• World Vision hired experts to drill a well, and the county piped the water to residents.
• Two key water projects initiated at Kambicha and Kamale have transformed lives.
Magarini constituency in Kilifi county has for ages been known for high poverty levels and famine, which is often attributed to drought.
Each year the constituency, which is one of the poorest in Kilifi county, hits the headlines in the media during the dry season, which leaves thousands of people without food. Victims rely on relief support from the national and county government.
The major challenge has been access to water, a key resource that can enable residents to produce food even in the absence of rainfall.
Generally Kilifi county is notorious for crop failure. Whenever drought hits, close to 500,000 people suffer, with 200,000 directly affected.
To survive, many residents cut old indigenous trees to produce charcoal and timber. This further worsens droughts and slowly contributes to the area becoming a desert.
This has often led to locals suffering and forced them to travel a long distance of up to 20km to get drinking water.
Before devolution, the situation was worse, as very little was done to help locals get water as part of the mitigation measures for drought.
With water, residents could have done irrigation projects and spent energy on farming rather than walking long distances in search of the commodity.
When the county government came into place in 2013 under the leadership of Governor Amason Kingi, major initiatives were set up to try and address the problem and fight the poverty levels.
Kingi has personal experience of the problem in Magarini, having been born and brought up in Kamale, a village is in the remotest part of the constituency. He tasked his officials to come up with a permanent solution.
Six years down the line, the strategies laid in place are slowly beginning to bear fruit, and there is hope that the problem of water will become a thing of the past soon.
Top among the strategies put in place were two key water projects, one initiated at Kambicha and the other at Adu Kadzandani Kamale. These have proved to be transforming lives.
Currently, hundreds of residents who had run away from the troubles in the area are slowly returning after learning there is water.
Journalists toured the two projects recently to assess the impact it has made to the livelihoods of the locals.
Tales from the locals showed clearly that they were seeing light at the end of the tunnel after decades of suffering and walking, sometimes in the dead of the night, looking for water in routes infested by deadly snakes and wild animals, including lions.
Eunice Rehema, 33, a mother of seven children from Tethesa village, recalls how she used to wake up at 2 am to search for water.
“I had so many problems. At times while pregnant, I would walk for over 20km in search of water and carry the 20-litre jerrican for all that distance back home," she said.
Now she is happy her children are going to school and can take a bath.
KAMBICHA WATER PROJECT
At Kambicha, the first impression on the way to the remote villages is seeing the influx of water kiosks, which are all over.
John Mwango is the chairman of Kambicha water project, which covers part of Ramada and other parts of Adu ward, including Marerereni and Muyu wa Kae.
The project was started by a 13-member committee on March 12, 2014, who sat together to discuss the water problem.
“We used to get water from Muyu wa Kae area, over 20km away, on foot. Those who required transport had to part with Sh7,000 to hire a water bowser," he says in an interview.
Most locals could not afford the costs and had to wake up at 4 am to walk on foot in the snake-infested paths and return home at midday.
That time, some locals opted to relocate to other villages where water was accessible, as the condition was unbearable.
“We went to Kenya Red Cross, World Vision, county and national government to try and get a solution for the long-term water problem. In October 2014, World Vision brought experts to check," Mwango says.
To their surprise in 2014, the NGO hired experts to drill water, which took 20 days. The experts drilled 150 meters deep and managed to get 18 cubic metres of water.
That day, Mwango recalls, there were celebrations in the entire Kambicha village, as it marked the end of the constant attacks by buffaloes, lions and snakes, while searching for water.
“It was a new dawn for us. They set up a pipeline on the well and a pumping machine. Due to the lack of power, they bought 120 solar panels to draw electricity,” he says.
It was confirmed that the water was safe for drinking. The county government came in and set up a pipeline to Kambicha, Marereni, Boraimani, Bundacho, Muyuakae and Msumarini areas, all but two of which are now getting piped water.
The project was also extended to Kanyumbuni, where many locals had relocated and are now flocking back home.
Mwango says the county government also bought two generators that help in pumping water at a 300 cubic meter tanks that uses 130 litres of diesel.
“We need electricity. Transport is expensive as diesel comes from far. The road should also be fixed because it’s in a pathetic condition," he says.
In Kambicha alone, over 25,000 people benefit from the water project, and it covers an over 36km stretch.
Currently, they have established 12 water kiosks in Marereni and seven others in Kanyumbuni.
Previously one would pay Sh80 for a jerrican of water carried by bicycles, while those from people supplied by water bowsers sold at Sh25. Now the same 20-litre jerrican costs only Sh3.
Adu and Kamale, which were once regarded as deserted remote villages, are now slowly coming up, attracting businessmen and women who are slowly developing the areas.
Shops, hotels and even markets are growing as people who had fled the area come back in large numbers to invest.
We came across a group of women who came up with a water project selling at a retail price to locals due to the availability of the commodity.
Naomi Jonathan, chairwoman of Majengo Women's Group in Adu trading centre, says they also initiated a chicken project.
“We asked the county leadership to allocate us one water kiosk, where we sell a jerrican at Sh2, down from the normal Sh15 previously," she says.
At first, they sold water for three months and got Sh58,000, and after paying bills of Sh23,000 (water bill, meter and kiosk rent of three months), they divided the balance among themselves and paid fees for their children.
Naomi recalls 20 years ago when they used to go for three days to search for water and get only two buckets.
“The water could only be used for cooking. We used to eat without washing hands," she recalls.
At that time, water was available 60km away and women were the ones who suffered a lot.
Rachael Kahonzi, a resident of Adu, says they used to wake up at 3 am and walk for long hours to wait in a queue, as water from pans was little.
In Adu, there are boreholes and water pipes that were set up at Kadzandani area initially, but the project collapsed.
The county came in to revive it and even extended the water pumps to Adu and Kamale villages, which can now access water.
“We are happy water is now easily accessible, but there are others who still cannot get the commodity in areas such as Changoto," says a resident of Shirika village in Kandzandani.
She says previously, women used to wash clothes and shower once in a day at the water pans, where dirty water was accessible.
At Kadzandani, there are four reservoirs with a capacity of 23,000 litres, a project initiated by the Magarini settlement scheme.
Justus Mkutano says the project was started in 1989 but later collapsed, forcing the community to begin fundraisings through the Kenya Freedom from Hunger Council.
“We followed the existing lines and rehabilitated them. The county government came in to upgrade the wells. So far, three wells collapsed, two are still operating," he says.
Two new boreholes were sunk, but only one is working, forcing water supply to be done through rationing.
“In case of a breakdown, there will be another disaster," he said.
Mkutano says the project is now under Malindi Water and Sewerage Company, and all the water bills are paid to them.
The two boreholes supply water to Kadzandani, Adu, Kamale, Ramada, Sogorosa, Shomela, Mizijini and Watala.
“We want the boreholes rehabilitated. One has a damaged mortar, while the fourth one is supposed to be fitted with a pump," he says.
Currently, the areas that have no access to water include Milikeni, Kurubo, Mogole and Changoto, despite being very close to the water source Kadzandani.
Interestingly, Kadzandani Primary School, which lies within the water source less than a kilometre away, had to set up a private connection to get water.
At Mulunguni village, retired teacher Sera Dama returned recently after fleeing to Katsangani due to water shortages.
She now supplies water to the locals in a project sponsored by her children, who did not want her to suffer with the availability of water.
I used to spend all my energy looking for water. Now I am tired and old but I can get water easily, and spend my time selling water and doing irrigation at my farm, where I plant vegetables for sale.Retired teacher Sera Dama
“I left this area and relocated to Katsangani to live there, and only returned during the rainy season as the situation was tough, but now I am permanently living here."
Dama, a mother of 13, however says there are still challenges due to the constant water rationing. She wants the authorities to rectify the problem to enable them to get water flow throughout.
Gona Kazungu from Kamale, the governor's home area, says they now have five water kiosks that have brought relief to residents, and that despite the drought, the situation is better.
“Previously we used to fetch water at Kadzandani or Kibaoni with a bicycle. There were no other economic activities, as the main challenge was to get water," he says.
The Kadzandani Kamale water project was commissioned by the governor on January 10, 2017, and now the locals have even started to produce vegetables, while others are doing small-scale farming.