Drought in Kenya Mitigated by Solar-Powered Well


NAIROBI — According to a recent declaration from Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, a drought that the country has endured for several years has now reached the point of national disaster. Authorities report that approximately 2.7 million people are affected by the drought in Kenya. The drought is also affecting livestock.

Fortunately, residents in rural Urkana County and surrounding areas are weathering this most recent drought, owing their survival to foresight and technology. Several years ago, they equipped the community’s humble borehole — a narrow well drilled into the ground for water access — with solar pumping and storage tanks. Originally intended to meet the needs of 12 herders and their families in 2013, the upgrades transformed it into a lifeline for thousands of people and livestock to endure this most recent drought in Kenya.

While suffering through a severe drought in Kenya in 2013, community leaders knew the situation was critical. Their small borehole was simply not sophisticated enough to meet the needs of the area. The well was antiquated at best, as water could only be drawn by hand with a bucket and rope. This limited its usage to the immediate domestic needs of just a few families.

The Lokore Community Disaster Management Committee reached out to international NGO Veterinaires Sans Frontieres Germany (VSFG) for assistance. With VSFG’s help, a solar pump and holding tanks were installed, and the small well was transformed into an oasis. The well now supplies water kiosks and animal drinking troughs in two villages.

Currently, 625 households in two villages are using the water facility. Each household has an average of seven members and 150 livestock animals. Thanks to the upgrades, the animals now have drinking troughs in each village.

The foresight of the community leaders in 2013 continues to pay dividends. Despite worsening drought-related forage conditions predicted by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the residents of Urkana County are secure for the time being. They will safely overcome the current drought in Kenya since their well is still producing.

Having a steady water source close by is a major benefit for the locals. Resident Lotit Agirai used to travel nearly 20 miles to Uganda to find water for his livestock before the improvements were made to the well. The travel was stressful for the 70-year-old patriarch, as he had to leave his six wives and 30 children behind while he searched for water for his livestock. “This has been a revolution to us,” Agirai said. “Having access to water for domestic animals closer to home is the best thing that has happened to me.”

Humans are not the only ones benefiting from easy access to clean water. Although more than 6,000 goats and sheep in other parts of Kenya died due to waterborne illnesses between December and January, the four-legged residents of Urkana County remain unscathed. Their owners report that there have been no livestock deaths since the onset of the most recent drought in Kenya in mid-2016.

Gisele Dunn

Photo: Flickr


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