MADRE Articles

Kenya: Umoja Climate Change | Social Change, Water Project Update

Posted on: Sunday, October 12, 2008

Keywords: Economic Justice, Environmental Justice, Kenya, Africa, Indigenous Rights, Water Rights

MADRE has been working with Indigenous Samburu women in rural Kenya to make their communities self-sustaining. In collaboration with the Umoja Uaso Women's Group—an organization and community of Indigenous Samburu women formed in 1990 by 15 women who were rejected by their husbands and forced out of their homes after being raped—we laid the foundation for a clean water project and helped women plan income-generating activities.

Women from Umoja and neighboring communities - © Rose Cunningham

In order to assist the women of Umoja in creating a self-sustaining community, MADRE is undertaking a clean water project. Clean water will protect the health of women and children, and having a centrally-located water tap will increase the amount of time women have for income-generating, educational, and other productive activities by decreasing time spent collecting water. To begin the process, Vivian Stromberg, MADRE’s Executive Director, and Rose Cunningham, the director of one of our sister organizations, traveled to Kenya in August 2008 to conduct a feasibility study and consultation. Ms. Stromberg has worked with the Umoja community for a number of years, and Ms. Cunningham is an Indigenous woman and community organizer from Central America who has worked in Indigenous Samburu villages before.

Jerry Ochieng of Engineers Without Borders with Vivian Stromberg and Rebecca Lolosoli - © Rose CunninghamThe technical aspect of the feasibility study was conducted by Jerry Ochieng, a Kenyan technician from Engineers without Borders who visited the project area in order to gather information on its features and take initial measurements. Jerry determined that a water borehole 80 meters deep will need to be drilled and a water storage tank with a capacity of 30,000 liters will be installed in the community of Umoja. The water system will rely on a submersible electric pump that will be attached to solar panels, and will be sufficient to provide a water supply for 500 people throughout the year.

A key aspect of the feasibility study was involving the local women in the decision-making process. As the water project will not only serve Umoja, but the seven neighboring villages drawing water from the Uaso Nyiro River, it was critical to guarantee that the project has the free, prior, and informed consent of the people affected. In accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the August visit included a two-day consultation with Indigenous Samburu women from the communities of Lalparuai, Laresoro, Lolkerded, Loruko, Lterkesi, Nachami, Nangida, and Umoja. During the consultation 30 women delegates from these villages learned about and discussed the proposed project activities. Delegates elected one woman from each village to serve on a Water Committee, which will provide oversight of physical implementation, capacity-building, and expenditures, and report back to community members. This process can serve as a model for other organizations undertaking community development projects with Indigenous and marginalized communities.
Vivian Stromberg and Rose Cunningham lead the consultation process with representatives from 8 villages - © Rose CunninghamVivian Stromberg and Rose Cunningham lead the consultation process with representatives from 8 villages - © Rose Cunningham

Vivian Stromberg and Samburu women review project agreement - © Rose Cunningham


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