Dam brings new hope to Kenyan villagers
Thanks to Earthwatch, villagers from a community in north Kenya who faced a five hour trek for water now have access to safe drinking water.
Earthwatch, with funding from Tyco International Ltd, has developed a model dam, providing clean water for 700 homes. For generations people from the Samburu community in northern Kenya have trekked across the plains in search of grazing for cattle and water. Dams are a major source of water for humans, livestock and wildlife in the Samburu district, but are generally poorly constructed and rarely maintained. Earthwatch scientists have also found that water from shallow wells and dams in the Wamba area of the Samburu district are highly contaminated and a serious threat to public health.
Villagers from the Nkaroni community have had to trek for up to five hours each way to fetch water from shallow wells on dry river beds as existing dams are heavily silted and only hold water for brief periods. But now Earthwatch has reconstructed the Silango Nasham Nkainito, a dam identified by the Nkaroni community as historically the most important.
The reconstruction project involved the whole community and a Project Implementation Committee was set up with help from the community-based organisation, Resource Projects Kenya. The dam was desilted, piping and a water filtration chamber installed, and bathing blocks constructed.
The dam will provide clean water for both humans and livestock, filtering contaminated water and improving its quality. As well as helping to reduce child mortality rates, it will mitigate human-wildlife conflicts as the water used for livestock during the daytime will be available for wildlife at night.
A ceremony on 6 March 2009 to mark the commissioning of the dam was officiated by Earthwatch trustee Professor Ian Swingland OBE and the Area Chief, Pois Lenagori. Also present were Executive Vice-President of Earthwatch Nigel Winser, Dr Nick Oguge, Country Director, Earthwatch Kenya, Assistant Chief Lapararang'a Loong'onyo, and Chairman of the Dam Management Committee Lmamuten Lepoora. The ceremony, attended by 20 elders and other members of the community, began with an elders' blessing of the dam.
Nigel Winser said: "The Nkaroni community and Earthwatch have been working together for a number of years, especially in relation to the studies of the Grevy's zebra. So we are delighted to contribute to the development of this dam that will improve the lives of villagers in the Nkaroni community and provide water for livestock and wildlife."
Dr Oguge added: "This project has doubled the water holding capacity of the dam, thus will increase the community's resilience towards Climate Change. In such water stressed dryland areas, we anticipate overall lower precipitation and rains falling as storms, coupled with increased incidences of drought. The dam will ensure water availability for up to five months following rains. This increases the possibility of catching the next rains before drying out. Also, it ensures that the endangered Grevy's zebra will have access to a safe watering point near feeding areas."