Story submitted on 27 October 2010 for the Source story contest.
Harsh realities of Iltumtum
Narok town in Kenya is the gateway to the famous Masai Mara Game Reserve, attracting hordes of tourists every year. However, despite the potential for development offered by the Reserve, most ordinary people living nearby have not benefited. Iltumtum is a dry and water-scarce area 20km from Narok town. The community members total nearly 7,000 and are predominantly Masai people who have a nomadic, pastoralist lifestyle – relying on regular migration with their livestock to survive. The community suffers from the effects of lack of rainfall, poor sanitation, and minimal access to economic opportunities.
It was under these conditions, that Kenya Rainwater Association (KRA) became involved, working alongside local people to find a solution to their water access issues through the implementation of a rainwater harvesting and management (RHM) system.
The problem – access to water and sanitation
Ms. Susan Kedoki, a community member, articulates the problem at Iltumtum: ‘Rain is very erratic. You normally get rain between March and April for ten days. The rest of the year it remains dry. It is very drought-prone.’ This lack of access to water was having a number of spin-off effects. The nearest water source (Wasungura River) was a 13km return journey and situated in an area with many dangerous, wild animals. Male community members were spending most of their time migrating in search of water for their livestock. Often they would take their sons with them, so boys would drop out of school. This also affected girls’ education as they were then staying at home to help their mothers with domestic and farm work in the absence of their fathers.
Sanitation was also a big issue and was impacting on the quality of the little water available. Open defecation was common practice due to a lack of functioning latrines and the traditional cultural practices of the Masai people. Hand-washing was just not possible. High rates of water-borne diseases afflicted the children (diarrhoea and typhoid) which further reduced school attendance.
More than just a water project
KRA is a non-profit organisation which works in partnership with community-based organisations (CBOs) to implement RHM projects in arid and semi-arid areas of Kenya. Funded by a European Union (EU)/Skillshare International project, work began at the site in 2008.
KRA believes in an integrated approach to water and sanitation which is sustainable and community-managed. The first step was therefore to ensure the Iltumtum Water Management Committee (the local CBO) was fully on-board and committed to the development of the project, and that a strong working relationship was built with the Narok North District Water Office.
The project constructed: a 20 million litre water pan which channels into a standpipe (for domestic use) and a livestock trough; gender-sensitive ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines (plus rehabilitation of existing latrines); a school roof catchment system with guttering; and a 50,000 litre water tank. Training was also provided on improved sanitation and hygiene practices.
Photo: GHARP/KRA 2010
However, KRA and the community did not want to stop at water and sanitation, complementary technologies were introduced to help the communities improve their livelihoods. These included: bee-hives; tree seedlings; a hay-baler; drip irrigation system; and animal-drawn equipment (such as a plough, tined harrow, and dam scoop) to help improve the soil quality and retention of water. Training in each technology was provided and of course water was the crucial factor.
A success story
Two years on, and the project has been successfully completed and handed over for community management. Community members are proud of their achievements and can clearly see the benefits. Mr. Vincent Kedoki, a community member, talks of the impact on migration: ‘Now we have lots of water in the water pan and are using all of it! ‘The most important thing is that the project provided a hay-baler. Now hay can be stored in the wet season and used in the dry season. Community members will not need to migrate as they have water and hay for their livestock.’
‘Now we have lots of water … and we are using all of it!
Photo: GHARP/KRA 2010
The Headteacher of Iltumtum Primary School, Mr. Peter Kamunya, has seen major benefits for the school children. Water-borne disease rates have significantly dropped and pupils feel much more comfortable with their clean and safe latrines:‘There used to be only ten girls boarding but since the construction of separate latrine facilities and a water tank there are now 50 girls boarding.’ In addition to important hygiene benefits, the school has also achieved some excellent cost savings!
The new school latrines, Photo: GHARP/KRA 2010
The new tank installed at the school can store enough rainwater to cover four months and is a safety net during the drought periods. Previously, KSh10,000 ($124) per month was being spent in trucking water from Narok town. Now, that money is being used to build a new classroom.
Energy and commitment
Reaching a point where water is accessible and clean for all members of the Iltumtum community has been hard work for everyone, but worth the effort. At recent community meetings, ideas and inspiration for the future were in evidence – Mr. Godfrey Kigochi, Narok North District Commissioner, talked of plans to re-route the main road to ensure a better water catchment for the water pan. He also emphasised the important role KRA has played in considering the environmental side of the project – many trees have been planted and the catchment area is becoming increasingly fertile due to simple land preparation technologies. Mr Kamunya talked excitedly of how the installation of drip irrigation would greatly enhance the school feeding programme by providing extra vegetables.
The future of the Iltumtum water project is now safely in the hands of the community and the District Water Office. Judging by the energy and commitment at the project site, the future is positive and the water project is sustainable and environmentally sound. It can only go from strength to strength.
Katie Allan, Information and Communication Officer, Greater Horn of Africa Rainwater Partnership (GHARP)/Kenya Rainwater Association (KRA)