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Kwale community turns to farming, saving forests

Vigurungani community in Kwale County at the newly refurbished Nyalani Dam/FRANCIS MBATHA

Vigurungani community in Kwale County at the newly refurbished Nyalani Dam/FRANCIS MBATHA

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 15 – Water is a basic necessity which remains a major challenge mostly in rural areas but residents of Vigurungani community in Kwale County have a reason to smile.

In most parts of the community, finding portable water is a six-hour journey and even when they do find it, the water is often not safe – either collected from ponds or lakes – teeming with infectious bacteria, contaminated with animal waste or other harmful substances.

It was this dilemma of supplying drinking water in a way that’s both practical and convenient which would serve as the impetus for a new improved and rehabilitation of the Nyalani Dam.

This project set up by the M-PESA Foundation in partnership with the Kenya Red Cross Society will see the people of Vigurungani not only reduce the chances of contracting water borne disease but also increase the economic growth in the area.

Previously, the community depended on firewood and charcoal for their livelihood but continued to face harassment from the local authorities.

Now instead of destroying the surrounding forests, through this initiative, they can adopt to agriculture which will not only improve their income but also reduce deforestation.

Area resident, Mpa Zonewa, a widow and a mother of six; who is also one of the 10,000 people benefiting from the long-term water project for the community recounts of the hard times she faced prior.

“I have lived in this area for 15 years now. My husband passed on four years ago and left me to be the bread winner of our six children.”

“I’m a farmer but due to change of weather I opted to collect firewood and sell in the local market, though it is now proving to be difficult because of the police.”

“Through the irrigation at the dam, it will enable me to continue farming and fetch water and store in my wheel for easy access.”

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Other beneficiaries believe that though this project, Vigurungani one of the driest and most impoverished counties in the country will grow economically and poverty in the area shall reduce.

“The main problem in this area is lack of water and rain fall, and we as the Duruma our main source of income is farming and with the climate change the lake and rivers dry up often,” says resident Mary Kidunga.

“And the distance to the river is quite far so with the dam which is close to my house it will make it much easier.”

Binti Leli, also a resident says that she cannot afford to take her children past primary, her husband does not work and she only makes Sh200 a month through selling firewood.

She is however hopeful that the water from the dam will enable her to restore her farm and her three month baby will not get sick as often.

“The water we have now is not clean, we get sick a lot and yet we cannot afford to go to hospital so through the dam we can now fetch from the taps water that has been filtered,” says Leli.

The Executive Water Engineer Ayaz Manji confirms that the Sh207 million project will help the Nyalani Dam to attain a water storage capacity of approximately 500,000 cubic meters of water.

“The project will be complete in April 2015 which will get the community off relief feeding, he added.”

“We are taking a community that is fairly vulnerable and bringing them to a level where they are empowered.”

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