Water Projects Turn Semi-Arid Region into a Green-Belt
Once billed a semi-arid region, Machakos County in Kenya–home to nearly 1 million people–is fast becoming a green-belt, thanks to Plan’s supported projects which are helping to improve food and water availability in the region.
Food Surplus Helps Generate Extra Income
Since 2010, communities in Machakos have been implementing dam construction, borehole drilling and solar powered water projects, which have not only lessened the effects of drought but ushered the community into a cash economy.
Plan’s Program Support Manager in Machakos, Evangeline Ngunjiri, says the projects have made water accessible to about 12,000 people, while improving sanitation and hygiene among children, youth, and women in the area.
"The project has also enhanced water access to more than 14,000 livestock, mainly poultry, goats and cattle and has improved household diet by increasing kitchen gardening and fruit farming,” she says.
In one of the areas, 47 families had established kitchen gardens where various vegetables are being grown primarily for subsistence but the surplus is also being sold to improve family incomes.
Primary school children in the area have established orchard clubs and are growing various fruits such as paw paws, mangoes, and oranges. These fruits are used in desserts which are served after lunch.
Primary School Attendance Increases
Musingini Primary School head teacher, Michael Muli, says before water was connected to the school, drop-out rates had been as high as 20 percent due to the scarcity of water and poor nutrition, but this figure is now almost zero.
“The orchards have really boosted their nutrition levels and we no longer have a problem of children dropping out of school. Surplus fruits are also being sold to generate income for the clubs and the money is used to support needy children with school uniforms and other scholastic material,” he says.
“I am so proud of this water project. We now have adequate water for use in preparing food for school feeding programs in these schools and pupils are no longer wasting time walking for long distances to look for water to bring to the school. They now have enough time to do their homework,” says Miriam, a community member.
James Mutui, who chairs one of the water committees in the area, says: “We used to get a lot of waterborne diseases in this community because of lack of water, but that is now history.”
And an assistant chief from the area, Mr. Mwongela Alphonse, says: “This is a blessing for the area, it was long overdue, the people in this area have at last received what they have been thirsting for…water.”
Ngunjiri, says youth groups and farmers in the area have been growing horticultural crops that can be sold to generate income. This crops include: cabbages, tomatoes, onions, and vegetables.
“Buoyed by the success of these projects, some youth groups and individuals in the area are planning to engage in other businesses such as water vending to the far off areas as a way of gaining more income,” she said.