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…)