Water! Hope in drought.

TSM is determined to make significant impact and give hope in Wajir. On a recent visit to the town, our relief team reported the visible effects of the drought: ‘Everywhere – dead animals on the side of the road and plants and trees without a single green leaf. The ground water table is dropping and they are on the verge of disaster if the water dry’s out.’ It is only a matter of time before Wajir will look like Somalia. Unless we take action now to get more water to the people, livestock and vegetation many more lives will be lost.

Children staring at a well that is drying up in Wajir.
The failure of rains, causing this drought, is no doubt the trigger of misery in the Horn of Africa. For communities here, livestock is the pivot of life. Pasture and water are invaluable resource. The situation in northeast Kenya will surely become extremely dangerous if water is not restored to the ground – it is simply a matter of life or death. The dependants on the dams and water pans are in trouble as those on wells. The lack of both will usurer in an unprecedented calamity. If we are to provide true help here we have to firmly address the provision of water.
Speaking to The Standard news paper, Hassan Farah the Lower North-Eastern Regional Commissioner said “urban streets are now flooded with ‘mad’ persons who lost their livestock to persistent drought.” Those fleeing the drought in the outlaying regions have established informal settlements in the urban centers ‘Hooyga Iskadeg’ (Somali words for -the homes of drought refugees).
As in the past, families sought pasture in the neighboring Eastern region, or further a field in south-eastern Ethiopia and Somalia itself. They were met with worse conditions forcing them back empty.
Dead goat near a dried up well a near Wajir town
“These people lost their entire animals which they took to those areas for pasture and water”, Mr Farah told The Standard in an Interview at his office in Garissa done in the last week of July.
“As we are talking now none of the 118 water pans in Garissa County are holding water, even the Hullugho dam [last dam holding water here] is drying this week. It is virtually not holding water, but wet soil which people and animals are scavenging for water”, said Mr. Farah.
Wajir town, with a population of nearly 50,000, is littered with wells, yet at the moment, only a few still reaching the water table. What used to be large watering wells for the camels with hundreds of camels have few today; around 50-60 come in the evening after looking for food the rest of the day.
In one area of the town, there was once a large thriving garden irrigated with a well through a windmill. Although the well is one of the deepest around and has water, the windmill isn’t working. For this reason several older women are drawing water by hand to irrigate their small garden. This is taking a toll on the women farmers whose hands are increasingly becoming as dry and withered as the land with deep cracks and calluses from pulling up bucket after bucket of water to pour into the parched soil. They have been most successful gardening under the last living tree on the plot that provides the seedlings some relief from the scorching heat. Unfortunately, a giraffe that was desperate for water came to eat the green leaves on the tree, walking on the plants the ladies are working so hard to maintain. This well and windmill are like a gold mine to this community and could sustain over 80 families if it was functioning properly.
Elgan, the village chief in Lafaley, located 20 Kms north of Wajir, showed a well that cannot be used for domestic purposes because animals have gotten sick and died after drinking water from it. This may be from contamination or because of an increased salt content as the amount of water decreases. We observed in a village a half kilometer away how the community wells are deepening. It was taking the young girls 30 minutes to get 20 liters water out of the well. This is three times as long as usual, because of how slowly the water trickles in. The water table is dropping below the depth of their well so this village is nearly out of water.
If adequate wells can be provided, then we shall have given hope and good news for people, livestock and farms in this drought. Water is hope. Many of the existing wells here will need to be deepened or rehabilitated and new ones will need to be sank and built right away to bring what people desperately need – water.
The Kenya Government has disbursed Sh1.5 million to each of the eleven districts in the region for water projects and will soon commission Sh100 million Modogashe borehole project and Sh4 million borehole projects in Lagdera and Dadaab districts respectively. This is not adequate due to the magnitude of the need. We must pitch in here to reach more who are in dire need but will not be covered in this attempt.
Already TSM plans on rehabilitating 5 and sinking 3 new boreholes in Wajir. This is informed by the success we had during the 2009 drought. Then we help sink a bore whole is Waberi area of Wajir and Mzee has used it to his benefit and has vegetables in the heat of this drought!
Plenty of vegetables can be found today in the Mzee A’s farm. The well here was provided by TSM in the 2009 drought.
Further north, Pastoralist Heritage Concerns, an NGO associated with Wajir North MP Hussein Gabbow, has teamed up with local and international donors to ship a rig that has the capacity to drill more than 400m and cut the cost of drilling boreholes by about 50 per cent. This will be the way to go since water tankers supplying water to communities here are by the day becoming ineffective.

Canon Francis Omondi


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