Stories of Change

Africa, Kenya - Charles Kivia checks his sugar cane plants that he grows by the side of an earth dam that CWS built. The earth dam ensures that there is water for irrigation and cattle during the dry season. "This water program has been a pillar to my new life, a way to self-sufficiency, and has helped me attain a household with food security -- a life everyone should experience." Photo: David Mutua, Mary Obiero

Water resource management impacts almost all aspects of the economy, in particular, health, food production and security, domestic water supply and sanitation, energy, industry and environmental sustainability.

Source: World Water Assessment Programme

Poverty Turns to Abundance for a Family and a Village

Charles Kioko of Mwingi District of Kitui County in Eastern Kenya is a 38-year-old married man with 6 children. His family of eight has lived in poverty, existing on less than a dollar a day. Kioko laments how his children suffered malnutrition–because he didn’t know then what he now knows all too well.

In 2010, CWS began work with Kioko and 23 others in his community, first by supporting water activities. It was the beginning of a brighter future for Kioko, his family and his community because they now had access to the resources, information, knowledge and new skills they needed to improve their standard of living.

The people formed a working group to collect and contribute stones, sand, gravel and water for construction. They also provided unskilled labor. Little did they know that they were starting a journey that would change the lives of the entire community.

The team built four sand dams and two shallow wells. kioko donated his land, along the bank of a seasonal river, for the construction of one of the sand dams. Four years later the sand and stone filled dam stores a lot of water. After realizing that the available water exceeded demand and the river was flowing permanently, Kioko and the team started using drip irrigation to farm along the river in an environmentally friendly way.

Observing their dedication, CWS added value to the community initiatives by supporting training on conservation agriculture for the 23-member team and 10 others from the community. The training included instruction on the use of zai pits, which improve filtration of the captured runoff. The planting pits meet the criteria for three types of conservation practices: soil conservation, water conservation, and erosion protection.

For the very first time, Kioko’s crop yield from his three acres of land was 100 percent, providing him with enough fruits, vegetables, cassava, sorghum, millet, beans, green grams and pigeon peas to feed his family nutritious meals and to sell as surplus .

He uses the money to pay for the children’s education and to buy medicine and clothing. Others in the community are almost at the same level. Kioko has more produce, as he is able to plant using both drip irrigation and zai pits, given that his farm is next to the sand dam.

In April, the community harvested 21 bags of green grams weighing 90kgs each. They sold these collectively for 283,500 Kenyan Shillings ($3,335). Kioko has offered to donate one acre of land to be used to train other people from the region on methods of dry farming and the use of drip irrigation.

The community related this sentiment to CWS staff on a visit last April:

“What else can we ask for? You took us from rags to riches. Our community has become a farm school. People come here to learn from us and we are very proud of the outcomes, especially when we hear that after the learning they go to their respective communities and practice what they have learned. Our farms are farm schools and learning centers.”

Storyteller: Charles Kioko, Kenya