Home / Health / How lack of water denies Kenyans the ‘right to life’ in West Pokot
One of the sand dams in West Pokot used for collecting water during the rainy season and which purifies it through natural filtration. [Photo: Njenga Hakeenah]
One of the sand dams in West Pokot used for collecting water during the rainy season and which purifies it through natural filtration. [Photo: Njenga Hakeenah]

How lack of water denies Kenyans the ‘right to life’ in West Pokot

Pusu poltoy cho relach’ meaning, like clouds in the sky, new people will replace old ones but people will continue to exist.

This Pokot saying shows they believe in a future.

As the climate change debate continues and with COP 21 coming to an end in France this weekend, this future is at stake.

In a place where basic necessities are hard to come by, water is by far the hardest to find in West Pokot. One cannot really tell the importance of water until you get to spend a few days in this community.

Water is life is a statement that has essentially become a cliché and the importance of this commodity is grossly misunderstood by those who have it abundantly.

As Kenya grapples with the issue of lack of adequate rain and food, the most vulnerable are at risk as the government vacillates on providing basic necessities. West, Central and North Pokot districts are extremely dry. This problem is made even worse by the issues brought about by climate change.

Most people in this area spend hours on end in search of water denying them an opportunity to attend to other issues like farming, education and other development-oriented issues.

The availability of water can transform lives and entire communities. With water, time once wasted in its search is spent on other economic empowering activities like attending school and farming.

The writer (R) at one of the boreholes servicing the Pokot in the vast West Pokot District .[Photo: Solomon Mburu]
The writer (R) at one of the boreholes servicing the Pokot in the vast West Pokot District .[Photo: Solomon Mburu]
According to the Yang’at Girl Child Potential Sensitisation, people have died due to scarce water. This scarcity has often caused human-human and human-wildlife conflicts.

People have been stung to death by bees at watering points due to the ferocity of the dry climate in West Pokot. Yang’at Field Coordinator in the region Elizabeth Pkukat concurs adding that children had swollen genitalia most of the time because bees were attracted to the urine and they ended up being stung.

Some of these problems have however subsided with the provision of water in some parts of the vast and arid West Pokot region. Through the use of locally available materials, the locals are building sand dams on seasonal rivers where they get to store water safely for longer periods after the rainy seasons.

These innovative but cheap methods of water provision are attracting large numbers of the locals who are getting and living together increasing safety and closeness in the neighbourhoods. The advantage of these close communities is that delivery of services is also made easier and consultations can be conducted on a regular basis when the community is close together.

Due to the increasing cases of famine and increased conflicts over resources, there is an urgent need to get water for the inhabitants of this area. Charity can work – but only for a short time – and long-term solutions are needed to deal with the perennial water and hunger crises.

Mitigation steps need to be taken urgently to empower these people by making them independent through irrigation which can ensure a constant supply of food and reduction in conflicts over resources.

Already the steps towards a reliable source of livelihood are being taken. With the construction of sand dams, it is a first step towards dealing with the myriad problems facing people living in the arid and semi-arid areas.

With water provided, any other undertakings are feasible as evidenced by Kasepa residents. These people can become independent and self-sufficient in a short time if only they are given the basic support and the means on how to start living.

The dams can cost less than $10, 000 but the benefits far outweigh the costs and they outlive the erratic rainy seasons. This is an investment that with goodwill will save thousands of lives and enormously improve livelihoods.

The government can work together with the people for the benefit of the locals and the country in general. Kenya is a country endowed with resources, enough to satisfy the citizens and a surplus, which can be exported for the much needed foreign exchange.

Gone are the days and times when the ministries of agriculture and tourism should be the only foreign currency earner. We need to diversify in order to adequately address and meet the needs of the country- top on the agenda being job creation, economic empowerment and freedom from the stranglehold of poverty.

The Constitution empowers Kenyans and they can always demand better and improved livelihoods.

With the devolution of resources, these residents can become independent by relying less on aid agencies for food.

Democracy should also be seen to be trickling down to the most vulnerable in the society hence the need to see the Constitution implemented within the given timeframes.

And just like the Green Belt Movement which has been replicated around the world, we could may be – just may be- efficiently address the issue of climate change and re-green our planet.

About Njenga Nelson

One comment

  1. Water is life. Let the government do something about that.

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