Kenya is currently in the midst of a serious drought; rains failed in 2014 and were also poor in 2015 and 2016. The National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) estimates 1.3 Million lives are currently at risk. During my visit to Kenya, I lost count of the number of conversations concerning the lack of water and the impact of this on individuals and communities.
In Olorte, where COCO has been working alongside Maasai Academy, there is access to water from a river, however, tests have revealed e coli is present in the water, most likely as a result of the water being shared with livestock. As a result, communities are ravaged by waterborne disease. Neighbouring communities do not have access to any water at all.
To ensure that Maasai Academy has access to clean and safe water, COCO has invested in rainwater harvesting and a water transportation system. The rainwater harvesting system simply involves guttering on classrooms, which collect water from the roof during rain and divert the water into tanks to prevent evaporation as soon as the sun returns. Meanwhile, the water transportation system collects water flowing from a spring in the mountains and transports this to the school.
The results in the school have been spectacular. At the majority of schools in the local area, if students are fortunate enough to receive food at school, it will be a simple meal of maize and beans, which alone does not provide a balanced diet. At Maasai Academy, students are now enjoying lunches of onions, tomatoes, butternut squash and pumpkins – having tried them myself I can assure you that they’re delicious!
The farm is in the process of being extended to provide a second meal to students each day, given that the current drought means many children will not be receiving a meal at home. The students also have clean water to drink, which has led to a significant reduction in preventable illnesses.
As well as nutritious food and clean water, students’ health is further benefitted by the sports pitch. A lush green sports field is difficult to come by in East Africa, however, there is even enough water to sprinkle onto the pitch to help the grass grow.
Whilst these were the benefits we had hoped for when developing the water transportation system, we’re delighted that the system has had even greater benefit in practice! The water transportation system has been so successful that it has been extended to a nearby community. Around 1,500 members of the community now have access to clean and plentiful water, which is reducing the spread of waterborne illness and enabling families to continue to grow food, even in these difficult times.