So, as I wrote about before, a small team of us had two weeks to lay a 3.5km water pipeline from Salita bore hole to Kasaani village. And bring them a water supply for the first time in living memory.
We didn’t have any kind of modern machinery to help us. Instead we had a collection of hoes and spades. And 3.5km of red earth baked rock hard by the Tsavo sun. However we also had the community members of Kasaani, by our sides, literally day and night; to teach us their digging techniques, to swell our numbers from 7 to over 70 on some days, to sing us songs, tell us stories, make us laugh when the going got beyond tough, to make us cups of hot sweet Kenyan chai at the end of a long day, even to cook us dinner when we barely had the energy to walk home. They sat with us around the campfire until we went to bed, and they were there waiting for us at sunrise the next morning.
Their belief in the project and their commitment to making it work, within our 2 weeks, left us with no doubt that it would happen… even on the morning of day 2, when we returned to Salita village to admire the maiden 80m of trench we’d dug the first day… only to find there was no trench. It had been filled in. In its place was a group of rather upset, rather intimidating, Maasai women. It turns out that despite the project leaders dutifully going through the process of informing all stakeholders, including the Maasai leaders, the message had not been passed down to their Maasai community. In a region where living is a daily struggle and resources hard to come by it is understandable that the women of the community were alarmed by the ‘sudden’ rush of activity to divert precious water from their borehole. Over and above that, there are certain protocols that should be respected!
Disheartening as it was to see our previous day’s hard work undone, it was an interesting and very genuine cultural insight, as members of Taveta District council teamed up with the Maasai leaders to explain the project, explain the surveys that showed there was sufficient water in the borehole to supply both villages, and thanks to the local MP, to promise a new water pump that would actually increase the flow of water through their tap. So by mid afternoon, with protocol duly complied with, we were back with the chattering, smiling Maasai women who had watched us the day before and more importantly back with spades and hoes in hand. We made sure we reached 100m before putting them down, just to feel that we had made some progress that day.
The rest of the week was thankfully less ‘eventful’, characterised by a daily increase in blisters, sore muscles and physical exhaustion! The ground was hard… very very hard. Even with up to 30 of Kasaani’s human digging machines putting us to shame, were closer to a third of the way by the end of week one, not half way where we needed to be! The weekend off became just the Sunday off as we spent Saturday playing catch up until we could no longer physically raise a hoe above our heads.
Fortunately the villagers of Kasaani spent the weekend rallying the troops and with some astute negotiations from David the chairman of the Kasaani ex-poachers group, the following Monday saw 50 villagers join us. Before the end of week 2 we had close to 80 and come Thursday morning we had the privilege to be laying 3.5km of pipes along a trench that stretched from Salita to Kasaani… 3.5km of blood, sweat and tears!
Standing in Kasaani village at 8pm on Thursday night to watch the first water flow down the pipe, it was almost too close a call for comfort… but we had the sheer overwhelming joy of seeing water make its way, finally, to Kasaani. Not quite all the way; a dodgy connection along the pipework meant we didn’t quite get to see it flow from the tap, but the hard work had been completed and we could leave Kasaani Friday morning knowing that all that stood between the villagers collecting water from their very own supply were a few hours of tinkering with pipe connections.
The final sighs of relief and tears of emotion came the following Tuesday morning. David called to tell us that the villagers of Kasaani were filling up their 20l water containers from the tap in their village! But the actual reason he called was simply to thank us… they finally had water in their village and it meant the world to them.