Drought in Makueni

According to WHO and UNICEF, two billion people live in countries with high water stress. One of the most important recent milestones has been recognizing the human right to water and sanitation by the United Nations General Assembly in July 2010. The assembly recognized the right of every human to have access to enough water for personal and domestic use, meaning between 50 and 100 liters per person per day. The water must be safe, acceptable, and affordable. The water cost should not exceed 3% of household income. Moreover, the water source must be within 1000 meters of the homestead, and collection time should not exceed thirty minutes.

Kenya is one of the countries with people experiencing high water stress. Makueni County is a county in the eastern part of Kenya and an Arid and Semi-Arid Land (ASAL). It is a county experiencing high water stress. The county government, non-governmental organizations, and common interest and self-help groups in the county have all been putting effort into managing the problem of water scarcity in the county. However, the county is still a long way from achieving water accessibility and affordability for everyone. The affordability and accessibility parameters here are; water cost of less than 3% of total household income, distance of not more than one kilometer to the collection point, and collection time of not more than thirty minutes.

According to the 2019 census, the average household size in Kenya is 3.9. It means every household in Kenya needs at least 400litres of water per day. The number of homes in Makueni County as per this census is 244,699. Do the math, and you will realize the minimum need for water in the county per day for domestic and personal water need; the market doubles when adding industrial, agricultural, and other economic water uses. The least cost of 20litre borehole water is KES2.50. Therefore households spend at least KES 20 on the water daily. It looks like little money, but in the long run, it hugely affects household budgets. With the current increase in unemployment, people work from hand to mouth.

The collection time for water in Makueni County goes up to 2hours in some wards and sub wards. One aspect that significantly increases collection time is the mode of transport. Households use donkeys for water collection, and the maximum number of liters a donkey can carry per trip is 100litres. People have to make more than two trips to collect enough water for personal and domestic use. It limits their time in other productive activities like agriculture and business.

The people of Makueni County would greatly benefit if water were availed in their homes through piping. Out of the 244,699 households in Makueni County, only 7366 have active water piping in their homes, according to the 2019 census. The work culture and attitude among the Makueni people are pretty healthy. They could invest in other more productive endeavors in the hours they used collecting water.

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