Kelelwa is a Kenyan community in Baringo County with an estimated population of 2,000 people, who used to suffer greatly due to water-related challenges.
When we first met Kelelwa, it was a pastoralist community, moving from place to place and temporarily settling around streams and water. Women and girls traveled up to 12 km (7.5 miles) to fetch contaminated water from the seasonal streams and the Molo River near where they had most recently settled. Oftentimes, it would take an entire day to bring home one jerry can of water. Because of this, the women were forced to be home keepers and the girls could not go to school. Instead, they assisted their mothers in fetching water and housekeeping.
At one point, another organization installed a borehole water well, but the system broke down and the community reverted back to relying on the river.
But, this all changed in 2015! After reviewing the water situation in the area and evaluating the broken-down well, the Well Aware team determined that rehabilitating the existing borehole was the best and most viable clean water solution for the community. We replaced the pump, repaired the faulty equipment, and conducted community training to enable local leaders to maintain the water system for years to come. Now, the community is thriving with a lasting source of clean water!
The project has since become a long-term anchor for the community to congregate and develop around. The population has grown and they slowly began abandoning pastoralism and replacing their temporary houses with permanent homes. Kelelwa is now a permanent settlement! A big number of the homes have since adopted farming and agriculture as a way of life, with many businesses being started in the area and even forming a small town center.
Now that women no longer spend their days fetching water, they have time to practice their own small business, such as shopkeeping and selling groceries in the local market. This has improved the livelihoods for their families, while also improving gender equality.
According to one of the community members, in the dry season, he used to lose a lot of animals due to drought. This also affected his family as they would often go without meals, causing his children to be malnourished. Some would even die in the long walks migrating to places near water. These hardships and challenges are now a thing of the past.
“I’m grateful there’s enough water to drink, use at home, supply to my cattle, and even practice some irrigation.”
The impact on the children of Kelelwa and their educational opportunities has also been profound. Availability of water has freed boys from herding and girls from housekeeping and walking for water. Children now attend a nearby school, which serves 412 students!
In so many ways, Kelelwa is thriving and developing. They have an organized and dedicated water committee, which steers the growth and expansion of this project.
In 2021, Well Aware even returned, at the request of the committee, to update the water system. We converted the power source from electric to solar, to further support the project’s long-term sustainability. The school had also raised enough funds to build a pipeline to supply water to the school directly – further enabling improved education for the children of Kelelwa.
“Indeed, Well Aware has had impact in Kelelwa for years and it's going to spiral to generations to come.” - Kelelwa Water Committee Chairperson