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Rainwater Harvesting in Kenya: "I am as proud as a peacock that I will never again need to carry a jerrican of water to school!"

Access to clean, running water is often taken for granted, but in many dry parts of Kenya people have to trek for hours every day to find small quantities of water for drinking, cleaning and agriculture. Much of this water is of low-quality and water-borne diseases are common. Children lose time at school in their efforts to collect water, and women and men are taken far from their homes and their livelihoods to source it.

Children at Murungai Primary School enjoying clean waterSkillshare International worked in partnership with the Greater Horn of Africa Rainwater Partnership (GHARP) / Kenya Rainwater Association (KRA) in semi-arid districts of Kenya to provide rainwater harvesting and management (RHM) systems to rural farmers and primary schools. In January 2008 we started a new 45-month project that worked to improve food security, health, livelihoods and access to water for more than 20,000 community members in Baringo, Laikipia East, Laikipia West, Koibatek/Mogotio, Narok North, Narok South, Nyandarua North and Transmara.

An integrated approach

The project integrated rainwater harvesting (50m3 farm ponds, earth dams/water pans and school roof catchment systems) with improved sanitation (ventilated improved pit latrines), and also added complementary technologies (drip irrigation, bee-keeping, vegetable growing) and rangeland rehabilitation (draught animal technologies and tree planting). This ensured that the project tackled all aspects of the water cycle and encouraged effective utilisation of harvested water for maximum impact, while also encouraging protection of the water catchment and development of sustainable livelihoods.

Susan Karungari with her corn harvest that benefited from a new farm pond and drip irrigation systemMaking a difference

Susan Karungari (above) is a member of Umande Rainwater Harvesting Project and a beneficiary of a GHARP/KRA 50m3 farm pond with hip pump and 50-litre drip irrigation kit.  As a result of the project, she has quickly moved from subsistence farming to achieving a livelihood. Before the pond, Susan had problems with her vegetables and passion fruits dying and she wasted a lot of time trekking to the river with jerricans to collect water.  She can now grow peppers and sukuma wiki (kale) under drip irrigation, and her passion fruits are thriving. With steady access to water, she has been growing huge crops of maize. Susan has also decided to start producing tomatoes for market; she has built her own greenhouse and estimates that it took a year to break even.

At Ndururi Primary School (Nyandarua North district), the rainwater harvesting system has made a real difference to the lives of the pupils who are delighted to have clean water for drinking and handwashing, as well as water for maintaining their tree nursery. David Kinyua, a pupil, says: "My jerrican life has come to an end! I am as proud as a peacock that I will never again need to carry a jerrican of water to school."

Read more about Skillshare International development worker Katie Allan's placement at GHARP and fundraising success.

What you can do

To support Skillshare International's sustainable livelihoods programme, please click on the Give button at the top of this page to make a secure online donation. Your support really will make a difference.  

Learn more about the work of GHARP/KRA at www.gharainwater.org, follow @GHARP_rainwater on Twitter or become a fan on FacebookThis project is part-funded by the EU


The ‘Integrated rainwater harvesting and management systems and complementary technologies for poverty reduction and sustainable livelihoods on semi-arid districts of Kenya’ project is part-funded by the European Union.