Occupying an area of 17, 921.20 square kilometers in rift valley region, Narok County with an estimated population of 850, 920 (2009 census) is one of the perennial drought hit counties in Kenya.
The county has over 76 percent of her residents living in rural areas, most of whom are pastoralists and farmers. With majority of the residents being pastoralists from the Maasai community, any sign of drought sends cold shivers down their spines.
The county is also characterized with massive floods that have occasionally been experienced especially in Narok town leading to destruction of property worth millions of shillings. This usually happens during rainy seasons especially in April.
Despite the fact that the county at times receive heavy rainfall, drought has always been a nightmare this pastoral community has not been able to move away from. This has forced them to travel long distances in the search for water and food for their animals.
Nairegie Enkare sub-location in Enosupukia location, Narok East sub-county is one of the areas majorly hit by drought. Residents, majority of whom are pastoralists usually have a hard time getting food and water for their animals every time drought season knocks on their doors.
A few meters from Nairegie Enkare trading center is a swamp; the main source of water for residents and their livestock. It is from the swamp that the name Nairegie Enkare originated. Around the swamp are ponds dug, owned and maintained by particular families. Despite of the poor conditions of the two water sources, residents have no option rather than sharing the water with their livestock.
During normal seasons and when there is no aspect of drought, residents and their livestock are free to drink from both the swamp and the ponds on mutual agreement. Hell breaks when drought bites. This is the time when swamp goes dry, leaving residents and their livestock with limited options on where to get water from.
At this point, families owning ponds start guarding them day and night to ensure that no unauthorized people drink or water their animals at the ponds. Anyone getting water from any of the pond must get clearance from the pond owners.
During our visit to the swamp, we met residents going about their activities which include washing clothes, watering animals and also collecting water for domestic use. Watching as the swamp goes dry is the most terrifying moment residents are now going through.
They have been hoping for rains but this does not seem to happen any time soon, as sun continues to heat. They are watching helplessly as the level of water reduces day by day. They are preparing for the worse. Pond owners have already started guarding their ponds, after getting a signal indicating that the dry season might prolong.
A middle aged woman, who only identified herself as Naisiae told us that fear is now taking better of everyone as the dry season does not seem to end any time soon. Being one of the residents without a pond around the area, her worry is that within the next few weeks, she will not be able to access water to wash her clothes or even perform other domestic chores.
“This is a very low moment for myself and other women; like the ones you can see here washing clothes. A few weeks from now, this swamp will go dry. I will not have any sure source of water for my family. My kids will go to school without washing their face or even without food in adverse conditions. These family owned ponds will now be at the helm of their owners who stock large herds of cattle. They will not allow us to collect water from the ponds. Now that even meteorologists are not giving us any hope of receiving rainfall in near future, I see danger”, said Naisiae with fear and distraught expressed all over her face.
Her story was shared by other women we met at the swamp. They are all fearing for their lives and those of their families now that the situation is changing from bad to worse. Even as non-pastoralists express their fears, those owning large herds of livestock are the most worried.
For pastoral communities, livestock is their source of wealth and pride. They therefore get frustrated whenever anything tries to threaten the lives of the animals they own. Fear has already started gripping them as the scorching sun continue burning, with its intensity escalating day by day.
They are watching in dismay as the swamp dries slowly by slowly. They only hope that the condition will get better especially when the rainy season comes (something that until now seems like fake dream). If drought persists, their livestock will be staring at the cruel hand of death.
Maina from one of the families owning the said ponds, told us that they are sometimes forced to light fire at night in order to guard their ponds from “intruders”. He told us that the thirst quenching liquid is very crucial but scarce in the region and this forces residents and their livestock to share the little available water irrespective of its unfitness.
“We do not take chances during the dry seasons. Like for now, we are close to starting guarding our ponds against other people. We have to secure the water for the sake of our livestock. We cannot afford to lose our livestock to famine. For us, we can stay withstand the situation,” said Maina.
“Whenever a woman is found fetching water from any of the ponds without permission from the owner, she has to receive a hard beating from the owner’s pond until she screams. Whenever a woman cries, this is followed by a heavy downpour”, he continued amidst laughter.
It is evident that the story of drought is no longer news in the ears of Nairegie Enkare residents. It is now a reality they are facing and might soon bite even deeper in the case of drought persistence.
The only hope for residents now is the Africaqua watershop coming up in the area. There is an excitement of its own kind. From health center to the villages, the word is spreading like airborne disease. Everybody is eagerly waiting for the watershop to start operating with some of them even telling those working at the site to alert them once everything is ready.
Residents will now be able to get safe water at an affordable price from the watershop. This is good news to the hundreds of people who have known no other apart from that one from the swamp.
They only hope operations at the watershop will kick off soon in order to save them from the jaws of hunger and thirst. With water to drink, they will be able to get food and water for their livestock.
David Mwaura, Communications Officer, Africaqua Limited