World Vision's Rachael Boyer is in Kenya this week, visiting our water and sanitation projects in a part of Africa long affected by drought and lack of access to clean, safe water for families and communities. Today, she shares her experiences from her first day in the field. Look for more of Rachael's trip notes on the blog later this week.
* * *
I flew with a group of World Vision U.S. staff members and donors from Uganda into Kenya via Eldoret. Then, we traveled to Marich Pass, located in Kenya's Rift Valley, to see a particularly successful clean water project.
Previously, poor access to clean water in the area contributed to early marriages and school dropouts among the female students. Women also spent a high percentage of their time fetching water, leaving little time for other tasks.
The drive was an hour and a half, and the last quarter was up curvy dirt roads, gaining quite a bit of elevation (I didn't realize quite how much!) The landscape was quite lush and green. World Vision staffers tell us that it's because the rain has finally come after a long drought. It was sunny, and we saw blue sky and fluffy clouds when we got off the plane. But by the time we got to our destination, it had gotten colder, and the sky threatened rain.
Thankfully, I had looked ahead at the weather forecast while I was packing and brought a raincoat, rain boots, and an umbrella.
Overkill for a girl who has lived in the Pacific Northwest for 16 years, you might say? Nope. Not at all! Just as we reached the point where the drivers told us that we would have to get out of the Land Cruisers to walk (code for "hike"), the rain and thunder rolled in.
We had been greeted by a merry entourage of staff from World Vision Kenya and across the region who were looking forward to showing us this gravity-engineered water system: the source of the Muruny River, the dam, and the filtering and piping system that serves 68,000 people. This meant hiking up to the top of a small mountain. No problem. I can hike. I'm not afraid of exercise...
Hiking up Marich Pass in Kenya's Rift Valley.
I was winded right away. And I biffed it in the mud about halfway up. (I should mention that the elevation was something close to 8,000 feet, and I was carrying a messenger bag full of camera equipment. I should also mention that the African red clay soil, though beautiful, gets slicker than snot when it rains. OK, enough asides.)
Along the way, I kept stopping to shoot video of the river, the pipeline, and the beautiful scenery, which is really tricky in the rain while you're holding a tripod and an umbrella -- while walking uphill in mud! (I will edit and post the video later; don't worry.)
Getting to the top, we saw a small dam, with a simple, easy-to-maintain concrete filtering system for the water before gravity pulls it down the hill through the pipes, and back up a hill on the other side of the valley.
This was no small feat of engineering, and it took two attempts to get it right -- but the system now brings clean water to 68,000 people. It is mostly run and maintained by the community now, and they have plans to expand the project to bring water to 100,000 people over the next several years.
On the way back, we had just enough time to stop by the World Vision water distribution center down the mountain, where community members can fill their water containers. They also have a water storage tank, latrines, and sinks for hand-washing. Without the latrines to keep human waste from contaminating the water, and without training on hygiene practices like hand-washing, all the hard work the community did in digging the trenches and helping to install the pipes would be lost.
This is why water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) go hand in hand in development projects. More on this topic soon!
Read related post "Muruny Miracle," a World Vision Magazine story about our project to bring clean, safe, accessible water to this area of Kenya.
Do you have questions for Rachael about our water, sanitation, and hygiene initiatives in Kenya? Leave them as comments, and we'll do our best to get them answered this week!