25 February 2014

Kenya: Vihiga Youth Make Money From Water Harvesting Project

A youth group in Emuhaya village in Vihiga county is making money from rainwater harvesting, a clear indication of how local solutions can solve one of the most pressing issues in Kenya.

The youth investment and welfare group has invested in water tanks that store rainwater which is then distributed to households in the area using pipes at a small fee.

"We have piped water to 25 homesteads and about 125 people are benefitting from it," said Wycliffe Odongo, the leader of the Emuhuya Youth Village Bunge group.

Villagers who used to walk up to five kilometres to fetch water from the river are now able to get water right from their doorsteps. The water is treated meaning that they are not exposed to waterborne diseases prevalent in the area.

Access to clean water in Kenya is a major challenge. According to government statistics of 2012, access to safe water supplies throughout Kenya is 59 per cent.

"Our initial ideas included starting poultry and horticulture activities. But this area has a challenge of water and to do our projects, we needed adequate water and this is how we decided to start with the water project," Odongo said.

The water is distributed to the households using gravity -- thanks to the hilly terrain in the area, there is no need to power the distribution system.

"Those connected to the water pay Sh50 per month. We have been working closely with the Ministry of Water. The connection fee is cheaper because we do not pay taxes and the cost was arrived at in liaison with the ministry," he said.

The group was started in 2011 and has 26 members. The group is part of the initiative known as Yes Youth Can, sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development. The initiative works to empower youth economically and politically especially in areas that were most affected during the 2007-08 post election violence.

Every month, the group collects Sh12,500, of which Sh5,000 is invested in other projects that the group has started using the revenue from water.

Odongo added that the benefits are not only financial as waterborne diseases have reduced in the area. Villagers are now able to use some water to undertake micro-irrigation projects -- they grow vegetables for household use saving them money they would have used to buy from the market.

"From the savings, we have started a tree-planting project. We plan to start building greenhouses for our members. The challenge is some members do not pay in time. The tanks sometimes burst and this affects the flow of water and increases the maintenance cost," said Odongo.

But the group is not giving up as it plans to start a water bottling project which they hope will bring in even more income and employment opportunities.

"We are also installing efficient jikos in the community. We have also started our tree nursery project that is currently doing very well," he said.

Ann Ambasa, one of the beneficiaries, says the project has been very helpful because they used to fetch water from the river about four kilometres away.

"This project has however cut all that distance as I now fetch water only a few steps from my house. The water is cleaner than that of the river. I also don't get tired from fetching water. We want the project to be expanded so that it can be used for larger irrigation projects," she said.

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