It was on the second day of our recce trip to the Samburu, Northern Kenya that we visited Upper Margwe. The Samburu is a remote, arid region about 380kms and light years away from Nairobi. We were being hosted by Project Manager Lucas Lekwale of partnering charity The Samburu Project , and we were on a mission to investigate the sustainability of the well projects that we would be funding. And Upper Margwe surprised us all.
Introducing a simple well with an Afridev hand pump to a rural community is a life changing event. Water security is a huge issue in the area. With recent droughts we heard from local people who had been walking up to 30km a day to find any water. They would have to dig down into dry river beds or clear monkey feces away from a stagnant pool. But about 40 feet below the service is clean gravel filtered water. We knew that in theory providing access to water is the single most efficient way to reduce poverty. Clean water reduces the number of deaths due to water related illnesses, (stats here). Eliminating the task of walking to fetch water allows children to attend school and get an education, it allows women to diversify their activities, and with the growth of micro-financing they often start a small business and kick start the economy. Access to a reliable water source creates the stability to diversify their food sources by embarking on agricultural projects, which is a new concept in the Samburu, where the people are traditionally nomadic pastoralists, relying on their herds of goats and cattle for survival.
Upon arrival at Upper Margwe we were gracefully greeted by tribal elder and well committee chairman Paidia Lenkonyokiee. We were absolutely astonished to see neatly stacked piles of clay bricks perched on the side of the dry river bank,. Completely under their own initiative the community around the well had taken the opportunity of a reliable water supply to mix local materials and bake bricks. They had pre-sold about 5,000 bricks and at a market value of 20 shillings each this is truly life changing . Paidia also invited us to view his home, which was a life changing experience for us. This charming, happy man lives in a portable home made of sticks, mud and cow dung, about 4 feet high and 60 sq feet in size. There is a fire pit for cooking with no ventilation, one small trunk of belongings and I did not see any food, except an egg, laid on the goat skin bed. However it is always the children that remain foremost in our memories. Paidia’s bubbly daughter Rachel and her friends were so thrilled to have visitors from afar. They giggled, played games and sang songs for us. They were so genuinely excited by the new well and all that it brought to their lives, and their joy was infectious as we reflected upon how good it felt to be able to do what we can to help others, even if it only seems to be a small drop in a big bucket.