Africa's Water (7)

Saturday, 01 April 2017 00:00

Machakos Still Searching for Water 43 Years Later

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Julius Mwongela was still about half a kilometer from his house in Mumbuni in Machakos. His joints were aching. Not because of malaria but due to another long day in the hotel where he worked. He was so tired that it took a while for his eyes to register that the smiling woman in front of him was Margaret Kasiva his beloved wife. Dangling in her right hand was a twenty-litre jerrycan.

“Mbona umezubaa Sweetie?” Why are you absent-minded sweetie? She asked him, a playful look dancing in her eyes.

“Nilikuwa nakufikiria,” I was thinking about you, he lied in that honest way that men have perfected over centuries.

Almost daily, Margaret has to go and fetch water from a borehole that is just under a kilometer from their house. She often has to do it herself because they don’t always have the twenty shillings that it costs to ferry a twenty-litre jerrycan of water to their doorstep.If they have to buy all the water that they need, they can easily end up spending as much money on this precious liquid as they do on their rent.

When Julius moved to his house in Mumbuni estate, there was a shallow borehole from which they could draw water. But it dried up within months so they were sentenced to the daily water-fetching journeys.

Like all urban centres in Kenya, Machakos doesn’t have regular and reliable water supply. Many houses like Julius’s don’t even have piped water. For many that do, taps are often dry so some depend on water delivered by trucks. This is despite the fact that Machakos town sits next to Maruba dam. Located across river Maruba, the dam gifts visitors to Machakos people’s Park with a beautiful scenery. But its ten billion liters of water doesn’t seem to be gifting residents of Machakos town with sufficient water.

Although Maruba dam can provide four times as much water as it is currently providing, sand is standing in the way of this extra water being unleashed.

Interestingly, this water scarcity in Kenya and Machakos in particular is nothing new. Back in 1974, seven years before Julius was born, Hon George Nthenge the then Machakos Member of Parliament posed these questions to the Minister of Agriculture, “What urgent action is being taken to ensure that Machakos town has water day and night? Is the Ministry aware of the great hardships suffered by the residents of the Township including the provincial hospital whose essential activities have had to stop at times?”

In his response, Hon. Wanjigi the then Assistant Minister for Agriculture said that his Ministry was aware of the water scarcity and was taking urgent measures to address it. He added that, “During the recent rains, the production of water in Machakos has had to be reduced due to the heavy silt in Maruba dam…”

Some things never change. Forty-three years ago in 1974, siltation was strangling Maruba dam and is still doing so today. The National and County Government departments responsible of kicking out silt from Maruba dam should rise to the occasion and do so once and for all. The people of Machakos deserve nothing less than that.

Julius and his beloved Margaret deserve taps that have running water. This is their right because Article 43 of Kenya’s constitution clearly states that every person has the right to clean and safe water in adequate quantities.

Thursday, 01 October 2015 00:00

Embracing the Waters of El Niño

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One raindrop follows another then another and suddenly the sky seems to be wailing heavily, it is indeed raining cats and dogs. The gods must be infuriated and they are sending a message. The weather is chilly outside and everyone is cuddled up with a blanket. The year is 1997.

The dust that once dominated the earth has been turned into thick sticky brown mud. The earth has given in and forms little streams of water eroding whatever is on its path. Half an hour later the stream has matured into a river and it flows down furiously. Those that are outside are scared and confused trying to run for cover everywhere and anywhere. The heavens are stark raving mad according to my five year old brain but science has a different perspective and scientists’ call it the  El Niño.

We have changed all the natural pathways and blocked the water from flowing freely. This must be its cruel way of punishing us at least that’s what the old people believe.  But science believes in facts and tested theories that say the water in the Pacific Ocean are a bit too warm, therefore affecting normal climate in some parts of the world.

Mother Nature has also released some flies that pee and leave you with a horrible dark mark almost like a dry burn, they have been named Nairobi fly. My brother and I however have another name for it after my sister fell victim to their acidic urine we call them nzi wa sumu- poisonous fly.

My mother would light up a fire in the chimney and every time there would be a thermos filled with tea and another one with porridge for us little ones. I also dredge up the adults always feeling sad each time they watched the news. It was obviously difficult for my siblings and I to understand then because we were so excited being indoors and most times missing school.

It is only years later we got to learn about the El Niño rains and understood the damage they had caused during that year. Mother’s prayer had changed and she was mourning for this Nation.

That was a decade and a half ago. There have been predictions that El Niño will pay us a visit again sometime this year and it’s a scary yet exciting feeling for me. I will be able to witness this once in a lifetime experience, with full knowledge of what is happening. The excitement is because when it last happened I had no idea of what was really going on. It will be different this time round, now that I do know and have read and heard so much about it. The scare is definitely caused by the damage it can bring about especially if we are not well prepared.

The weather man has come out with strong forecast that this year Mother Nature is going to be more upset than in the previous years or in their exact terms El Niño is coming back with a big bang. The metrological department has issued statements to residents of Nairobi and told everyone to take precaution. The government seems to have taken this matter very seriously and has decided to set aside five billion Kenyan shillings incase of a disaster.

This was after some areas of Nairobi experienced heavy rains earlier this year and there was massive destruction of property and lives were lost. Many families lost their homes and property worth millions of shillings. The roads paved way for the large amounts of water and they were deemed impassable. This served as a wake up call to the local authorities to repair the drainage systems to avoid future incidents.

As the government is preparing for the disaster at a national level we should also prepare for it at a personal level. As an individual what steps are you taking to ensure you will be safe? More so as a property owner in Nairobi have you set up drainage facilities to harvest the water or will it be another case of floods and empty words?

 “The management should open up sewers and ensure drainage systems are cleared. The last time it rained heavily in Nyayo, residents had to walk in flooded contaminated water and some roads were impassable.” said Violet Kavukilwa a resident of Nyayo estate Embakasi. This is just one plight of the many being echoed.

This estate has almost two thousand houses and yet the drainage systems are very poor and heavy rains cause floods on the roads.  They have also put up parallel vent pipes that drain the water to the ground surface instead of trying to harvest it.  This area is a good example because residents are always complaining of water issues yet the management hasn’t considered harvesting rain water.

Another resident had this to say when I asked them how prepared they were for the rains and whether they would try to harvest the water, “No we are not prepared because we live in flats. We are not allowed to install extra tanks on the roof. The management needs to harvest the water as they have good roofs and capacity to do so but as an individual I will just sit and wait as we are not allowed to even store water downstairs or in the hallway.”

This is just an example drawn from a pond with many fish but it shows our attitude and how we always take things lightly yet to be forewarned is to be forearmed. There is a lot of potential in harvesting rain water because it’s usually clean. It can be used to wash the house, do laundry and for showering in urban areas. In the rural areas it can be used for irrigation on the farms and even purified to make it suitable for animal and human consumption.

Rain water is naturally soft as it doesn’t contain dissolved minerals or salts and is free of chemical treatment. Harvesting rain water ensures that the normal water supply is supplemented during the lean season. It also reduces soil erosion which can be rampant during the heavy rains. In addition, it will reduce flooding on the roads as all the water will be directed to a specific storage facility. The methods for harvesting rain water are affordable and the benefits are many.

Many countries have taken advantage and storing rain water thus reducing their consumption of potable water. It is appropriate for large scale landscapes such as schools, commercial sites, parking lots, and apartment complexes, as well as small scale residential landscapes. Knowledge is power, so as El Niño approaches; let us strive to make a positive change by helping nature help us, through rain water harvesting.

Friday, 28 August 2015 00:00

Madalina, the Rwandan Water Hunter

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When Madalina was born, her family lived near isoko y’amazi atemba, a source of running water. She used to carry an old pot that her mother had exchanged with a potter for three baskets of taro. Her mother used to half- teasingly tell her that if she ever breaks the clay container, she would never find a husband, but that was before. Longtime before her marriage.

The sparkling water that she fetched was transparent with a pleasant taste and an odorless aroma of purity. Now when she goes to visit her mother, she stops by the source. A million tiny dirt particles cloud it.

Children used to believe that during the rainy seasons, the mountains generously provided a lot of pure water. Madalina could see new little sources from the hills. Children didn’t need to dream of going to Canada to admire Niagara’s Falls. That mountain where their scattered houses were built used to offer its own falls.  

Madalina can’t remember exactly when the chemical fertilizers that they applied in their fields started to alter the quality of their water.

 According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the increase in population and advances made in farming technology has resulted in an increase of contaminants polluting soil and waterways.

The complaint about water quality is not an isolated case for Madalina and Rwanda, it is becoming a worldwide issue: the price for the technological advance. In the United States of America, the 2000 National Water Quality inventory reported that agricultural pollution caused by rainfall and snowmelt movements was impacting on the water quality of surveyed rivers, lakes, wetlands, estuaries and ground water.

Why did the mountains become stingy with the pure water in their bowels? Madalina always asks herself. The small Madalinas who fetch water these days are students in school uniforms and it takes them longer to fill a7-liter container. They are the new generation, the hope of tomorrow, they are her children’s age mates; those who dream of being secretaries, teachers or nurses. They have never carried akabindi, the clay pot on their heads. Madalina imagines that it would damage their precious brains.

A Rwandan woman fetching water from a public community tap. Photo by Numuhire C 


Now civilization has brought new domestic items, only the extremely poor women carry the traditional akabindi as they can’t afford a yellow 20-liter jerrican. These jerricans are oil containers that women clean using ibivuzo, remains of fermented sorghum beer.

Currently, most water in Rwanda comes from its rains. The hydrology is characterized by a dense network of lakes, rivers and wetlands. Rwanda is nicknamed both the heart of Africa and the land of a thousand hills. However, the large number of hills and mountains don’t facilitate access to water especially for communities living in remote rural areas such as Madalina’s.

The current water company, Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC), has built a community tap that provides water to households from three hills in Madalina’s village. The water has a chlorine taste and it delays to come during the dry months of July and August. However, according to WASAC, 40% of the constructed water facilities are not functioning due to the lack of proper operation and maintenance.

The tap that the water company has built is downhill in the marshland. When Madalina wants to wash her family’s clothes, she brings them to the tap, cleans them from there and hangs them on the nearby napier grass till they dry. When her little children want to bath, they go downhill as do their livestock when they want to quench their thirst. The water that she fetches, is used for cooking, washing dishes, adults’ irregular baths and washing the faces of the children every morning before they go to school or church.

Madalina lives on a small farm in the rural district of Gastibo. She is not the only Rwandan who struggles with regular and reliable access to water because miles away in the capital of Kigali, during the dry season, long queues always form at pubic water tanks.

In August, it’s a common scene in Kigali to see many people, especially house maids and boys, carrying yellow jerry cans full of water.

While 75.2% of the Rwandan population accesses clean water, only 69% live in the countryside against 79% located in urban areas. THis is quite commendable because in 2004, the nationwide distribution of drinkable water was estimated at 54% with only 44% in the rural regions. This is the result of the Rwandan government’s effort to provide basic services to citizens.

This progress gives hope to Madalina that her grandchildren will have less trouble accessing clean water.

Today, Madalina waits for the sunset before taking her yellow jerrican and going to fetch water; she hears her soul quietly sigh:

With my Head which carried loads of baskets and heaps

 With my Hair torn off from my head as an upshot of heavy loads

With my Eyes worn out by sandy winds that are blown away my forty seven years

 With my Ears that heard everything and kept all

With my Mouth that ate the fruits of my labor and drunk the tears of heaviness

With my Jaws tightened to hold my tears from flowing on my wrinkled cheeks

With my Teeth that chew sorghum stalk instead of a sugar cane

With my Neck chronically cramped by the ache of the heaviness of a 20 liter jerrican

With my Shoulders arched by my age

With my Belly that carried seven pregnancies

With my Back broken by carrying more than seven children, mine and others’

With my Heart tired by insouciance of my husband and the insatiable desires of my progeny

With my Lungs which breathed in and breathed out often-times

With my Stomach that starved itself to feed my kids and ulcerated by a steady hunger

With my Arms that fed and fetched water for my children

With my Fingers that joined in a prayer to get a drop from the tab

With my Hips which endured the pregnancy and the weight of a water jerrican

With my Legs which trembled resisting to the heavy weight of jerrican under gust of rain

With my Feet that ascended and descended a hill searching for water

With my Toes that hooked in the rocky pathways avoiding to glide

With my Skin flayed by unpitying sun rays

With my Husband who has never borne a baby nor a jerrican

With my Children who so often forget to say “thank you mother!”

With my Mother who convinced me this is my destiny

With all of this, I have cried, cried, cried and …… I have smiled

Despite this, I have smiled as it is my role as a mother and I played it well

Despite all of this, I will wake up tomorrow at dawn, take my jerrican, go and fetch water

It’s a holy walk to take


It’s a walk for searching clean water. 

Sunday, 16 August 2015 00:00

The Voice of Water

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The darkness was instantly replaced by a bright soft light and deafening drilling sound. I covered my ears and eyes in irritation. Soon, the raucous sound was replaced by a brief silence that was then followed by loud cheering. I could clearly hear every word, ‘Water! We have reached the water! Our problems are over!’

Despite the fact that I was irritated at the invasion of my privacy, I couldn’t help but smile. It was always a great thing when my arrival left joy in its wake.

But in this case, I hadn’t really arrived – I had been sought for three weeks by a team of seven men in blue linen overalls and green plastic gloves. They were from a private water company that had been hired by Nairobi Water Company to dig a mega borehole in Tena Estate, next to three-decade old towering concrete water tower. Now that I had been found, I would supplement water supply in the Eastern part of Nairobi, which had been facing severe water shortage.

I soon found myself in a silver-colored metal pipe that ran all the way from my original home in the cool depths to another much bigger pipe that criss-crossed the underworld of Eastlands, supplying water to houses. My presence in this pipe was a direct result of a new short-term policy to tap into ground water as a short term measure of alleviating the chronic water shortage in the city.

Before those big metallic pipes sucked me out of the depths, I had been under the Water Resources Management Department of Kenya’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation. But as soon as I entered my new piped home, my departmental guardian became the Department of Water Services.

Recently in Mombasa, a big, rusty and nasty vehicle hit the pipe that I was travelling in and I found myself on a big, hot tarmac road. For hours, I flowed into the road and into the adjacent marshy land until dozens of people gathered and began scooping me into their buckets and jerrycans. Ironically, when I arrived in their homes at Kisauni, I realized that they had not seen me for almost two weeks! Yet there I was, wasting away on the road.

This reminds me of a time when my journey in the big metallic pipes rarely ended mid-way. I almost always made it into people’s taps. But the sad thing about those days is that sometimes, I would arrive into people’s taps breathless after a long journey only to end up dripping aimlessly into sinks.

But that’s a story for another day, let me take you back into the cool depths for a moment.

The Department of Water Resources is responsible for water bodies as they exist naturally. This means that groundwater – which is where I belong – is under this department, together with surface water – springs, rivers and lakes. This department therefore tries to ensure that I am not sucked out of the cool depths in an unsustainable manner; that I am not pumped out of rivers by upstream communities in a manner that harms the downstream communities and that people can access me in legal, sustainable means. As such, if you want to build a dam or tap into me in any other way, you have to pass through this department.

So why do I sometimes end up on the hot tarmac when I should be travelling first class in those huge pipes? Why do people keep poking those loud, searing drills into my home in the cool depths when all I want is to take it easy and replenish?

To find the answers to these questions, let us first review what the Water Ministry does.

Before 2002, when the Water Ministry was reformed, it used to do pretty much everything related to water. It would protect water resources, deal with people who wanted to exploit these resources, handle licensing for water related ventures like dam construction, supply water for domestic usage, collect water bills plus all such related water management and distribution services. But all these changed with the 2002 and 2005 water sector reforms.

The Ministry now deals with policy formulation and coordination; resource mobilization and licensing. Water Service Boards were created to handle the actual implementation. I still remember that cold day in 2005 when the Ministry of Water and Irrigation transferred the management and operation of water services to the Water Services Boards.

These Boards have the sole power to obtain the licenses for the provision of water services for their respective jurisdictions. But we’ll talk more about them on another day. For now, let us go back to those questions:

Why do I sometimes end up on the hot tarmac when I should be travelling first class in those huge pipes? Why do people keep poking those loud, searing drills into my home in the cool depths when all I want is to take it easy and replenish? And to add another question, why am I polluted over and over again?


I cry whenever I encounter all these obstacles in the course of my flow. I can only hope that the Minsitry of Water and Irrigation will wipe away my tears and demolish these obstacles so that I can keep flowing.

Sunday, 16 August 2015 00:00

Unable to Quench My Thirst

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The flow that gives me my deepest joy is not in the belly of the earth, though I cherish the Aquifer Express. The flow is not on the surface of Mother Earth though I treasure the River Express. Neither is it in the cloudy skies though I relish the Rain Express.

My deepest joy comes from flowing down the throat of human beings and quenching their thirst. What joy it is when a child reaches out a tiny hand for a glass full of me and drinks me happily. Joy wells up in me whenever a mother returns home from the farm or office and reaches out for me before doing anything else. As she drinks me, I flow down her throat with the glee of her five year old daughter. What joy! What a flow! Nothing beats the feeling of flowing into a body that needs me and simply can’t live without me.

But more and more, I am deprived of this deep joy because millions of Kenyans still don’t have regular access to clean drinking water. Their throats remain dry as I am beyond their horizons and thus can’t flow down their throats.

I am however heartened that Kenya’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation has been taking steps to alleviate this tragic reality.

This Ministry is developing water resources, policy, and overall water sector monitoring functions. It has also devolved water service provisions to local water operators. In addition the Water Regulatory Services Board (WSRB) was created to regulate water and sewerage services, including licensing, quality assurance, and issuance of guidelines for rates, fees, and handling service complaints.

Seven Water Services Boards (WSBs) are responsible for the efficient and economical provision of water and sewerage services within their area of jurisdiction. The seven WSBs cover the whole country and are responsible for asset development and overall responsibility for service.

It seems to me that good water policies and execution mechanisms of the same are in place. But I need to remind you of what Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘a policy is a temporary creed liable to be changed, but while it holds good it has got to be pursued with apostolic zeal.’ Apostolic zeal. This is the missing ingredient that policy makers and people need. Apostolic zeal in formulating, enacting and implementing all water policies.

It strikes me as odd that despite the existing good water policies, I am still a rare commodity in Kenya. Indeed, I am so rare that Kenya is officially considered as a water scarce country. Some say that this is because 80 percent of Kenya is made up of arid and semi-arid lands where I am supposedly as rare as the blue moon. But what saddens me about these places is that on the rare occasion that I rain down in torrents, people end up running away from me! They are scared stiff of me because apparently, I cease being the cool Madam Water and become a flash flood that is out to wreak havoc.

Would you believe this heartbreaking irony?! Those precious people in arid places wait for me for months and when I finally come down resplendent with a cool, mighty flow, they turn on their heels and flee! How do they expect me to quench their thirst, wash their bodies, nourish their children, flourish their crops, if they allow me to slip right through their fingers! And are there any policies in place to address this irony?

‘Splash!’ I cursed as I watched young Chebet run for nearly seven kilometers in search of me. If only she knew that I was just a few feet beneath her feet! I was in an aquifer, flowing nearly as fast as she was running. Plus I was fresh and ready to drink. But she couldn’t access me. Chebet was sixteen and in her final year of primary school. Her brown eyes had a depth that lent her oval face wisdom beyond her years. She was a brilliant young African woman who should have been running in an Olympics marathon and not in search of basic drinking water.

In the 2009 MDG Report, Ban Ki-Moon the UN Secretary General stated that, ‘we are well on our way to meeting the target for safe drinking water.’ Although gains to access me have been made and acknowledged at such high levels, every time I see Chebet racing for water, I can’t help but wonder if Kenya and other African countries are losing the race to access safe drinking water.

Does Chebet have to run for six kilometers to quench her natural thirst for water? Most of the times, she arrives at the seasonal river only to find that I am not there. Even when she does find me, I am not safe to drink. This has to change. Chebet must be able to access me in my pure, fresh self. Not tomorrow but today.

I would like to leave you with these words of Martin Luther King Jnr, ‘Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. We are faced now with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late…’


Don’t be too late. Young Chebet is counting on you.

Sunday, 16 August 2015 00:00

Maji's Local Team

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I come from a rich heritage. Together with Mau Complex, the Marmanet River Basin, in which I reside, contributes in excess of Kshs 20 billion annually by nourishing the tea, tourism and energy sectors that thrive in this region.

In my capacity as water, I contribute to the wellbeing of this region by travelling regularly from the cool depths of Marmanet River Basin into several urban areas that include: Bomet, Egerton University, Elburgon, Eldama Ravine, Kericho, Molo, Nakuru, Narok, and Njoro. I also support rural livelihoods, in particular in the Lake Victoria basin outside the tea growing areas.

My organized association with the people of Marmanet began one sunny afternoon in 2008. On this day, the Marmanet River Basin (MARIBA) Water Resources Users Association was born. Because this name is a bit of a mouthful, I have nicknamed the association as, ‘my local maji (water) team.’ The Ministry of Water and Irrigation encourages the creation of such local water teams so that local communities can better organize themselves in water-related activities.

Within several weeks of formation, this local maji team had already recruited numerous corporate members and 70 individual members. It felt nice to know that there were people in Marmanet who were deeply concerned about my survival and flourish. I was so touched that I set out on a mission to find out who these people were and why they cared so much.

My mission began at a cool quiet place. After spending the night in the cool depths, I arose early, just before sunrise and flowed to a quiet stream in one of the villages. No sooner had I arrived than I heard the familiar footsteps of the middle-aged Mama Kamau. She had a firm walk, as if every step was her last and she wanted to leave this earth with a bang.

She knelt on her knees and dipped her calloused hands into me. I could see a smile creep into her chocolate face as she lifted me and splashed me all over her face. For five minutes, she smiled widely as she kept dipping her hands into me and splashing me all over her face. She then began scooping me with a calabash and pouring me into a large 20-litre bucket.

I think I know why she loves me, I thought as she walked briskly up the gentle incline that led back to her village. She was one of the 70 people who had joined the local maji team. As she poured me into a big black pot in her kitchen, I realised that she truly loved me. I wasn’t just some colorless liquid that quenched her thirst, washed her body and cooked her food. Rather, I was a close companion that gave her strength to face a new day and make that day the best possible day for her family.

The next stop of my mission was in a river that flowed through a flower farm.

‘Splash!’ I screamed on top of my voice. This was my curse word and I only used it in moments of high agitation. Such a moment was at hand. It was lunch break and it seemed as if everyone wanted a piece of me as I flowed through the flower farm. They kept dipping their weary feet into me and much as I was happy to refresh them, I also needed to be refreshed.

There were acres and acres of flower greenhouses all around me. I have always wondered why greenhouses are not blue or yellow or any other color. But I digress.

All these greenhouses have pipes that usually suck me from the river or the cool depths, to water the flowers. After benefiting immensely from my watery cuddle, the flowers are then sold for highly competitive prices to a grateful European market. These successful flower sales transactions leave wealth in their trail. But what do they leave in my watery trail? After the fragrance of Naivasha’s flowers spreads across the world, fattening wallets and warming hearts, what am I left with?


My hope and expectation is that my local maji team, otherwise known MARIBA Water Resources Users Association, together with the Ministry of Water and Irrigation (the maji team’s coach), will answers these questions honestly and undertake action that will leave me refreshed and replenished. 

Sunday, 16 August 2015 00:00

A Flow of Solidarity

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My name is Krona and I am the currency of Sweden. I have been around since 1873 and I am still going strong. Every month, I am collected from Swedish citizens through tax. Every year, I am sent to different parts of the world to undertake vital developmental and humanitarian tasks. In 2005, the Swedish government made a grant to Kenya and I set off to this tropical East African country.

This grant was based on the Swedish Cooperation Strategy with Kenya and the Kenya Joint Assistance Strategy (KJAS), which was agreed upon by the Kenyan government and its main development partners. The grant was part of Swedish development cooperation whose overall goal is to create conditions that enable the poor to improve their lives.  

Why did I travel for thousands of miles, across oceans, just to be here in this East African country? The answer to this question can be found in the words of Abraham Lincoln two centuries ago, ‘I can make more generals, but horses cost money.’

Ladies and gentlemen, I am here because without me, the means of executing a strategy often remain beyond reach. In essence, I help to actualize good intentions. I am here so that the horses can be bought to ferry generals towards victory. 

My first stop after arriving in Kenya was at the Ministry of Water and Irrigation. What a place it was! The Ministry was located in a sturdy building that stood silently behind Nairobi’s Uhuru Park. I was there for one of the many meetings that were held between representatives of the Embassy of Sweden, Ministry officials and other water sector stakeholders.

I was the main agenda during most of the meetings since I had to be put into good use now that I had arrived. One of my primary destinations was the Kenya Water Supply and Sanitation Programme (KWSP). For more than five years from 2005 – 2010, I strolled the watery corridors of the water sector institutions, from Nairobi through to national and local levels, in the company of Kenyan Shillings and Danish Kroner trying to ensure the enhancement of water quality and quantity.

As a rule, I never execute action – I only facilitate it. This means that those who execute the action must be men and women of integrity who will diligently execute the agreed upon action in order to realize desirable outputs in a timely fashion. In other words, they’ve got to make it happen just as it was intended!  

My work at KWSP was to facilitate action that would result in reliable provision of water services, sustainable management of water resources and steadfast implementation of water sector reforms from 2005 to end of 2010.

In 2002, three years prior to my arrival, Kenya had enacted the Water Act 2002. It was a landmark enactment that provided a vibrant and productive legislative framework for Kenya’s Water Sector. Although a lot had been done to implement this landmark Act, a lot more still needed to be done.

As Aristotle once said, ‘the law is reason, free from passion.’ Although a good water law was now in place, it couldn’t implement itself. Passion had to team up with reason if sustainable action was to be attained. All water Stakeholders needed to take informed and united action that would operationalise the Water Act. Towards this end, I facilitated the effective establishment of eight Water Sector Boards that are now responsible for the efficient and economical provision of water and sewerage services within their area of jurisdiction.

Even after these Boards had been set up, I continued asking myself what more could be done to ensure that water consumers at the local level are not short-changed in any way. In order to ensure accountable usage of financial resources, I subsequently assisted in the establishment of the Water Services Trust Fund (WSTF).

WSTF is a State Corporation that was established under the Water Act, 2002. Its mandate is to ‘assist in financing the provision of water services to areas of Kenya which are without adequate water services.’ In this regard, it acts as a basket fund for mobilizing resources and providing financial assistance towards capital investment costs of providing Water Service and Sanitation (WSS).

‘Great!’ I exclaimed after my encounter with WSTF. I already had a plan up my sleeve so I quickly facilitated an alliance between the Water Service Boards and WSTF. This alliance birthed the ‘Community Project Cycle (CPC),’ a new investment framework for rural water and sanitation services.

CPC was a resource allocation procedure that prioritized fifty poorest areas in each Water Service Board jurisdiction. Through CPC, poor communities all across Kenya were targeted for funding that would help them meet their water needs. Such funding was demand-driven and not politically instigated. There was no greater joy for me than to see people who needed my help receiving it.

Although this funding has provided much needed help to many Kenyans, many more communities in the country still need help. The Kenya Water Supply and Sanitation Programme did not have the finances to fund all the target locations and there continues to be a serious funding deficit in the WSTF. It is therefore vital for the Kenyan government to step in and fund the target communities that are yet to receive help.


Indeed, the flow of solidarity from my country Sweden and other partners can only result in a constant flow of water if the Kenya government remains vigilant and fully responsive to the water needs of Kenyans.