africa, community, drinking water, outreach, photos, visions of water, visions of life, water availability

Kakamega Youth Talk About Water Problems in Kenya

Youth are our future and our future depends on water. In the last Visions of Water, Visions of Life interview, students at the Kakamega School for the Deaf talked about water and life in Kenya. They were asked:

What do you believe is the solution to improve the water situation in your village?

They are hearing-impaired, so they drafted their answers on a chalkboard. Below is a glimpse into the daily life of these students. Some rainwater harvesting tanks were recently donated to their school, but after this source is depleted – during they dry season – they rely solely on river water. We thank them much for providing this information to the world.

Sheila Agufa

Sheila

Agesa Silus

Silas

Daniel Milavi

Daniel

Joseph Milongo

Joseph

Are you a student that would like to get involved in water issues? Do you want to contact these students in Kenya? Please visit the ECAG Website. Or – to meet other youth interested in water issues – check out the YouthNoise DROP Campaign Website.

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africa, agriculture, community, drinking water, groundwater, ngo, visions of water, visions of life, water availability, water management

Visions of Water, Visions of Life: ECAG in Kenya

This is the second interview for the series Visions of Water, Visions of Life. Today’s interview is with Gibson Munanga. He is the director of an organization called Environmental Community Assistance Group (ECAG) working on water and land issues in rural Kenya. And, let me tell you, Gibson is one busy director. He works as a teacher at a school for the deaf. Somehow he still manages to find time to dream-up ideas, organize work parties, and implement a variety of projects to ensure water and land sustainability in his village.

Gibson and Kids
Above Photo: Gibson and students at Kakamega School for the Deaf.

Your organization originally started growing tree seedlings and working on land restoration projects. Can you please tell us why you decided to direct your focus towards water issues?

Our organization began and is still growing tree seedlings and working on land restoration projects. In the course of undertaking these, we encountered enormous challenges to finding water for irrigating the tree seedlings in preparation for planting during the rainy season. Water problems are a chronic issue here in the dry and rainy seasons. We have not shifted our focus, but we had to approach them [water and land restoration issues] at the same time because they go hand-in-hand. We left water problems to be addressed by ENVIRONMENTAL COMMUNITY ASSISTANCE GROUP. The tree nursery and land restoration projects are handled by our co-organization called WESTERN TREE NURSERY, SEED COLLECTION, STORAGE AND VENDING GROUP.

What is the water situation in your village? What is the water situation in Kenya?

The water situation in our village is bad. People have to walk long distances in search of water. This mainly affects women and children (especially their standard of education and quality of life). The overall water situation in Kenya is worse. In Turkana, Pokot, Ukambani and other northeastern parts of Kenya near the border with Somalia, the search for water may take a whole day. It takes over a year for these places to receive rains, which may last only a week or luckily a month. This type of rainfall pattern can not support crop growth or open-water systems. It is rocky and expensive to drill for water in these areas. The water is very deep.

What do you believe is the solution to improve the water situation in your village?

The solution to improve the water situation in our village is to strategically situate boreholes in central places where water can be used easily by families. In addition, many trees were destroyed in most water catchments over twenty years ago. Water-catchment friendly trees should be planted in those areas because many small streams and rivers have dried up. The range of climate and rainfall in our village allows for rainwater harvesting. Provision of water-harvesting tanks would help to solve water problems here. Provision of water lorry tankers [see picture below] would help provide water to people during extreme water shortage events for a small fee.

Lorry Tanker
Above Photo: This is the type of water tanker that ECAG would like for their community.

Do you talk about water issues with your students at the school for the deaf? What do the children believe is the solution to improve the water situation in your village?

[The students are deaf so they wrote their answers on a chalkboard. Mr. Munanga took pictures of their answers with a camera. Please see the forthcoming post called Kakamega Youth Talk About Water Problems in Kenya.]

Has ECAG completed any significant water projects?

Six years ago ECAG constructed a very successful water project [well] at Alfred Amulyoto’s home (in Kambiri in the Kakamega District) to serve neighboring communities. Community members agreed to maintain the well pump through small donations. We constructed another successful water project [well] at Emily’s home (in Sichirayi) with the help from neighboring homes. Another water project [well] was constructed at Mr. Peter Matwanga’s home (in Khayega Village) which services a big homestead and 15 nearby homes.

What are a few other non-water projects that ECAG has completed?

We are producing tree-seedlings for planting in water-catchment areas. We are propagating medicinal trees for blood purification, stomach problems, malaria treatment, and other ailments. We are propagating fruit trees to alleviate hunger and provide vitamins, and we are propagating trees for firewood. In a nut-shell, trees are very much related to water, environmental issues and rainfall-storage quantity.

What is your advice for future generations on water?

My advice for future generations on water issues would be to conserve water and use it wisely, protect all water sources, and plant trees. Every drop of water counts!

For more information about ECAG or if you would like to make a donation, please visit their website here.

art, community, visions of water, visions of life

Visions of Water, Visions of Life: Jessica Varin

This is the first interview for a new series hosted on Water for the Ages called Visions of Water, Visions of Life. This interview series will feature people from around the world interacting with water on multiple scales: technological, cultural, social, political, spiritual, and aesthetic.

For this interview, I am pleased to introduce Jessica Varin. Jessica is a senior at Oregon State University majoring in Natural Resources and Environmental Engineering. We first met during our International Water Resources Management class taught by Dr. Aaron Wolf (best known for his work on global water conflict management). Near the beginning of the quarter, she asked me to contribute to a journal she was putting together to document the different ways that people in our community view water. She asked each contributor to draw, write, paint, or otherwise express their interactions with water. Recently, she presented these journal contributions of over forty-nine adults and children to our class. The results showed that each person – no matter their race, ethnicity, creed, or age – interacted with water in a unique way but there were unifying themes. To me, this project reiterated the beauty and sanctity of water. I would like to share her story with you.

Can you please tell us a little bit about your project?

I asked people in my community a simple, complex question: What does water mean to you? Participants in the project drew, painted, wrote, and explored their answers in a collaborative art journal.

What made you want to start compiling this journal? And what first led to your interest in the field of water?

I’ve been working on personal art journals or sketchbooks for about a year. Through 1001journals.com, I started sending collaborative art journals to strangers around the world. I knew that I wanted to do a water-themed journal eventually … the opportunity to get academic credit kick-started this particular project.

I grew up in and around water. Canoing and swimming were a big part of my childhood. In high school, I started doing research work on water quality in a nearby watershed. I had really outstanding mentors and the experience made me passionate about issues surrounding water.

Where did you find your participants? How did people react to being asked to complete a journal page on water?

I passed it around my poetry class, coerced co-workers, and talked to strangers on the street. One of my goals was to get a diversity of perspectives on water.

Reactions to the project were overwhelmingly positive. Some people were overwhelmed by the scope of the topic, others dove right in and started drawing or writing. I had a harder time getting adults to participate. Many adults insisted that they weren’t artists; not one child refused a crayon.

What were some of the overarching themes that you found among the journal contributions?

My goal was to see if there was a cohesive ethic of stewardship with regard to water in my community. Many people associated water with intangibles. Beauty, life, and spiritual connection were among the things that participants found meaning in.

Do you feel that this type of project could influence the future of watershed management?

The creation of policy is often values-driven as much as it is economically-driven. We continue to be bound by right and wrong as well as the bottom line. Several of the participants expressed values in their artwork that water cannot be quantified. These values are often overlooked in traditional cost-benefit analysis. It’s easier to ignore what does not fit into a matrix. To reach the next level, watershed management efforts will need to incorporate these values.

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All photos were taken by Assistant Professor Wang Zhijian from the School of Law at Hohai University in Nanjing, China. He runs a blog on international water law called International Rivers & International Relations. So if you know Chinese, you might check out his blog here. And if you would like to contact Jessica to learn more about this neat project, please e-mail her here.