This project is a part of our shared program with Africa Sand Dam Foundation. Our team is pleased to directly share the below report (edited for clarity, as needed).
This shallow well project is only possible because a sand dam is also being built in the same area. To see the sand dam project, click here.
The group was formed in the year 2011. The group has a membership of 20 people, 12 women and 8 men. The group is located in Musunguu village, Kiambwa sub-location, Kiteta location, Kisau division, Mbooni East district in Makueni County. Makueni County is one of 8 counties in Eastern Kenya and one among the 3 counties in Ukamabani region. The county borders Machakos to the north, Taita-Taveta to the south, Kitui to the east and Kajiado County to the west.
The county covers an area of 8,008.75 square kilometers out of which 474.1 square kilometers form the Tsavo West National Park, and 724.3 square kilometers form Chyullu Game Reserve. It has a population of 888,527 people and 186,478 households, according to a 2009 census.
The district is characterized by extreme rainfall variability. Typically, good seasons are interspersed with extremely dry seasons and variations in the onset of rainy seasons add to the difficulty of ensuring adequate food production. The district has two rainy seasons which peak in March/April (long rains) and November/December (short rains).
Reasons for group formation
Helping the orphan children in the area: The group wanted to help the children whose parents died due to HIV/AIDS by supporting them.
Water problem: In the months of July to September, the community members experience difficult water shortages. Through coming together, the group wishes to have sand dams built along the river channel to improve water availability throughout the year.
The group wishes to have welfare activities that will improve their living standards. Through a merry-go-round financing plan, the group helps each other with dowry payments, payment of school fees, and hospital bills.
Soil and environment conservation: The group wants to dig terraces that will conserve soil on their farms and plant trees in the farms to prevent soil erosion.
CHALLENGES TO DEVELOPMENT
The main source of water is the River Tawa. The distance of the water source from their homes is 1km. The community depends on river Tawa for water. During the dry season they face acute water shortages in the area. They spend 4 hours and above in the dry season due to long queues at the scoop hole. There are many donkeys at the water point which are used for carrying larger quantities of water thus making long queues.
"Most of us wake up early in the morning around 3am in order to go and fetch water in order to return home by 7am," shared Loisa Peter. The scoop hole during the dry season is dug down to the bedrock which is deep, making it risky to use. The river channel is also eroded, making the water level low. During the dry season water turns saline making the tree program a challenge as the trees dry up.
They used to plant vegetables and French beans which were used to support the orphans after selling them. Because of the lack of water they would dry up, causing a big loss. The community's water pump has been kept in storage due to a lack of water in the river channel to support irrigation. Currently they have abandoned growing vegetables and French beans, limiting the support for the orphans.
Peninah Mbatha said, "Our livestock suffer much in the dry season as they lack enough water and also they are not grazed well because the community spends a lot of time in fetching water. Due to spending much time fetching water, we cannot engage in other productive activities."
The main crops grown the community grows are:
Reasons for poor harvest:
Unreliable rainfall pattern: The community relies on rain-fed agriculture. Unreliable rainfall in the area has led to poor harvest, hence food insecurity.
Lack of terraces: Most of the farms lack terraces which prevent soil erosion and maintain soil fertility, effecting crop production. The farmers lack the tools which are used for terracing and they cannot afford them.
Pre-harvest and post-harvest losses: Pests and diseases destroy the crops before harvest. The group lacks knowledge on how to control and prevent pests from destroying their crops. They also lack the ability to safely store the harvest, therefore their produce is destroyed by weevils.
Late planting: A lack of seeds forces the farmers to plant late, after the onset of rains, leading to a poor harvest.
Community members plant various trees which include:
They face challenges in tree planting:
Water problem: Due to a lack of water, the survival rates still remain low as trees dry up especially during the dry season.
Termite infestation: Farmers lack the skills and chemicals to control the termites so most of the trees do not survive.
Lack of knowledge on tree planting and care management: Most of the farmers lack knowledge on the care and management of trees. The result is many of the the trees dry because the farmers dig holes which are not sufficient.
SHALLOW WELL CONSTRUCTION
The shallow well construction began on July 27th.
The group members have participated in the material collection and excavation process.
Excavation of this well has been slow and difficult. The challenge that they are facing is the presence of the bed rock that is making the excavation difficult. This will affect the depth to which the group can dig. To mitigate this problem there are structural adjustments to the design they are planning to implement. Perforated pipe will be laid behind the sand dam in the same location. As the dam matures, sand will cover the pipes and water held by the sand will filter into the pipes and then flow to the shallow well. This design will greatly increase the recharge rate of the shallow well, ensuring the supply of water even if the well is not dug very deep. This construction will take longer, but access to clean water is certainly worth the effort.
This project took longer than usual because of a low turnout of workers. Only four men were able to excavate, so the labor spanned over one month. The excavation began on September 10th and continued until October 21st. Now that the well is fully dug with pump installed, the community will benefit from groundwater provided by the nearby sand dam.