It started as a simple proposal. Dr. Naomi Mangatu’s employer was holding a contest. Employees could submit a proposal for a community service project and the winning entry would be funded. Naomi’s idea “Women and Safe Water” won.
With that, a trickle of hope arrived in the Kathivo Village in Kenya. In collaboration with the Catholic Diocese of Kitui, Naomi was able to start a rain harvesting project in the Kathivo Village of Kitui District in Kenya. The Kitui District is arid and the little rain that does come is poorly distributed throughout the year.
There are short rains in November and long rains from March until May, but there are virtually no storage reservoirs so the rain water just runs off. In 2008 under Naomi’s leadership, 200 needy families each received a 600 liter plastic water tank and 10 schools each received a 10,000 liter tank.
Two years later Naomi’s idea has turned into a wave of opportunity. Girls in the Kathivo Village previously had to trek long distances looking for water. Because of Naomi’s water preservation efforts, the girls have been freed to attend school. The women of Kathivo have started small gardens where they grow vegetables to feed their families and even have excess to sell to neighbors.
Local schools with no taps plumbing facilities are now able to store water enhancing the hygiene of the pupils. The effects of this project continue to extend beyond the water. The recipients formed an advocacy group that meets monthly. At each meeting volunteer speakers address key technical areas and address self-reliance.
The Women and Water project has been promoted as an effective low cost, low maintenance rain water harvesting strategy that has empowered a community. Plans are being made to replicate this program in other arid areas in Kenya.
“Women and Water community service is important to me,” says Naomi “because it has enabled me achieve one of my major objectives for advancing my studies at UoP… to serve as a role model for disadvantaged girls and women in my community.”