Will technology ‘heal’ Ukambani water challenge?

About a decade ago, residents of Musingini location in Machakos County knew no other water source other than shallow sand wells located tens of kilometers away. In most occasions, they had to walk in threes in order to fetch water from the wells that were also shared by livestock in the dry Ukambani region. But today, the story is different as the community members now enjoy a water drawing technology that is not only affordable but also easy to use even by children and the old.

Currently, the borehole serves 382 pupils in Musingini Primary school, 155 students in Musingini Secondary School, the dispensary and the market. More than 525 residents from 105 households benefit from the facility that has been functional since 2009.

While the neighbouring communities access water at Sh10 per 20litre jerrycan, Musingini residents buy water at only Sh3 per jerrycan, a price they say is affordable to majority of the households. I have used the technology since 2009. I fetch nine jerrycans per week at Sh27, something I never struggle. The water-borne diseases that we used to have then, we do not have them now. Previously, we used to fetch water at a very far place and we would always clash with livestock at the water source. The water we used previously was very salty and we struggled to cook githeri with it,” says Josphine Munyao, a resident.

According to Plan Kenya, the financier of the borehole, the technology has eliminated persistent wrangles over the management of cash collections that were a common occurrence between the water committee and the community members.

Musingini Sub Location chief Peter Munyasya told TakeOff that the water technology has saved the residents time and wastage of water. “Now children and old people can access water at a more convenient way. The main purpose of this system was to protect the girl-child who, in the Africa setup, was responsible for drawing water. Through this water technology, our girls-child is now safer,” said Munyasya.

The borehole using a modern technology came into being after the local community entered into an agreement with a private company known as Grundfos Lifelink Kenya Ltd, which is pioneering this new technology in the country.

Water from the borehole is pumped into an overhead 10, 000 litre plastic storage tank using an electric submersible pump that is powered by solar energy that is generated via 18 solar panels installed on a roof on top of the tank. By gravity, water flows to the kiosk from where the community members collect by inserting a ‘key fob’.

Each community member has a unique but user friendly key that is linked to his/her mobile phone that automatically draws credit via M-Pesa based on the amount of water collected. The chief explains: “Using your mobile phone, you Musingini 700004 is our business number which is registered with Safaricom. Your mobile phone will then ask for the key fob which is used like a pin for one to access water. It will request for a certain number that is unique for each key holder. It will then ask for the amount of money that you want to load to your M-pesa water with any amount. Anyone can load this key while at any part of the world as long as you know the key fob number. This helps those parents who work abroad or far from home.”

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