The sweltering afternoon heat took its toll on the 12 year Kevin Ooko as he rode the battered family bicycle along the Kisumu Kisian road. With five-20 liter jerry cans precariously loaded on the bicycle carrier, the teenager struggle to keep his balance.
He quickly branched off the main road and headed to a newly constructed water kiosk. Mopping sweat from his brow, Ooko quickly offloaded the containers and took his place in the queue which moves every minute as villagers come for water from the only nearby source of water.
From the water kiosk at Kanyijowi in Osiri, the Lake Victoria waters spread as far as the eye can see. But the distance is deceptive because it can take you almost 40 minutes to reach the nearest beach. “Before this water kiosk was built, we used to walk for almost ten kilometers daily to reach the lake. It was like a punishment sending your child to the lake,” says Ann Okumu, a local resident.
His face coils into a grin as she remembered the dangers they courted as they fetched water from the lake. “Two years ago, crocodiles killed two villagers – a 15 years old girl and a middle aged women as they tried to fetch water from the lake,” she said.
She said residents have been going to the lake but amidst a lot of fear because of the reptiles.
It therefore came as a big relief when an international NGO –Kenya Water for Health Organization (KWAHO) teamed with leading water technology company-Davis & Shirtliff to drill and equip water points at Osiri Sub-Location in Kisumu West Sub-county.
In Kanyijowi village for instance, where there is a water pump powered by the solar and a retention tank that serves several water kiosks dotting the village, the villagers were in full praise of the initiative by the NGO which was executed by Davis & Shirtliff.
Kanyijowi villagers’ water problem could best be described as a case of scarcity among others given the presence of Lake Victoria, there was the problem of crocodile attacks which killed and caused unwarranted injuries.
According to Joshua Okello, the Chairperson of Sabembe water project, the distance to and from the lake, which is about five kilometers was just too long and the marauding crocodiles at the lake which lay in waiting just made life difficult further.
“This is a great relief for our people especially the women. As you can see this place is rocky and you cannot even think of drilling a borehole if you don’t have the right technology. So when the lake became too unfriendly, trouble set in,” says Okello.
The only other alternative for most of the residents were few and sparsely spread springs most of which have dried over the over the years.
“There was pressure on the springs, and we would wake up as early as three in the morning to go queue at the spring. The flow of water was slow, and it took a lot of time to fill our containers,” says Josephine Oruko, a resident and a beneficiary of the water project.
The project has made the residents access clean water at very cheap rates with the 20litre container going for only Sh2.5, meaning Sh5 for the two containers.
According to Engineer Erick Omondi of Davis & Shirtliff Kisumu office, each project comprising of solar panels, water pump and raised water tank costing KSh3.06 million. “That was besides laying the water pipes and building the water kiosks. Now there are no running costs as the water pumps are solar powered,” said Eng Omondi.
The water is automatic, explains Omondi, as it detects a reduction in the volume of water in the tank and it starts pumping automatically.
“The good thing about the technology which has gone into this is that there is reduction of manpower; the pump detects and starts pumping whenever there is a drop of water to some levels,” explains Omondi.
There are over 4000 beneficiaries of the noble projects in the locality.
Fifty year old village blacksmith, Sospeter Ouma, says the water projects have also saved their wives and daughters the agony of waking up in the wee hours of the morning to fetch water from the lake and other far off bore holes.
“Imagine your wife leaving the house at 3 am in search of water. It is very risky. This is why we are a happy lot when the project was started here,” says Ouma.
Founded in 1946, Davis & Shirtliff’s business activities are focused on six principal product sectors – Water Pumps, Boreholes, Swimming Pools, Water Treatment, Generators and Solar Equipment.
The company has done similar projects in Busia as well as across the region.
Davis & Shirtliff regionally distributes high quality equipment sourced from a number of industry leading companies from around the world as well as carrying out manufacture and assembly of various water related products.
Davis & Shirtliff supplied and installed solar pumps complete with towers in Holo, Power Kuche and Kajulu communities.
The project was initiated by community members who were constantly attacked by crocodiles as they fetched water from the lake which is their main source of water. The project is benefiting approximately 4000 members of the community.