PAN OF HOPE
The crocodile infested river Dau’a is 18 kilometres away from Malkamari. The terrain to the river is steep and rocky but is the only source of water for women who fetched the precious commodity on their backs during the prolonged drought periods. Malkamari location is in Mandera district, 1100km north east of Nairobi.
Many pastoralists in this part of the country have been reduced to below poverty levels over the years by consistent droughts. Unpredictable rainfall often leading to recurrent droughts and loss of soil fertility has made life for agro pastoralist farming communities impossible. Relief food aid is often the only way to survive.
In the 2006, RACIDA came to the support of Malkamari community to improve the small pan that could not serve them because of its size and its inability to hold water for long periods due to the high seepage rate. The community participated in this exercise throughout the pan desilting and lining process.
The changes were visible within three months; water is now available to the community for eight months in the dry seasons of the year unlike two months previously. Other observable outcomes include improved health conditions due to reduced incidences of water-borne diseases and overall nutrition of community members, decrease in conflicts over water and improve security of reliable water sources, catchment areas for pans preserved by community.
According to the water user’s association Chairman Mr. Hussein Ahmed, unplanned school closures and teachers not reporting on time are no more. Other organisations such as Action against Hunger have now opened an operational base in Malkamari due to the readily available water and have now extended other services on health and nutrition to the community.
Mogay Yussuf aged 48, a widow and a mother of six, and her two friends Kaltuma and Ambia are among 11 other women who took part in the desilting of Malkamari earth pan. She earned 3700 shillings during excavation period of the pan which took five weeks. “I eventually started my small business from the income and for now I and my children entirely depend on this business.” She says.
The process of pan desilting and lining
- Community mobilization, identification and agreeing on the roles of each.
- Earth is desilted by community as they own contribution with Racida’s super vision.
- The earth is compacted and trenched to 0.5M is dug a round the pan.
- Silt trap of 10metres by 15 metres is constructed with cement.
- High Density Polythene sheet are rolled into the earth pan with assistance of the community.
- Technicians use a small generator and a machine to join the rolls.
- The liner is filled with sand at the edges to pin the sheet to the ground
They make and sell stylishly decorated mats that are made from palm doum fibres (Gallo). They attribute this development to the intervention which has liberated them from the shackles of poverty. “For now we no longer fetch water from the dangerous river where we use to cover all that distance and we have started to work hard to liberate ourselves. We can now make business and earn small profit to make our families better” she says.
Transport to the market and marketing are other major challenges for the small business.” We transport the mats to the market in Rhamu which is 60 km away by hired donkey carts at Kshs 50 each and but sometimes we take advantage of relief lorry, a mat sell at Kshs. 600 in Rhamu town but the middle women who transport them to the neighbouring district of Wajir sell the mats at better prices, a situation Mogay envies. However, Mogay, Kaltuma and Ambia are now able to make ends meet for their female headed households. “Each one of us makes three of this kind in a month, coupled with other household activities ranging from watering my six goats and four cows.” Says a beaming Mogay while pointing to the displayed mats.
For the water management committee, the pan has also created economic benefits to aid its management and maintenance. Every family pays two shillings for twenty litres container after two days and we have Kshs15, 000 in our account in case of emergency water trucking,” says the chief area, Noor Hajji. The Malkamari community has further registered a 54.8% increase in primary school going children due to the permanency of the settlements.
Looking into the future, the Water user committee is thinking of ways to improve on the project by enhancing quality of the pan water, constructing cattle troughs, and expanding the water pan to hold more water during the rainy season.
On her part, Mogay wishes and hopes that other women would time now to benefit from income generation projects such as tree nurseries, beekeeping, basket and Gallo weaving. “This pan brought hope and we women have translated the hope to changes” she muses.