The residents of Kyukuni Village, Voo Kyamatu Ward, Kitui County had challenges in accessing water before the intervention of the Amref Health Africa Kitui WASH Project. Residents would trek for over 15km in search of water, a situation that not only affected the time women spent doing other economic activities, but also affected school enrolment and attendance among school going children.
According to the Project Officer George Wambua, there were shallow aquifers which were an alternative source of water, but the residents believed that water from this source would only be enough for household use and nothing else. This was a long standing belief that they held, and changing it was an uphill task.
During a baseline survey that was carried out in 1998, water was ranked first on the priority list of needs among communities. For the residents of Kyukuni Village, water was a priority but they did not realize how it could help to change their economic status. “Changing their mind-set to make them see how water could improve their lives economically was a challenging task. However, with continued follow-ups and interactions with the community, we were able to change the community’s way of doing things,”said Mr Wambua.
In trying to make a case for using water to improve the community’s economic status, the project started by developing a small farm around the Miembeni giant well situated in Zombe/ Mwitika Ward. The well serves a group of 12 families who decided to change their traditional way of doing things. They decided to extend water use from domestic to other economic activities including horticulture farming and poultry keeping.
According to Mr Mutua, one of the beneficiaries of the project, a number of giant wells were commissioned along the Thua River through the support of Amref, but only a few of the groups seriously engaged in intensive farming.
“You would find a group of 15 households doing small scale farming that was not enough to support the whole group, but yet the well had sufficient recharge of about 10m3.
This means they only utilised 30% of the water in the well leaving 70% not utilised”, said Mr Mutua. He added that when his group realized that they were sleeping on gold about two years ago, they started serious farming activities around their water points. The group now owns a two-acre piece of land that can be utilized freely by the group.
Kitui East has been hard hit by the regular occurrence of drought due to erratic rainfall. For the last 10 years, the rainfall pattern has been unpredictable. The rainfall onset has been delayed every year, and when it has rained, rainfall has also not been adequate. The only remaining option is to use water from the well to grow crops that can feed their families and have some left overs to sell for economic sustainability. This is what Mr Mutua the chairperson, encouraged his group to do.
“We started our farming in a small way by cultivating very basic crops just enough to feed our families. Little did we know it was our turning point as a group,” said Mr Mutua.
Mr Mutua added that they upgraded their activities by growing cash crops like tomatoes, onions, water melons and carrots. The first group was successful and made good profit. On sharing the profit among the 15 households’ after all necessary deductions, each was able to get Kshs 5,000. This enabled members have cash to do other things like paying school fees and other bills. The community members had longed for.
“God is great, our dream has come true,” said one of the group members.
Additional activities carried out using water from the well include poultry farming. This is another project that has had multiple benefits to the family. The groups now have eggs that they use to feed their children, thus preventing diseases associated with poor feeding. They also sell the birds to make good money for the household use.
The project though funding from Amref Italy has built 50 giant wells to support 20,500 people with agricultural activities and 218,940 people with access to safe water and sanitation. The project is committed to make safe and affordable drinking water, hygiene and sanitation a reality for the people of Kitui County.