Providing access to water!

It is no doubt that the worst famine on the horn of Africa was precipitated by

part of the landscape of northern Kenya during last years drought

drought. This led to death of animals, the key source of livelihood here.
It was made worse when humans did not have water for life.

In the heat of relief, TSM singled out provision of alternative more permanent water points for populations here both as relief on the short term and long term solution rehabilitation of the region.
We could have supplied water by trucks. Instead we decided to dig wells and boreholes. These were already preferred solutions here in any case. The government allocated ksh 1.4 million for each constituency to provide water.
“the chief and TSM team at Lavaley borehole “]
But this is totally inadequate in comparison to the needs. Some of the boreholes done were not at required depth and so ran dry. Many of these wells were not sufficient for human and animals and besides many were too deep to easily draw water from.

we repaired this wind mill which had ceased working for 5 years and it is now provoding water for home and farm for women group in Wagberi in Wajir

boreholes water tank being hoisted!

Our first borehole in Wajir yielded 10 cubic litres p/h. This is providing water to three villages around Wajir town, one of them, Wagberi, has close to 8000 households. The Ministry of the Northern region have requested that they tap from here to other neighbouring villages. The water is much and very sweet knowing what we often get in Wajir.

Tsm and local leadership were here commissioning a hand pump and well for the benefit of Wagberi people of wajir county

woman drawing water from one of the pumps and well done by TSM in wajir

In complementing these efforts we have rehabilitated one borehole to new depths and re-equipped it to provide water at Levaley to over 7000 households and their stock. We have provided also 15 well and hand pumps for each to allow quick and easy access to water for older people and children.

children can now get water from the wells via pumps quicly and easily

These are very low maintenance due to low mechanization, at initiating and latter running them.

TSM board member was at hand to try one of the new water pumps installed onto a well dug out during the drought as part of our drought recovery plam

In another place we have helped restore a windmill pumping water for a community. They use this water also for farming vegetables for home and sale.
We plan to focus on providing water in the region with 20 more wells needed and 5 more boreholes to help provide water for people livestock and farming.

these are wagberi women group whose farm was rehabilitated to allow them grow crops by restoring the wind mill to pump water to their farm traughs, farm support was given to them also

women group farm at wagberi with 'dania' seedlings ready for transfer. part of thw women group project enabled by water provision

We have one earth dam in an area where doing a borehole is not feasible because of the salinity of the water, nor wells will be possible.
Many thanks for your support in this venture.
Canon Francis Omondi
TSM international Director


Christmas in Dadaab: Scary and Risky venture!

We in TSM had indicated that we will continue supporting the refugees in Dadaab.  Following the kidnap of aid workers from the camps by Al-shabaab and the subsequent war by Kenya defense forces wedged in  Somalia, many agencies at the camps pulled out from work in the camp waiting for restoration of security.  Only people serving here were essential services staff… but things have increasingly taken a different turn.

The Al-shabaab sympathizers have been on the loose with grenade and land mine attacks at the moment on security forces and may spread.




On the 20th December 2011 we had began preparations for Christmas week celebrations for the refugees  in Ifo. It was to begin with children programes and parties gathering in this Gambelle Community church. All their teachers and parents were pleased to participate TSM facilitated the programes.

It is vital to create normalcy among them at this time of great tension.  We have been bared from gathering in big groups so we split them into several groups gathering in different camps.

While the parties were going on, there was another blast! This time it was a grenade and in Ifo camp where we were gathered. This was targeted at security patrols at the camps only a day before 19th we had a land mine blow up a police truck killing two.   We are obviously not safe here!

This time around it seems as though everyone opted to leave Dadaab for Nairobi or elsewhere but here.  TSM had planned to distribute food to refugees in Ifo in Dadaab the week before Christmas to allow the Christian families some memorable time. You should note that with the blast No one wanted to commit staff here for distribution of food.

WFP who had the responsibility to do this withdrew staff and are now delaying the ration distribution until further notice! What are the refugees to do?

We had to honor our commitment and bring food to over 1000 families we have been responsible for. We wanted our giving to coincide with Christmas. We in this have answered a desperate call for food this is what they will have for the next while.

TSM sent two loads of Lorries with food maize floor, beans, oil and sugar. We were being waited for eagerly. This will go a long way to support lives at the camp!

Thank you very much for your prayers for us and support that has enabled us provide this service.  Blessed season!

Rev Canon Francis Omondi,

TSM International

They are not abandoned after all -TSM in Dadaab

There was a report that refugees were abandoned as NGOs left Dadaab or scaled down their operations: there was sufficient panic on the staff of NGOs that made them leave the camp served with skeleton staff. But the plight of refugees called for prayers. There was great despondency. What does the future hold?

TSM in Ifo increasing services

Refugees in Ifo Camp praying for help


will there be enough food for us ????

We had promised to plod on and continue with the support of Refugees in the camp. So we loaded our Lorry again to take supplies to Dadaab. Towards the weekend we had a down pour that could have hindered the program but we waded through to get there on 22/23 with truck load of food.

TSM lorry wading through


food for the refugees being delivered to individual groups at the camp

The high security alert has pushed us to get covered at the advice of the authorities and we had to serve the community guarded!

We needed security help Just in case

People in the camps were waiting eagerly for food support and so they gathered to receive and be supported. Women, children and men are all present showing how valuable this help is to them.

gathering for food


the food was a great joy to many families here


leaders calling out and giving food to those listed for ration

They got in their groups and shared the responsibility of distribution.

Rice and Beans pile

People at the camp are facing a double tragedy; the scaling down of NGOs support and the wars in Somalia has now made them very vulnerable. This may heighten the trauma on people in the camp. It is for this reason that we will up our work on counseling and here we have opted first to train from among the refugees TOT of trauma counselors.

trainees of TOT course at Dadaab


the session is over for Trauma counselling

By Rev. Francis Omondi TSM Director

Critical questions for drought relief

Francis Omondi, chair of CMS Africa, has been leading Christian community work in the Horn of Africa for two decades – through more than one drought. His on-the-ground experience reveals that voices like his are too often ignored.

The east African drought, the worst in 60 years, is proving to be a stern testing ground for the willingness of Christian humanitarian agencies to empower local organisations. It’s a well worn saying, “Give poor people a fish and they will eat for a day: teach them to fish and they will feed themselves for lifetime.” Are they doing enough to make this a reality?

When Joel Edwards from Micah Challenge was invited to share a Thought for Day on BBC Radio 4 (30 July) he raised questions that demand answers about the crisis on the Horn of Africa.

“We should ask why these people were left to languish for so long until the problem became so acute. And it’s a good time to talk about our relationship to God’s creation and the environment. In the last decade we have had four major droughts in the Horn of Africa. Given that each had ample warning and opportunities for faster responses, we should ask why we waited until the deluge of suffering undermined our usefulness to help.”

He continued, “No one responding to the tragic events in East Africa can do so without asking critical questions.”

One question I want to explore here is the local initiative in response to the crisis. Western media coverage often skews disaster response in unhelpful ways. What inevitably captures media attention is what Western NGOs are doing while the effort of locals is ignored and remains invisible.

Outside NGOs tend to exaggerate the impact of what they do to justify their work to their supporters. The Sheepfold Ministries (TSM) is an indigenous community which has worked in the Horn of Africa region for over 20 years now. During this time it has lived alongside communities hit by a series of disasters. The current crisis is no exception.

In July TSM, with the help of its partners, distributed food to 2,000 households, many of them poor Christians identified as being in special need by Christian pastors or members of the local community identified by tribal elders. As I write a second round of feeding has just been completed, covering many more families.

Again it sounds a cliché, but hardest hit are the poorest and weakest. In north-east Kenya this means two particular categories of people: children from poor families and poor Christians. Why? It’s simply that Christians are a minority in this part of Kenya and despite the best of intentions, they tend to be last to get help. Meeting their needs is an important ‘front’ in the battle against the ravages of drought.

Each family received 10kg of maize meal, plus beans and oil, food supplies, enough to last at least a month. One the same day as the first TSM distribution a consignment of government food was brought to a neighbouring village. Four hundred people got just 10 bags of maize and five bags of beans, enough for just a couple of days. You can guess there was a stampede to lay hold on something to take home!

Even though Christians in this community were our primary focus, we reached out to help people who for different reasons were left out of the government food ration. Muslims who received from us responded with questions. One fellow asked directly, “Where did this food come from?” We said, “Christians from across the world have given it and we are sharing it with you.” He replied, “The Christians have helped us, where are our Muslim brothers?”

What a testimony this has been especially that it was given with no strings attached. This has helped in a tremendous way to built up the confidence among local believers in a previously hostile environment.

The scale of the need has drawn many Christian agencies to help. To be honest, this can easily be a mixed blessing. Many NGOs actually retard the capacity of local people to help themselves.

The rush to intervene by many Western NGOs has pushed the local initiatives to the fringes. Consequently, locals may never learn to respond to disaster themselves and never work out how to deal with future disasters.

In fact, because local institutions and their communities are weakened by disasters on the scale we are seeing in east Africa today, the cycle of dependency on the West grows even bigger.

There are NGOs like TSM with their long-time partner organisations who were dealing with the drought in east Africa well before the Western media captured it. With support of Western groups they do far better than outsiders in bringing food to people in genuine need.

Meeting the needs of starving people requires more than food. During the drought in 2009 we at TSM worked out that our best contribution was to dig water wells. Two years on the people are using those wells to irrigate food. They are now oases in the desert.

Where these wells exist people are developing a permanent hedge against drought. That is the advantage of engaging with locals. No matter how acute a disaster, locals will always have an eye on the long term. People in the middle of the disaster tell me that had more of this happened, less people would be in the grip of this terrible drought.

It is important that relief help is appropriate. I have seen groups bringing in food from America that ended up being fed to donkeys and other animals. Why? Because the people who sent it wrongly assumed they knew what local people needed.

Even so I struggle with some of the attitudes we encounter. Western donors like to hear that every pound they give will buy food for hungry people. I can understand that, but it’s unrealistic. It costs money to transport food from depots 300 miles to the south. As well as providing food Western donors need to grasp the challenge of making sure that all the necessary overheads are in place.

If we want to see Africa “feeding itself for a lifetime” then how some Western NGOs operate must change. Let’s be clear. African NGOs will never be able to respond to disaster unless someone outside brings money. But good local connections can ensure it is used effectively.

More needs to be invested in building up the capacity of indigenous organisations. Without a change in this direction, beginning with donor awareness, the cycle of dependency will persist. And Africa may remain a byword for hunger.

Francis Omondi is Director of The Sheepfold Ministries [TSM], a Canon of Kampala Cathedral and Chair of Trustees for CMS Africa.

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