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  • Writer's picturePaula Hammack

Water & Girls with Wood On their Head

Updated: Jul 19, 2020

Visiting the Maasai community regularly, of course, we noticed all the missing things that make a life much easier, so we started widening the range of our efforts to help. We found that constructing a well – at a cost of about $35,000 was a prohibitive expenditure given the number of wells that were needed. Looking for alternatives, we were made aware of “water catchment systems” and they were much more affordable. For some houses – the typical Maasai houses made of cow dung and mud – they don’t have a sloped roof to put the systems on since most of their roofs are flat – therefore in some cases we just built a roo

f over nothing at all. And on the roof we put a gutter system into which rain water would fall, and then pipes from the gutter took the rain water to a large water tank. After the first one or two we realized that we were wasting a lot of water because when the tank filled up there was nowhere else to save the water. We then would buy two or three water tanks and perhaps the first and biggest was 10 liters, so we would attach it to the next one that would be perhaps 8 liters, and we would attach that one to a 5 liter tank. So when the big tank was full the overflow went into the next size, and so on. The water so caught would generally last from one rain season to the next.

There was a need for more water for the cows and sheep and goats to drink as well, so we offered and subsequently put in 3 reservoirs at the communities of Endoinyo Erinka, Olesere, and Narasha.

The first two worked really well and there was no seepage of the water, but the one at Narasha still has leak problems today. It would cost about $18,000 to put in a liner so that’s off the list for the time being. We did have problems with elephants as they can smell water deep under the surface of the land – so in a couple of cases we had to put in a tower and pump the water (using solar) to a tank at the top of the tower that the elephants couldn’t reach.

After the reservoir at Olesere was put in, we went to visit the community and several miles before we got to the reservoir we saw the vast herds of cows walking, walking, walking to get water at the newly constructed well. The reservoir was a much-deserved addition for these people who had constantly struggled to find water for their cows.

Another thing that one commonly sees when driving around in the rural areas is a never-ending parade of young girls and older ladies hauling stacks of wood on their backs. The Maasai used to be nomadic, so when grass and wood and other necessities ran out where they had built their homes (made of cow dung and mud), they moved to a new area, constructed new homes and life went on. That does not happen today due to modernization of Kenya. In any case, I personally always feel sorry for the heavy weight these young people and older ladies had to carry back to the community.

So, we found a vehicle called a SKYGO – it’s a 3 wheeled vehicle almost like a motorcycle but with a pick-up type bed at the back. These are useful for very many jobs in the communities but before the Foundation purchased one for each community, we extracted a promise from the men that these vehicles would be used by the ladies each time they had to go out and collect more wood. Someone would drive them out, they would cut down the wood and load it up in the bed of the Skygo and it would be driven back to home and the ladies would walk back – but without the heavy bundles of wood for fires. It’s working – well!!


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