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Improving Water and Sanitation in Samburu

In Samburu—a semi-arid region in north central Kenya—climate change, resource conservation, indigenous rights, wildlife preservation, and humanitarian concerns converge with increasing regularity. In the shadow of the second highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kenya, Samburu is a district of acacia trees and dry savanna in the striking East African Rift Valley. Home to numerous national parks, protected areas, and conservancies, Samburu is home to a variety of vulnerable and endangered species including Grevy’s zebra, the African lion, the reticulated giraffe, the African wild dog, and the African elephant. Much of the wildlife moves between protected areas on the communal lands of the Samburu people.

In this arid region prone to recurrent droughts, watersheds serve as a critical resource for humans, livestock and wildlife. For the semi-nomadic Samburu people, livestock are an essential part of everyday life, often meeting both food and hydration needs through milk, blood, and meat production. In the midst of the current drought and famine, exacerbated by severe by climate change, and El Nino/La Nina episodes, Samburans rely even more heavily on their livestock—herds that are prey to lions, cattle rustlers, and militia groups. With a diminished livestock supply and irregular access to surface water, Samburans must travel great distances to visit critical water points that may also be a source for wildlife populations, thereby increasing the likelihood and frequency of human-wildlife interaction.

To address the need for safe and accessible water, International Medical Corps implemented a comprehensive program between April 2007 and April 2009 designed to increase access to safe water and promote hygiene awareness for people residing in the Baragoi and Nyiro divisions of Samburu District. During the two year project period, International Medical Corps:

  1. Rehabilitated four water points, improving access to water for an estimated 12,000 people;
  2. Assisted more than 2,000 households to construct latrines;
  3. Constructed latrines and urinal blocks for approximately 2,300 schoolchildren;
  4. Sensitized 1,097 community members about safe hygiene practices through targeted sensitization and behavior change trainings at village and school levels; and
  5. Strengthened community capacity to improve and maintain their water sources.

During the course of the project, International Medical Corps identified additional schools that needed access to safe water sources. To meet this need, IMC constructed a well at Nachola Primary School benefiting 293 children, and assessed conditions at Baragoi and Parikati Primary Schools.

Statement of Need
The students of Baragoi Primary School drink water from a seasonal riverbed that is unprotected and shared with livestock. During the dry season, the riverbed is often dry. At Parikati School, the students are currently forced to drink water from a well that is unprotected and saline in taste. Girls and boys at both schools regularly take significant time out of the school day to get water. Baragoi has an enrollment of 624 students (335 boys and 289 girls) while Parikati has an enrollment of 130 students (69 boys and 61 girls).
Having a safe and reliable source of water at school often improves attendance and focuses students on learning, rather than wasting time finding water or being ill as a result of a water-related disease. Providing safe water not only promotes health for students, teachers and families, but also improves education at the targeted schools. The headmaster at Baragoi Primary School has expressed keen interest in the possibility of a protected well on the campus, and continues to inquire about the project’s status.

Project Summary
The goal of the project is to create safe and healthy learning environments for children in Kenya by improving access to safe water at Baragoi and Parikati Primary Schools. International Medical Corps will excavate, equip and protect wells at the two schools. Funds from Earth Council Geneva would leverage additional funds raised by and dedicated individuals to complete the two wells at Baragoi and Parikati schools.
Both wells will be sustainable, as students and faculty at schools will be trained on continued well maintenance. Use of the wells will be controlled by the parent-teacher associations to minimize breakage. Pumps are locally manufactured and parts are easily available. Schools also usually obtain an allocation from the Free Primary Education fund which can be used to purchase spare parts. In addition, the initial installation will have a startup maintenance kit. 

Update added 13 March 2011
For about 230,000 pastoralists in Samburu District who derive their livelihood from livestock, drought threatens their very way of life. Lack of water also forces many children to forgo school to migrate with their family livestock herds to far-off places in search of water. In a place where 83% of the people live below the poverty line, there is no safety net for many families when water becomes scarce.


International Medical Corps has previously worked on water and sanitation services in the area, but has identified additional locations with a need for safe, clean water year-round. Support from Earth Council and other donors will increase access to water in 5 schools and 3 communities in Samburu. At the primary schools, International Medical Corps will install rainwater harvesting systems and teaching gardens, and create committees to manage the use of water resources. Additionally, Earth Council support will help provide access to clean, safe water sources through well construction and de-silting, and installation and repair of water pumps.