This post was written by Loretta Pilla, an Australian volunteer who is currently working in Kenya as a Program Management Officer with Anglican Overseas Aid’s The Road Less Travelled project.
Jchabure Lengunya is a mother of six children between four and 16 years of age. In addition to her family responsibilities, she is also an active member of the Naibor Water Committee. With Jchabure’s youngest child wrapped tightly around her neck, we sit beneath the shade of an acacia tree 50 metres uphill from the recently built rock water catchment in Naibor group ranch, in Laikipia County of Kenya.
“We are now entering the wet season,” she explains, pointing at the vast red clay landscape stretching to the horizon. It is barely flecked with green foliage, with even less houses in between.
Before the water catchment was built the women of Naibor travelled long distances during the wet season to the Naibor open spring to dig for water, and even further during the dry season to the Nanyuki River.
Jchabure explains that the water committee is responsible for ensuring the sustainable use of water by community members. This is an important role given the pressures the harsh weather conditions and often extended dry seasons can have on water availability.
“The rainy season is the time the Naibor Water Committee advises the community to collect water from the rock catchment,” she says.
The time of drought, however, is when the community can collect water from the large water tank, which is 250 metres in diameter. These regulations, however, are fluid, taking into consideration the vast distances that women need to travel to collect water on a daily basis. Women’s decision to collect water from either water source is based on convenience and personal choice.
Jchabure has been collecting water from the new tank only during the dry seasons since April 2013. Collecting two 20-litre jerry cans of water used to take up to four hours walking time and all day to collect; now it takes a total of 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening. Not only can Jchabure collect an additional 20 litres, which she defines as plenty, but she also has the afternoon free to collect firewood and look after her livestock – tasks she only dreamed of doing before the water catchment was built.
“Now, I feel more relaxed and less stressed,” Jchabure says. “Beforehand, I used to fetch water with my livestock at the same time. It was very difficult because I would have to make sure the livestock didn’t run away. I used to come back home so tired that I didn’t want to cook.”
When asked about current challenges, Jchabure responds with a broad smile and a slight chuckle. “There is no challenge now. I can walk to the tank anytime to collect water.”
Jchabure is not the only woman who feels the freedom of this newfound spare time. She explains that she belongs to a women’s group in Naibor who have started to produce and sell their bead work. With the money they have already raised, the women wish to build a few bandas (thatched huts) where they can continue to sell their work. Naturally, the new water catchment is the chosen site for the women’s new business endeavours.