In February 2013, work began on a water and food security project in Kakuswi Village, Makueni County, Kenya. The project was implemented by Just a Drop’s local partner Utooni Development Organization (UDO) in partnership with Just a Drop, and sponsored by TUI.
The project targeted the Kaesa Kakuswi Self Help Group (SHG), their immediate family members, and their community. The group is composed of 58 members (38 females and 20 males) and there are 464 direct beneficiaries of the project.
Kaesa Kakuswi SHG members live in a semi-arid part of Kenya. The area faces food and water insecurity due to extreme climatic conditions. Almost every year the families in this area suffer from drought and are forced to rely on relief food from the government and NGOs. In the past two seasons the area recorded very low rainfall and as a result the majority of the members in Kaesa Kakuswi SHG relied on the food for work program that UDO extended to them during sand dam construction to feed their families.
Environmental degradation is also a big problem in the area. In the past, families generated income through the selling of charcoal and firewood. Now this isn’t possible because of a lack of trees and wide spread soil erosion. For this reason alone (and many other environmental reasons) there is a great need for environmental conservation.
As a result of this project Kaesa Kakuswi members have started soil conservation practices on their demonstration farm as well as on individual members’ farms. They have learnt from this project the best practices of digging standard terraces, planting drought resistant crops as well as planting trees. In addition, their nearby communities and farmers are also learning from the SHG and it is hoped that the activities will help change the area in the coming years. Kaesa Kakuswi SHG members have contributed greatly in their project volunteering to work one day a week. The main activities they focused on included the demonstration farm preparation and planting crops and trees in addition to the support they gave to the construction of the sand dam.
The sand dam is now full complete and the community are now fetching water from the dam. Before the project was initiated in Kanthuni area farmers in the area used to walk over 12km to the only water source in the area, the Athi River. Each family required a donkey to fetch water. Every day, villagers were forced to wake up early to go and look for water – this affected women in the area the most as it is considered to be their responsibility.
They would take a whole day to travel to and from Athi. During dry periods, especially in the months of August to October, the task of fetching water would become extremely difficult as temperatures rose. Small children in the families would be left under the care of their young siblings and the older children would go to look for water together with their parents. The children would miss school for several days when searching for water in the driest months which would affect their school grades. In addition, families who were privileged to have livestock would end up selling them or send them to their relatives in other regions where water was available.
Food Production & Security
Seeds were distributed for planting in the last rainy season. The group members planted different crops in their demonstration farm. Each member was also given drought resistant seeds to plant in his or her own farm. As environmental degradation and soil erosion are a big problem in the area the Kaesa Kakuswi members were able to start soil conservation practices. The member’s farms have since improved dramatically; all the members have embraced the digging of standard terraces, planting drought resistant crops and trees. When visiting the area, it is easy to recognize the differences between a member farm and a non-member farm. Their neighbours are slowly copying the best practices from them and it is our aim that the activity will help change the area in the coming years.
The SHG were also provided with tree seeds to initiate a tree nursery; the group is hoping to transplant the seedlings during the next rainy season. The benefits of this project will be felt on a long term basis.
One notable story from the project is of one SHG member who has planted 60 paw-paw fruit trees as part of the project. She watered the tree using the water from the sand dam. The paw paws have started producing and she is very happy with the results as she is now able to provide fruit to her family. She hopes that she will be able to harvest more every year and generate income from the selling of the surplus.
Before the project she thought her farm was unable to produce anything due to the extreme weather and harsh climatic conditions. However with the support of this project and the tree seeds as well as support of certified drought resistant seeds and training on how to initiate and maintain tree nurseries with different varieties of trees she realized that there was hope for her and her community.
Anastasia Kasiva, 11 years old:
Anastasia now has more time for study instead of walking for water and would like to pursue her studies up to the university level. After that she would like to support her community to do more water harvesting projects. “I will achieve my dreams because Just a Drop brought water near my home, God bless them.”
Emanuel Muia, 15 years old:
“I used to see my parents struggling with life due to lack of water. Since the construction of the sand dam, we are happy in the family, we even have time to share stories in the evening during meal time rather than walking for water – thank you all.”
The SHG were trained on agricultural best practices, digging standard terraces, selecting the best trees, and initiating additional income generating activities such as poultry keeping and bee keeping should crops fail for any reason outwith their control.
The SHG also took part in an exchange group in Machakos County. Exchanges are the community members with practical skills and therefore helps them copy what they learn from the field trips when they return home. During these exchanges, community groups are able to exchange, share and learn from each other in a participatory manner.
The project will not only benefit the 58 members (38 females and 20 males) of the Kaesa Kakuswi Self Help Group but also their family and surrounding community.
The project will transform their environment in a sustainable manner to improve clean water supply, food production, income and health. This holistic approach will help to promote sustainable development in the arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya through:
- storing water in sand
- planting improved varieties of indigenous crops and trees
- working in unity on a worthy task to better the group
- copying what works with other people so there is shared learning.
This will enable the community to move out of poverty to prosperity through water resource management and sustainable food production. Thank you TUI Travel for your support of this life-changing initiative.
Project Sponsor: TUI Travel
Date of project: November 2014