Twenty-five-year-old Christine Lenganya lifts and balances a 20-litre jerry can of water on her head, her year-old baby strapped to her back.
The mother of four then leaves the borehole and follows a rocky footpath that weaves uphill through a dense stand of acacia trees to her home. This is the second of two trips she makes every day to the nearby communal well.
Before West Pokot County drilled the well, Mrs. Lenganya had to trek morning and evening to a dam seven kilometres away.
She recalls, “Life was so hard. I arrived tired, and the little water I brought was not even enough for use in the family.”
Her husband walked the same distance every day to take his seven cattle to the dam to drink.
When the area’s rivers and dams dried up, Mrs. Lenganya’s family—and many Pokot families in Kenya’s West Pokot County—were forced to search for water in neighbouring counties. This often led to conflict with the Turkana, Tugen, and Samburu people over scarce pasture and water in the north Rift Valley.
To ease tensions, the West Pokot County government in Chepkram drilled a new well. The borehole features drinking troughs for livestock and a solar-powered pump, and is one of more than 30 drilled in the past two years.
The county has also fixed more than 100 disused boreholes. The most productive wells have been fitted with solar-powered pumps that make it quicker and easier to access the water.
Alfred Tulel is West Pokot Country’s chief water officer. He says the project has focused “on places where there were no boreholes and (that) had water shortages.” Mr. Tulel believes that more reliable water supplies will bring greater peace to the county’s pastoralist inhabitants.
The wells have brought other changes too. Pokot herders who habitually moved in search of water and grass have begun staying in more permanent settlements.
Samwel Kosgey is the director for water in West Pokot County. He says tensions are easing near the Uganda border, and this has enabled the construction of more homes. The county planted 100 hectares of drought-resistant grass to serve as pasture for the residents’ livestock. Mr. Kosgey says the grass is maturing and the county will soon hand it over to the community to harvest for fodder.
The new boreholes have also increased school attendance. Families who once followed water regardless of the school calendar now stay put.
The attendance at Chepkram Primary School is now 228. Matilda Simiyu is a teacher at the school. She says this is a significant jump from two years ago when the village well was first drilled.
Mrs. Lenganya says that, since the well was installed, her seven-year-old son has not missed a day of school to help her fetch water, or help his father drive cattle to drink.
To read the full article on which this story is based, Solar-powered wells ease conflict over water in Kenya’s Rift Valley, go to: http://news.trust.org/item/20160211101256-7228s/?source=fiOtherNews2 
Photo: One of the boreholes servicing the Pokot in the vast West Pokot District . Credit: Solomon Mburu