Makueni County classified as an Arid and Semi Arid Land (ASALs) is characterized by perennial droughts occasioned by erratic rainfall received in the region. Most residents entirely depend on rain fed water for both subsistence agriculture and domestic use and the unpredictable weather patterns have not only led to successive crop failures but also acute water scarcity.
These acute water shortages force the residents to walk for long distances, some times up to 20 kilometers, especially during dry spells when most sources of water like earth dams and boreholes dry up, in search of the precious commodity.
But, the severity of the water problem is well displayed in Wote town which is the county headquarters and perhaps the situation is a replica of the crisis across the county. With a population of approximately 10,000 the town does not have an elaborate piped water system and the residents rely on vendors who scoop the water from shallow wells at the nearby seasonal Kaiti river.
Donkeys with jerricans on their backs don the streets of the small sleepy and dusty county headquarters that is slowing coming to live,thanks to devolution.
A 20 liter jerrican goes for between sh20 to sh25 and the town dwellers who do not have any other access to water, use it for all the domestic purposes its quality, not withstanding.
It is no doubt, that water vending is a booming business in the town and has attracted mostly young men, some coming as far as the neighboring Kitui county to eke a living from business venture.
When 28 -year- old Joseph Musyimi left his village in Nzambia, Kitui County three years ago and relocated to Wote town in search of a job little, little did he know that he would eventually go into the water business. A friend from his home county had hinted to him the high returns in the business but he was not interested, his aspirations were to get better job, water vending was never in his wildest dreams.
However after several months of job hunting bore no fruits, Musyimi had to look for a source of income to sustain himself as the little savings he had when he left his village in Kitui were dwindling very fast.
After much persuasion from the friend who had already established himself in the business with four donkeys, Musyimi agreed albeit reluctantly to join his friend for sh500 a day.
After realizing the profitable returns in the venture, Musyimi saved sh16,000 and bought two small donkeys which he now uses to ferry water to his customers. On good day he makes sh1, 500 and takes home sh1, 000 when business is low. He makes an average of ten trips a day and his customers are mainly bar owners and hotels who require water in large quantities.
“I have no regrets its a good business that enables me to pay my bills and send some cash to my parents in Kitui,”
says the bachelor.