Posted by Jack Owen, TWP WASH Program Manager. 14 May 2012
I spent most of last year living in Kenya. A lot of that time I was working directly with our partner organisations, working through program strategies and contributing to project proposals. It was a very fruitful time, and led to new relationships as well as the strengthening of existing ones. As well as the office based work, I also spent a lot of time on the road, visiting projects, talking to communities and trying to get a genuine sense of the impact our work is having.
Whenever I think about impact, I think about Kakiring. The people of Kakiring village, a few kilometers south west of Lodwar, are inspiring. I first travelled the long and bumpy road from Kitale to Lodwar in 2010, on a feasibility study for one of our partners, Bridge Water Project. I had been living in Kakamega, Western Kenya, and helping to restructure the project when the opportunity came up to travel north. I jumped at it. An old gentleman called Geoffrey was looking for partnerships to help him support the people of Kakiring, and I agreed to travel with him to meet the people and take a look.
The days I spent there 2 years ago have never left me, and so when I was in Kenya last month I made it a priority to pay Kakiring a visit, and confirm that the borehole and hand pump scheme we worked on last year was serving the community and that the people were able to look after it correctly.
It was fantastic to see. The pump was serving the people of Kakiring as well as the neighbouring villages. The 3 hour walk to the river was no more, and people looked visibly healthier. Children’s faces were shiny where once they were dull, and there were places to discreetly have a bucket shower behind every hut. I was welcomed like a true friend. We ate githerie (maize and beans) under the stars, and danced to the beat of the drum until the moon rose high into the night sky. There was a sense that things were getting better in Kakiring, and an energy that comes from achieving something tangible.
The overflow from the borehole had been encouraged into a channel which led into a fenced plot ready for cultivation. These semi nomadic pastoralists were thinking of planting. A first tentative step away from the reliance on food aid that is the norm in this part of the country.
Everyone talks about impact all the time, and struggles to quantify it. Numbers served, diseases reduced or eliminated. Children in school. Dishracks, washing lines, and latrines in homes. Income generating activities. All of these are indicators of positive impacts that water, sanitation and hygiene projects can achieve. And I think about all of this too, but sometimes when I think about impact, I just think about Kakiring, and the genuine relief written all over the faces of those whose lives have been transformed through access to a functioning handpump.
What the future holds is not clear for such marginalised peoples, but it is great to see Kakiring pull together, look after their supply successfully, and start to make plans for the future that are based on the goal of self sufficiency.
I’ll be back there soon I hope, and look forward to working with the people as they take the next step forward.