases of waterborne and hygiene-related diseases are reduced and this translates to a healthy community which is also productive.
The impact of COVID-19 pandemic has not spared us. Observing hygiene precautions that includes but not limited to hand-washing with soap and water is one of the good practices being championed by WHO and governments. Lemolo community families cannot afford to buy hand sanitizers and are left with the option of hand-washing with soap and water which is still a challenge because of the water problem.
The project will promote school retention rates and reduce chronic absenteeism, lateness, promote the health and cleanliness of students. This will positively lead to improvements in the academic performance of the students.
5. Sustainable Farming
The majority of the community members are peasant farmers practicing crop farming and keep the small number of livestock. Like humans, animals and plants to depend on water for life. The project will provide water for livestock use and ease the pressure that families go through in the search for water for domestic and also for livestock use. Through the project, families will be able to establish sustainable kitchen gardens as they will use the water to irrigate the crops such as vegetables and fruits. As well as trees planted within the homestead. This, in the long run, has changed the environment which currently has very few trees.
6. Sustainable School Feeding Program.
An initiative to provide a sustainable school feeding project created by KIDS in partnership with VICDA, implemented a school farm irrigation project but the water became a problem. The borehole project will provide water for the school irrigation project.