Stories of Change

Pandasin Orguba, one of Namanu's neighbors, at the water kiosk in Merille.

Water for LIFE in an arid region of Kenya

Think about the running track at your local high school. One lap is about 400 meters. Imagine having to walk around that track 50 times (!!) every day in order to get clean water. Plus, if you want to wash your clothes, you need to carry your laundry for 50 laps, too.

Now imagine only having to walk a little more than one lap.

Didn’t you relax a little bit just thinking about it?

You just got a taste of the relief that Namanu Macharia and her neighbors have experienced thanks to a new water kiosk in their community. Namanu lives in Merille, in Kenya’s Marsabit County. Water scarcity is a huge problem here. Getting water is a crippling daily challenge, especially for the women and children who are responsible for walking long distances in search of streams and ponds. Even when they find the precious water sources, what they are bringing home is actually contaminated water. It can make their families sick. Between the sickness and the sheer time it took every day to find water, families here were caught in a vicious cycle of increasing hunger and poverty.

That’s why the CWS Water for Life program focused on Merille. We helped our partners and the community to drill a borehole well and install a water system. Here’s how it works:

The new borehole is about 400 feet deep. More than 2,200 gallons of water are pumped out every hour using solar power. The water goes through a tank and eventually into a water kiosk. Some of the water goes through a purification process, which is also powered by solar energy. The kiosk has two taps: one is for purified water for cooking and drinking, and one is for water that is not purified and can be used for washing clothes or for livestock.

Water kiosks function like small shops, where people pay a modest fee for clean water. That money covers the operating costs of the water system, guaranteeing that there will be resources to maintain and fix it as needed (and thus that it will be around for a long time to come!). Usually that means that someone works in the kiosk, but not this time. This system is powered by an ATM machine that dispenses water. People load “water tokens” onto debit cards, and then they can get water whenever they want to.

Namanu is one of about 2,850 people who benefit from having the water kiosk in their community. In addition to families’s homes, the water kiosk serves two schools, a health center and the local livestock market. More than 4,800 people rely on that health center, and you can imagine how critical it is for a health center to have clean water.

Namanu gets her water in five-gallon containers. She rolls them home, which is now only a third of a mile from the water kiosk (she was walking 12 miles per day before). “I can leave my food cooking, fetch water and be back on time,” she says. “The water kiosk is a brilliant idea because it is self-service, and there’s no need to have an attendant at the kiosk.”

The new water system in Merille is a huge step forward in the fight against hunger and poverty in the area. For Namanu and thousands of her neighbors, it means freedom and peace of mind. It means that they can spend their time on things besides searching for water. And it means that the comfort of knowing that their family won’t get sick from the water they do bring home.