1. Kenya: Rainwater harvesting improves rural livelihoods (Various Sources)

| March 17, 2008

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Dr. Benjamin Ikombo has been a farmer in the Machakos District of Kenya for many years. He says that, generally, the local land is good for farming, but farmers face many problems, such as frequent droughts.In recent years, water shortages have become more frequent due to population growth and erratic rainfall.

For centuries, local people have been using various methods to collect rainwater for drinking, livestock, and domestic use. The increasing scarcity of water has shown farmers the vital importance of harvesting rainwater, a practice that greatly reduces time spent fetching water from other sources.

Kenyan farmer Peter Kyosaku knows the benefits of water harvesting. He now uses two tanks to collect water, one of which is underground. The other is a plastic-lined tank that holds 70,000 litres of water.

Mr. Kyosaku says that, previously, farming was hard because his source of water – a local lake – did not provide enough water, and he could only grow maize and beans. He says he didn’t get much money from them, and wanted to grow higher-value crops.

But now, life is becoming better for him. By using tanks to store water both above and below the ground, Mr. Kyosaku can grow fruit trees. This has tripled his income from 10,000 Kenyan shillings to 30,000 Kenyan shillings a year.

Other successful rainwater harvesting projects have been implemented with the Masai people of Kajiado District in Kenya, who are livestock farmers.

The Masai women in Kajiado are typically responsible for household water security. In 2002, the United Nations Environment Programme, or UNEP, led a pilot project called “Empowering Women in Rainwater Harvesting” in Kajiado District, helping the women construct dams and concrete storage tanks.

Ann Kiria heads a young women’s group in the community. Ms. Kiria says that the program has really challenged the women to take charge of the water infrastructure that improves their lives. She says women are actively involved in managing the water tanks that they helped build.

Achim Steiner is Executive Director of UNEP. He says that rainwater harvesting can also assist in meeting the Millennium Development Goals by promoting gender equality.

For example, the Masai women who now store water gained four hours in their day because of reduced demands on their time to find and fetch water.

Steiner stresses that women who have water supplies at their doorstep have more time to spend on education, childcare, cultivation, and alternative livelihoods.