Ithanga residents in Murang'a lack water as drought worsens

Vegetation and rivers are dry; people spend entire days looking for the commodity

In Summary

• Residents queue for days in schools that have boreholes.

• The drought has diminished their sources of income with families contending with one or no meal in a day.

A dry Mwania river in Kirathani, Ithanga, Murang'a county.
A dry Mwania river in Kirathani, Ithanga, Murang'a county.
Image: Alice Waithera


Residents of Ithanga in Murang’a county are appealing to the government to come to their aid as the drought continues to worsen.

Vegetation and rivers are dry in the semi-arid area.

Along the Gati-iguru-Ithanga-Makuyu road that was tarmacked by the national government in 2020, empty jerricans can be seen at water points that do not seem to have the commodity.

In Kirathani village, river Mwania that borders Gatanga and Maragua subcounties does not have a drop of water.

The river bed is now a valley that villagers walk through.

Resident Moses Muriu said the name of the river means something loud in the local dialect and was named so due to its gushing nature during the rains.

The river sustains residents who use it for irrigation and domestic water. But the river has been dry for three months now.

Muriu explained that they now spend entire days looking for the commodity and have to queue in the local schools that have boreholes.

Bare farms in Kirathani area in Ithanga subcounty, Murang'a county.
Bare farms in Kirathani area in Ithanga subcounty, Murang'a county.
Image: Alice Waithera

“The government should provide us with water because we are suffering looking for it. We have been going hungry for days because our farms are bare and there is no source of income,” he said.

The area depends largely on fruits such as mangoes and oranges, and those without farms are employed in orchards to help in harvesting.

But Muriu said the orange season has ended and there are no more sources of income as sand harvesting, which some youths run to, has been rendered unavailable due to the drying up of rivers.

“Sand harvesting in this village depends on river Mwania which has dried up. There is no other way for our youth to eke a livelihood,” he explained.

Muriu said the government should provide them with irrigation water to help them engage in farming all year round, saying their farms are fertile and the hot weather causes crops to grow fast.

He said fruits such as watermelons would do well in the area with irrigation.

Muriu challenged the county government to establish a fruit processing plant in the area to reduce wastage of their produce and provide a ready market.

“We get bumper fruit harvests but we depend on buyers from other areas who dictate farmgate prices,” he said.

Samuel Karanja, another resident, said his family of three children has been surviving on one meal a day.

Jerricans left by Ithanga residents at a water point on October 8, 2022.
Jerricans left by Ithanga residents at a water point on October 8, 2022.
Image: Alice Waithera

With the high cost of commodities and diminishing sources of money, Karanja expressed concerns that many families in the area may starve if the situation does not change.

Children, he said, are unable to concentrate on their studies since most go to school on an empty stomach.

Wacucu, another resident, said they fear losing their wives who have been contending with insufficient food.

“The hunger is affecting our marriages. It would not be a wonder if we lost our wives to moneyed visitors,” he said.

“I have four children and three are in school but have been sent home for fees. There is no money. Even food is not guaranteed.”

Wacucu said they are ready to plant for the short rains but urged the government to provide them with seeds as they do not have money to buy them.

Ngaatho Water project chairman Christopher Mburu said the area suffers from shortages of water.

The government, he said, sunk a borehole at Ngaatho and installed solar panels to pump the water.

But some of the panels were destroyed by mischievous local children and members uninstalled the rest, and took them to Rubiru police post for safe keeping.

When the destroyed panels were eventually replaced, members found out that out of the 52 solar panels, 33 had gone missing.

This has forced residents to go without water, with Mburu asking the Ministry of Water to intervene and ensure the borehole becomes operational again.

In 2020, the government sunk 500 water pans for irrigation purposes in Ithanga area to mitigate against drought. Some of the beneficiaries were then supplied with Tilapia fingerlings to boost food security.

The government is in the process of establishing a Sh2.4 billion water project in the area that will provide both domestic and irrigation water, and is expected to be completed before the end of the year.

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