Earth dam eases water stress for Kitui community

Drought is a recurrent hazard in Kitui, which is among counties classified as arid and semi-arid. In Mathima Location of Kitui South Sub-county, access to clean water is very low, as the commodity in most surface sources does not last for an entire season. This forces the residents to trek long distances in search of clean water for their daily use. Often, people and livestock share the few available water sources, leading to contamination and high cases of water-borne diseases.

Long treks of up to 20 kilometres for a 20-litre jerrican of water, which sometimes would result in overnight stays at water sources, is now a thing of the past thanks to the newly-constructed Kwa Ndaki earth dam. The earth dam holds up to 150 million litres of water and is, therefore, a welcome reprieve for the community as it ensures clean water within close reach.

The dam was constructed at a total cost of Ksh 28 million comprising Ksh21.5 million from the NDMA with funding from the European Union, Ksh 4 million from Kitui County Government and Ksh2.5m from the community in Mathima Location. The dam relies on green energy in the form of solar-powered pumps, which enable pumping of water from the dam into tanks where it is purified before releasing for use by the residents.

Improved access to clean water

The availability of clean water also enables children to attend school regularly instead of taking time off school in search of water and saves the residents time to undertake other development activities.

While commissioning the project recently, Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and the ASALs, Hon. Eugene Wamalwa noted that the dam is the main source of water for more than 12,000 people and livestock in Mathima Location.

By significantly reducing walking distances to water points, the dam has freed up time for residents to participate in other development activities,ÔÇØ Cabinet Secretary Wamalwa said during the commissioning.

The dam also provides water for more than 30,000 cattle and goats. Mathima is one of the historical migration corridors for pastoralists from northern Kenya, especially during drought periods. The project is, therefore, expected to reduce the often reported resource-based flare-ups with the migrating communities.

Building resilience to drought

The Cabinet Secretary pointed out that the project will significantly contribute to resilience building in the county, citing the more than 30 households relying on the dam for micro-irrigation, generating income and providing residents with easy access to horticultural produce.

“As part of a wider policy shift, the Government is moving from the provision of relief food to cash transfers to safeguard the dignity of vulnerable communities. We are also focusing on building resilience through the construction of dams and water pans to achieve food security to help the county realise its food-production potential through irrigation farming,ÔÇØ CS Wamalwa said during commissioning of the dam.

CS Wamalwa added that the NDMA, alongside National and County government sectors, is investing in water harvesting infrastructure such as pans, small and medium-sized dams in line with the EDE strategy, which focuses on long-term solutions that strengthen community resilience. He thanked the European Union for boosting drought resilience efforts by providing the financial resources for the project and other drought risk management interventions in ASAL counties.

The Cabinet Secretary, who was accompanied by Kitui Governor H.E Charity Ngilu, also toured other projects in the County among them Kitui County Textile Centre (KICOTEC) where he assured the residents of the Government s commitment to ensuring access to clean water and food security. CS Wamalwa also applauded the County drought resilience interventions such as the Governor’s Ndengu Revolution and the Operation Mwolyo campaign, saying these projects resonate with the spirit of Ending Drought Emergencies (EDE) strategy.

On behalf of the jubilant community, Governor Ngilu thanked the National government through NDMA for their support and said she would work closely with the Ministry towards achieving food security and economic growth of the county.

Kwa Ndaki Earth Dam project was identified through a Participatory Disaster Risk Assessment training in Mutha Ward conducted by NDMA in May 2016 with the financial support of the European Union. During the exercise, the community ranked drought highest among hazards in the Ward. It was during the exercise that the community prioritised development of the dam to mitigate the challenges associated with water stress in the location.