Income from Mud

August, 2014

Access to clean water can also provide access to a new livelihood.

Income from Mud

We have just traveled 125 Km on a long rough dusty road, from the ASDF office in Mtito Andei to an area called Tawa. We are here to visit the 2nd  Sand Dam within the Kee Self Help Group, designed and constructed by ASDF and funded by The Water Project in 2013. 

When we arrive at Kee #2 Sand Dam we see a woman fetching water from a scoop hole and slowly filling up 5 jerri cans that are precariously loaded on a donkeys back.  Adjacent to her is a young man working at the bank of the sand dam. The bank of the sand dam is muddy and that’s a good thing, because this young man is using that mud to make money.  

Caleb forming bricksCaleb is the young man’s name and he states, “I am 25 years old and I am doing what I know best.  I dropped out of school and started casual laboring in this village. Water has been a problem but since this dam was constructed, we have had a reprieve.”

With the water table higher than it has ever been during this dry season, due to the sand dam, Caleb explains that with assistance from a friend he can make 400 bricks per day between the hours of 8 am and 2pm. He is able to make the bricks out of the mud.

Brick making is mostly done in the hot hours of the day under the scorching sun. Their sweat-soaked clothes cling to their bodies as they toil away in the mud this warm morning. They get water from a scoop hole next to the sand dam. This is poured on soil excavated from the ground with hoes and mixed till it is almost viscous. It is tedious and very physically demanding work as a lot of water is needed and constant relentless mixing of the soil and water. A simple wood frame box is used to form the shape of the bricks.

As Caleb fills the brick forms, with well mixed mud he explains,

scoop hole collecting“It is tough working in the mud but we earn some income from this. One brick sells at Ksh.15  (roughly 17 US cents) locally. But today, I am making bricks for my Dad who intends to construct a residential house in the nearby market center. He is not paying me for this work. He is a good man. He has supported me quite a lot in life, that is why we are here reciprocating our support to him.”

 Caleb has mud smeared all over his clothes and looks extremely tired. It is around 11.00am and a lot of work awaits him. No smile on his face but the figures he gives us seems very attractive. One can make up to Ksh.5000 (USD$60) in a week. They spend 2 – 4 days drying the bricks and another 2 days to prepare the kiln and burn them. One needs wooden logs to burn the bricks, which are rare to get as the community discourages cutting down trees.

“Brick-making was not possible before the dam was constructed here and we used to fetch water 6km away from here. It was difficult. Some of these challenges culminated to my dropping out of school”, Caleb concludes with a shy face.

The water problem in Tawa had been an accepted factor of life. But since ASDF began working under the biding of local self-help groups and committed itself to constructing sand dams in the area, the problem has been greatly reduced. And now, the communities are utilizing the access they have to a clean safe water supply not only for drinking and washing but for income generating activities such as brick making. 

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