Water is Life Kenya (WILK) is a non-profit organization that has been bringing clean, accessible water to communities in Southern Kenya since 2007. We work mainly in drought-prone areas, populated by rural Maasai people who rely on cattle as their main source of income. Our dream is to help them create solutions to access and manage available water and then use water to escape poverty.
Our work is guided by 4 key values:
* Love your neighbor as yourself
* Don’t do for others what they can do for themselves
* Involve the community at every phase of the project
* Real lasting change will occur when people recognize
the reality around them and their ability, with others,
to change it.
When we work with a community on a clean water project, we:
- Assess the community’s need for water
- Design and Implement appropriate water projects, based on a sound technical evaluation of the local conditions. We balance the need with what can be reasonably managed, maintained, and afforded by the community.
- Engage the community from the beginning in design and cost-sharing. We make sure each family registers as a member of the water project.
- Train the Water Management Committee
- Involve key stakeholders, including: Women are empowered through membership in Water Management Committees. This encourages them to have a say in the management of the resource most important to them – water. The heavy burden of chores, plus traditional male domination, has been a barrier to women’s empowerment.
- Train Water Project Members in skills that will help them boost their family incomes, which supports sustainable water supply.
- Visit the completed project to monitor impact and provide additional training as needed.
- Mentor leaders who manage the water supply, resolve conflict, and identify and solve problems.
While developing these water projects, we also develop the fundamental resource: people. Leaders emerge and are mentored, get practical experience in leadership, problem solving, building consensus, and conflict resolution. We offer training opportunities for largely illiterate men and women, strengthening innate talents while introducing crucial management practices. These skills can then be used to solve other community problems. These people often become leaders in school, church, and local politics. They then teach others what they have learned.
Water is Life
Water is precious and necessary for life. In communities where water is far away, women often spend 4-8 hours every days walking for water. When the only available water is dirty, people spend time being sick with water borne diseases like cholera, amoebic dysentery, and typhoid.
Water: Average Conditions in southern Kenya
*Average distance to water: 4 miles
This 8 minute video provides an overview of how Water is Life Kenya’s three programs that are integrated and interrelated.
When clean water is available close by:
- The heavy burden on women’s time and energy is removed.
- Women have more time for income-generating activities, such as bead work. To read more about Water is Life Kenya’s Beaded Handicraft Income Generation Project click here.
- Health improves for all: humans, their livestock, and wild animals.
- Women are comfortable allowing their main helpers, their daughters, attend school – often for the first time.
What’s next in the community?
Money is required to sustain any water project. Money is needed to pay for fuel to operate the pump, for the borehole operator, for repairs, and for maintenance. Thus each family must have money to pay their share of the community water fees. Since most community members are Maasai livestock-keepers, their income comes from livestock. So we developed a training and microloan program called “Livestock as a Business” to help increase incomes. We use indigenous knowledge combined with best practices to teach ways to increase the profits earned by livestock keepers. Read more about our successful Livestock as a Business Program here.
History of the Area where WILK works:
For centuries, the Maasai people herded livestock throughout modern-day Tanzania and Kenya. Today, the Maasai remain a symbol of traditional culture and pride, with their shield and spear pictured on the Kenyan flag. However, their communities regularly suffer from lack of clean water.
Traditionally nomads, the Maasai were pushed to semi-arid lands during Kenyan independence, losing access to more productive lands. Land was given to groups or individuals in small parcels, limiting the territory any individual could use to manage their livestock. In Southern Kenya, Amboseli National Park was created in 1974 around many of the local water sources. The Maasai people living on the land were moved, promised a new water source, and forgotten.
A combination of limited government-initiated infrastructure, limited access to sustainable pasture, and a history of mistreatment and marginalization, has created a water crisis for the people living in Southern Kenya.
WILK is committed to supporting local communities access the water they need, so their lives can be productive, fruitful, and filled with opportunity for current and future generations.