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Rainwater Harvesting and Storage

Water harvesting and conservation of dry land in Maasai communities in Elerai village – 2008/09

From a baseline survey carried out by EMAYO and the Kesho Trust in 2006 we identified the main priority issue for the pastoralist’s communities of Kibirashi in Kilindi District as a lack of access to water.  During a village meeting people said: “Water collection is always the women’s responsibility in pastoral societies. They travel several kilometres and spent much time to collect water for domestic use”. 

women with water tankThe services that government provides like water supply, schools and health centers are found only in village centers. Pastoralists are not always able to access such services near their homesteads because they don’t live in village centers. Traditional ways of keeping animals are complex and as a result pastoralists need to be scattered widely across the landscape in order to allow enough room for everyone’s livestock to graze.

Subsequently, with support from United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), we implemented a rainwater harvesting and storage project in the area. The main objective of this project was to reduce the length of time spent by pastoral women on water collection and help them to use that time for other development activities especially around income generation.

Rainwater harvesting and storage has been welcomed as a good solution to the problem of access to water. It is helping to encourage the development of more permanent settlements since the tanks are immovable and this is increasing the communities visibility (led to the formation of a Maasai village) and ability to carry out other development activities.

What we accomplished in the project

  • 30 rainwater harvesting tanks of the capacity of 10,000 litres are constructed in Kibirashi, serving 1,788 people in 26 homesteads and 461 students in two local schools
  • Formation of women’s groups with developed entrepreneurship skills that perform various economic activities within their localities
  • Community people trained in construction skills to build rainwater harvesting tanks
  • Improved shelters by introducing the iron roofs necessary for water collection

The project encouraged the community to establish a permanent settlement linked to improved shelters and rainwater harvesting tanks. They are now able to demonstrate land occupancy and are becoming more organized and able to undertake common development projects.  The community has become aware of environmental conservation issues

Although we reached many homesteads and people with the original rainwater harvesting project there are still more than 44 homesteads left without access to water. An additional 50 rainwater tanks are needed to fully meet the requirements of this village and to help us to expand into neighbouring areas.

The final project evaluation showed that the rainwater harvesting project at Kibirashi village acted as a unifying factor in the Maasai community and encouraged the community to settle and create a permanent village (registered in 2009). This is helping the Maasai community to gain political recognition for the lands that they use. Existing government policies do not recognise the communal and seasonal rights to land use that the Maasai traditionally use and so they have been under increasing danger of losing their ability to claim land use. Establishing villages like Elerai is helping them to make visible claims to their lands.

More work on establishing rainwater harvesting tanks in this community and those around could help bring more political recognition to many other such pastoralist communities.

boma with tank

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