Kenya: Drought Fuelling Conflict in Turkana

Residents of Bubisa village in Marsabit County show the devastating effects of drought in this picture taken on April 4.

The drought ravaging the seven sub-counties in Turkana County is fuelling conflicts among residents over access to critical boreholes for water.

This is after the long dry spell from September caused some boreholes to be abandoned due to overuse or low water levels.

Some of the villages in conflict are Kalemng'orok in Katilu Ward and Naoyaregae in Kaputir Ward.

County Water Services Chief Officer Moses Natome said Naoyaregae residents had earlier refused to allow water from their borehole to be distributed to the neighbouring Kalemng'orok village, fearing they would run out of water.

"The conflict had escalated to a point where the aggrieved locals even vandalised some part of the reticulation project and repairs by the World Vision," Mr Natome said.

At a meeting that brought together leaders from the two villages and the organisation, residents of both villages were assured that the critical borehole was confirmed to be of high yield.

"The initial intention of the project was to serve the two villages in equal measure since the high yielding borehole had sufficient water for the purpose," said the county official.

The county government is on high alert following assessment reports from National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) indicating that many villages are water-stressed.

Dried up

In Kibish Sub County, Mr Gideon Lokieny, a resident, said the high concentration of livestock at Kibish centre near the border of Kenya and Ethiopia, had led to the borehole frequently collapsing.

"With our large number of livestock, we are always left with no option but to trek for 60 kilometres to Lokamarinyang village, losing many livestock along the way and others at the borehole, because we must seek permission and wait for our turn or else we cause conflict." said Mr Lokieny.

Water points where villages have structures to manage and control use by both people and livestock are currently the ones still operational.

Mr Naamz Kaleng, from Lorumor village said most boreholes in kraals that include Morutorong, Kadu, Lokwanamor, Ngang'ololin and Ng'isowa have dried up or are muddy, and none can save the other. He hoped the county government would repair the water sources.

Water scarcity

Deputy Governor Peter Lotethiro said more than 600,000 residents in the county currently do not have a reliable supply of water.

Mr Lotethiro said the county is not new to water scarcity, attributing the situation to recurrent drought.

Some villages that had reliable supply of water after the devolved unit intervened by sinking boreholes or piping water currently don't have water.

"Lack of water is caused by the lowering water table and regrettably, by water cartels who are disconnecting pipes or destroying boreholes funded by the county government and development partners for their selfish interests," said the deputy governor.

The county government is trucking water to worst-hit villages as well as repairing broken water points.

Mr Lotethiro challenged locals to form village water users' committees, which will ensure the targeted beneficiaries pay at least Sh100 to sustainably manage the boreholes by ensuring repairs and maintenance.

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