We connected with the village of Rakwaro, in Western Kenya, during our first trip to East Africa in 2006. Witnessing one of the worst water crises in the region exposed us to the suffering, disease and death that comes from a lack of access to clean water. The women of Rakwaro walk 45 minutes one way to fill a jerry can of water. This shortage leaves little water for cooking, bathing, drinking or raising vegetables. The problem is compounded by the several months of dry season per year.
Although there is an underground river that runs through the area, it is covered by a thick layer of volcanic rock. It will take heavy drilling equipment and a skilled crew to dig a well in Rakwaro. The village does not possess the financial means to pay for a well. Access to clean water, however, would bring an opportunity to start a greenhouse that would provide both healthy vegetables and economic empowerment.
We have broken the Rakwaro water project down into three phases.
1) First, we will raise the money for a borehole (well) and a hand pump. This will bring access to water and the ability to proceed to the next phase.
2) With the clean water in place, a group within the village will apply for a microfinance loan to start the greenhouse business. The money they make will enable them to support 4-5 employees and to save up for future water-related expenses. This is intended to make the water sustainable for the community and a source of economic empowerment.
3) When the greenhouse is established, paying back its loan and saving money for the future, we will work together with them to secure the funds to finish the water project. This will involve building a tower for a water tank and then installing an electrical pump. When the water is pumped into the tank, it will be more readily available to the village and to the people of the surrounding area.
This is Henry
This is Henry. He approached me in 2006 asking if I was a journalist. His story about the suffering due to a lack of water in his hometown moved me to visit Rakwaro and to see the situation for myself.
What I Found
What I found is a village where the lack of water is so severe that people gather water wherever they can find it. This girl drawing from a standing body of water demonstrates why the people suffer from serious diseases due to the water that they drink.
Walking 90 Minutes For Water
Women walk for 90 minutes to obtain one jerry can of clean water. This leaves a shortage which prevents the people from growing vegetables, from bathing and most importantly from drinking enough clean water for themselves and their animals.
Water is Life
One day I was talking the project through with my Kenyan friends and they said, "Andy, water is life." Once there is water many things could change in this village. I haven't forgotten this quote and our aim is to empower Rakwaro with a well, not as a final solution, but as a way to jump start their progress toward a more healthy and sustainable future.
Once there is water, the community will apply for a microfinance loan, enabling them to start a greenhouse business. The ability to grow healthy vegetables year round will not only increase the people's health but also provide the financial means to maintain the water and to save for opportunities to pursue their own development.