Two Donkeys, One Choice.
Members of the Wasya wa Athi Self Help Group.
Without a donkey, it is impossible to carry enough water to meet every day needs.
In Kamba culture, unless you have a goat you aren’t really a farmer – such are livestock entwined in the fabric of life. But in the region of Kathonzweni, there is a different mantra: without two donkeys you have no chance of life at all.
Donkeys aren’t a source of food, nor milk – but they are essential for collecting water.
For members of the Wasya wa Athi Self Help Group, the 20km 9 hour journey to collect water from the Athi River was eased because a donkey can carry four 20l jerry cans. And, as long as you don’t wash, you might only have to go there three to four times per week. If you don’t have a donkey, you can ‘borrow’ one from your neighbour, but the rent is 50% of the water you collect. That’s what I would call water slavery.
I met three community groups in the area who, supported by our partner ASDF, have now built sand dams.
Paul Kyalo, from the Wasya wa Athi SHG, explained that, after collecting water they had no time or energy to farm – but now proudly showed us the vegetable nursery they had with kale, onions and tomatoes. A great diet for the kids, who also don’t suffer from typhoid or diarrhoea any more because of the cleanliness of the water from the sand dams.
I felt compelled to taste it and it tasted sweet. This wasn’t the story from the Munyuni community. Munyuni means salt in Kikamba and that’s how their water tastes – or did! Another ritual taste revealed only a slight tang thanks to the sand dam filtering the water that sits in the shallow well we pumped from.
At the Ilumu Self Help Group, we discovered there was only one choice to get water and that was an earth dam that charged Ksh20 per 20l jerry can of water – six times the price of water that the group will be able to collect from their well and sand dam after the next rains in November.
Back at Munyuni, Mouki Muia explained how it cost three to four times more to buy a donkey than a goat and, even though he had one, you could see the weariness in his eyes when he explained that the got up at 6am and returned at 2pm when collecting water. It wasn’t hard to know why his eyes twinkled when he foresaw great change coming, having built sand dams near their homes.
Buy two donkeys; pay 50% rent; buy water from profiteers charging 10 times the government rate from earth dams. Or, build a sand dam half an hour from home.
Only one choice really.