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In rural Kenya, many people face long trek for household water

In rural Kenya, many people face long trek for household water

A woman carries water in the in northeastern Kenya. ©ACT/Paul Jeffrey

23 March 2017

Like many people brought up in rural Kenya, Catherine Mwangi had a long walk to fetch water for home use from a nearby river in what she calls her “humble upbringing”.

“I used to walk about three kilometres to and from school while I was in primary school….We used to fetch water from a river. I saw piped water in high school, although once in a while we also used to fetch school water from the river,” she relates.

For the past seven years, Mwangi has been the executive director ADSMKE (the Anglican Development Services of Mount Kenya East) and water is an important issue in her work relating to the nexus of water access and food security.

“Our country and region have over 60 percent of the population using poor quality water as they draw their water from unprotected and unsustainable sources,” says Mwangi who lives in Kerugoya north of Nairobi, near the Mt Kenya National Park.

“When I was young, washing clothes was a big thing. We needed to prepare to buy soap, fetch more water or take clothes to the river,” she says.

“Therefore when I read Ephesians 5:26, ‘That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water and word’. The need to be spiritually clean and physically, too, can only be possible by water.”

Mwangi’s work dovetails with her studies at St Paul’s University in Kenya where she earned a masters of degree in development studies and is now working on a doctorate in the same field at the university.

“In our work, we help communities in sinking and construction of boreholes, sand dams, shallow wells, rock catchments, and earth pans.

“We also train communities on harvesting of rain water such as roof catchment and surface run-offs. They then use water in these reservoirs domestically, and to farm and water their livestock.”

Along with this, Mwangi’s development services train local communities on efficient use of scarce water resources through methods such as drip irrigation, mulching, terracing, among others.

She explains that a key water issue her land is 90 percent classified as arid and semi-arid.

“So we experience great water deficiencies for domestic and agricultural use. Key among the many water issues is lack of water for livestock which has currently led to huge loss of livestock in the region.

“The region also experiences crop failure due to lack of irrigation water and many households cover long distances (an average of 6 kilometres) to collect water for their domestic use.

Quenching thirst is of great significance to Mwangi.

“The way I take water and feel refreshed and re-energized is spiritual when I remember John 4:13, ‘whoever drinks of this water will thirst no more.’ Jesus the source of life and completeness. I desire to love Jesus all the more,” she notes.


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