Kiwayu residents get piped water supply for the first time

Villagers of remote Kiwayu Island in the Lamu archipelago now have access to piped water for the first time since independence.

Residents across the archipelago are often resigned to the reality of water everywhere but not a drop to drink.

Although surrounded by the Indian Ocean, island dwellers struggle to find drinking water as that which is available has high saline concentrations.

The feat was made possible after the Lamu county government expended Sh. 9 million in the last financial year to enable the island dwellers have access to clean drinking water.

The remote fishing village is just 28 miles from the Somali border in a water-stressed region of the coastal county and water scarcity was said to be the main reason for the lagging behind of the village whose main economic activity is fishing.

Island dwellers have for decades been complaining that they spent valuable hours in search of the precious commodity and are now glad to collect water at their doorsteps.

The water supply project has effectively brought to an end years of walking long distances to fetch fresh drinking water from far away wells in the idyllic archipelago.

Water is pumped from underground borehole into two big tanks and distributed through pipes right into the middle of the village.

Now the villagers cannot hide their joy as they get their drinking water by just turning on the taps outside their houses.

The village headman Shali Shee described the arrival of clean water as a monumental event saying local women often traveled for miles in search of water for domestic use.

He says the residents have in the past survived on water drawn from wells, which sometimes was not safe for human consumption.

Shee says the site of women carrying water on their backs or heads and walking for long distances is now a thing of the past.

He said over the years, women and girls in the area had to travel far daily to collect water from wells for their families use.

He said more than 4000 villagers have benefited from the water project adding that clean and reliable water supply is what the people in Kiwayu need.

We used to fetch water from the wells about 2km away from our homes and this often made us fatigued and sick’ recalls 36 year old Heiba Lali Vavo.

She went on ‘from the moment we woke up to the end of responsibility each day our lives revolved around searching of water’.

Vavo a local women leader says villagers especially the womenfolk are both relieved and happy for the piped water as they no longer spend hours in search of the precious commodity.

Now the long walks to fetch water from the wells are over and women are spending more time tending to other household chores and their businesses’ she said.

She added ‘this clean water project has changed our lives as we can now concentrate on other economic activities and children are not dropping out of school due to water problems’.

In fact the water project offers us the comfort we need to live a hygienic life, wash our clothes and clean our homes’ Vavo said during the interview outside her house.

In the past she says women had to make more trips to the wells or carry the clothes there, wash them and come back with them while carrying drinking water.

Many villagers interviewed said they are now relieved because of the Kiwayu water project the Lamu county government has implemented.

And in the nearby Kizingitini Island whose residents faced similar problems can now access clean drinking water following the setting up of a desalination project with the aim of purifying sea water and turning it into safe drinking water.

Nyamwenye Mudhar a local women leader in Kizingitini says residents in the past relied on rainwater collected in underground concrete tanks.

But we went without drinking water for many months during the long dry spells’ she reckons. 

Sheikh Athman Shemuro a local religious leader spoke of the difficulties islanders had to endure in the daily search for water.

He says in the past water to drink, cook food with, wash and keep clean was hard to come by. 

Life here for many years has revolved around the need to find water, ration water and collect water again’ said Sheikh Shemuro a local Madrassa (Islamic school) teacher.

He says villagers mostly women and young girls would walk many kilometers to get water, or even travel by dhows to nearby islands in search of the precious scarce commodity.

Lamu Governor Isa Timamy says plans are underway to comprehensively address water shortages as more households across the archipelago are in need of piped water.

Governor Timamy says his administration is rolling out a grand plan to implement water projects in the remote parts of the Lamu archipelago.

The county boss says the projects will relive women the trouble of traveling long distances in search of water at the expense of other activities.

We are addressing many years of neglect and it will take us time but we are determined to introduce sustainable water system across Lamu mainland and islands’ he said urging the communities to take good care for the water supply projects.

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