Kenya: Cultural Inn operates on harvested rainwater (by Pius Sawa, for Farm Radio Weekly in Kenya)

    | May 28, 2012

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    Kwela Kwela Cultural Inn is a popular spot for traditional African food, cultural performances and accommodation. The western Kenya centre operates all year long on rainwater harvested from its rooftops.

    When Gaitano Likhavila retired as a civil servant in 2007, he started a small shop. Over time, he added another room and turned the shop into a drinking establishment. Next, he opened a successful restaurant, and later added rooms for accommodation. Mr. Gaitano’s business is now known as the Kwela Kwela Cultural Inn. He supplies his restaurant with a poultry farm and vegetable garden. There is also a big area for live performances.

    But Mr. Gaitano had a serious problem. He needed a steady water supply for his growing business. At one time, he hired women to carry water on their heads from a faraway river. He remembers, “I saw that I was spending a lot of money on water to run the kitchen, the guest rooms, drinking and other domestic use.”

    So he decided to harvest his own water. He dug a hole ten feet deep by ten feet wide and built a water tank which holds more than 3000 litres of water. The tank cost 60,000 Kenya shillings, or around $700 US. He explains, “I used the soil dug out of the hole to bake bricks [from] which [I] later constructed the tank. I only spent money on buying steel bars, wire mesh, cement and labour to construct the tank.”

    Mr. Gaitano designed the compound so that its rooftops direct water into the tank. A dining hall sits on top of the tank. People in the dining area have no idea that they are sitting on top of an underground water tank.

    During the rainy season, the tank fills. An outlet leads to the vegetable garden. Another connection feeds into Mr. Gaitano’s car washing bay.

    As well as the underground tank, there are eight overhead tanks on the rooftops. Water is pumped into these tanks from the underground tank. When the rains stop, the overhead water is used to run the centre. Mr. Gaitano says, “During serious droughts, I only lack water for one or two weeks before the rains come back. So I am able to store water that serves the whole year.”

    Harvesting his own water is much cheaper than buying piped water from the public supply. Mr. Gaitano explains, “The cost of piped water is expensive, yet the supply is on and off. I am saving more than 8000 Kenya shillings every month … I need a lot of water for daily use in the kitchen, in the guest rooms, for the toilets, for the garden and animals.”

    Officials from the town council tested the safety of the water for drinking. Mr. Gaitano explains, “They did the tests and actually confirmed that the water was safe and even tested better than piped water.”

    Mr. Gaitano believes that, though farmers suffer during prolonged droughts, a lot of the water that falls during heavy rains is wasted. With the benefit of his experience, he advises farmers to adopt water harvesting to fight food insecurity. He also advises hospitals and health centres to get on board and begin affordable rainwater harvesting projects.