Access to safe and adequate water is a major challenge for the residents of Chesoyow village in West Pokot County, Kenya. Families and their livestock primarily depend on water sourced from underground boreholes, because rainfall has been scarce in recent years. And when drought hits, the village’s borehole breaks down frequently due to overuse.
In West Pokot, it is women and girls’ responsibility to fetch water in addition to caring for children and performing household chores. When the borehole in their community is not working, collecting water takes time that many women cannot spare. Regina, who lives Chesoyow with her two daughters, must walk nearly two miles to get water from a sandy riverbed. On other occasions, she has paid water vendors to fill up their jerricans – an expense Regina cannot afford.
Regina and her family tries to conserve water whenever possible – meaning fewer baths and reductions in other healthy hygiene practices. This leads to frequent illnesses, like typhoid and diarrhea, so Regina makes at least two trips each month to a local health post to seek expensive treatment for her children: “I had to pay about $26 for transport and medicine – this is money that I badly needed to buy food and pay school fees.”
Community members contribute as much as $64 a month to repair the borehole pump when it breaks, but they often quarrel over what they owe, and months can pass by without a working borehole.
Just as COVID-19 was beginning to spread in Kenya last April, the borehole broke down again.
Fortunately, the Ministry of Water selected Chesoyow village for an upgrade from a hand-pumped borehole to a solar-powered water supply system. This was made possible by Action Against Hunger through funding from the United States Office of Foreign Disaster and Assistance (OFDA).
The new water system is a game-changer, especially for women like Regina. Her walk to collect water is now just eight minutes long – and she can fill her jerrican in three minutes. With the old hand pump, “we would pump for 30 minutes or more to fill a 20-liter jerrican”, recalls Regina.
Instead of long walks and time spent pumping water, women in Chesoyow can now spend their time caring for their children and earning an income. Each afternoon near the borehole, women gather to sell food, make beads, and share stories.
The water supply pipeline system was also extended to reach the local schools. No child will have to miss class to search for water – and the community is confident that attendance rates will improve. “Initially, the school would record at least 50% absenteeism due to lack of water, and sometimes students would miss classes for more than two hours in search of water, but now this has changed,” says Regina.
The village selected Regina as the chair of the local water management committee, which Action Against Hunger and our partners trained to operate and maintain the water system. Local investment in the water committee has shifted the community’s mindset. Everyone is determined to keep their water source working well and people no longer see borehole maintenance as the county government’s responsibility, but their own.
“We are in the process of registering a group and opening a bank account to save our monthly contributions to pay for the borehole future repairs,” says Regina, due to training that she and other committee members received.
The rehabilitated and solar-powered borehole is source of joy for the village’s residents. Seeing water running continuously for months has been a dream come true – water has made life happier and brighter. Regina is passionate about the borehole, proud of her role on the water committee, and promises to protect the community’s water.
“I am so grateful to Action Against Hunger for upgrading this borehole to solar. Water is life, we had lost it, but Action Against Hunger has restored it. From the training we received, we will ensure that this borehole is protected and that we never again lack water in our village,” says Regina