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Friday, 12 June 2015

Manyatta rain water harvesting technology quenching Laikipia County’s thirst

By Njenga Kahiro
Like many areas of central and north of Laikipia County, Segera area faces water scarcity. Laikipia County lies on the leeward side of Mount Kenya and therefore receives low rainfall. Rain water is the cheapest and cleanest water. But how can it be captured by those who live in a grass thatched house and who are likely to relocate if the pasture diminishes?
Two local community based organizations (CBOs), Segera Jirani na Mazingira and Sugutan have with the help of Zeitz Foundation and funding from United Nations Development Program under its Global Environment Facility Small Grants Program (UNDP GEF SGP) been implementing the Manyatta Rain Water Harvesting Project in Laikipia County.
In keeping with the Zeitz Foundation’s tradition of finding innovative solutions to everyday problems, partners like Engineers Without Borders USA and Sugutan CBO have been at the frontline of this innovation piloting a novel rainwater harvesting model for Samburu Manyattas in the North of Segera.
After many deliberations, rain-water harvesting through manyattas eventually became a reality. The challenge was how to ensure a household gets clean rainwater irrespective of whether the house is grass or mud roofed.
The project implementation team, together with partners – Engineers Without Borders USA - have come up with an innovative solution involving: a water proof poly tarp; wood guttering frame; first flash filtering; above ground capture; and underground storage with a hand pump to draw the water from the underground tank.
Picture of a Manyatta rain water harvesting technology

Unlike most rain water harvesting setups, the principle in this innovation is not to force the Samburu households to change their building architecture but rather to incorporate the tradition in designing the innovation.
On average, a household would need around 20,000 litres of clean water annually but the roof surfaces of their houses would not collect that much water. The cost of doing 20,000 litres storage is also prohibitive. Another challenge is when one water source is shared by many households. It is therefore often a source of conflict when some households want to draw more than the agreed share. Another challenge is when some in the community fail to conform to agreed use of water. An example is when some use the clean rain water for washing or watering livestock while the agreed use is cooking or drinking.
Gender dimensions
In Sugutan village, women who are the traditional builders in this community, have learnt how to fix the roof and the guttering. The system is completely plug and play, and if the household moves, the owner can set up the same system in their new homestead as long as it adopts the same dimensions.
Replication of the innovation
Recently, a much more improved system developed with technical input from China’s Gansu Research Institute for Water Conservation (GRIWC) has been introduced resulting in more households accessing clean water.
Engineers from GRIWC completed a project with a similar approach at Greater Segera and the plan is to monitor the two different designs and see which is most effective for scaling up and introducing more broadly to improve sustainable water management in Laikipia County. African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) has made requests to share the knowledge and explore its application at institutional level.
Some schools namely Uaso Nyiro Primary School which uses 350,000 litres and Endana Secondary School 1.2 million litres of water annually have used the innovation to become self-sufficient in water.
In addition, the newly finished Samuel Etoo Football Academy adopts the same water harvesting approach and is now collecting 1.4 million litres from the roof of a sports stadium, a canteen and girls dorm. More exciting, perhaps, is the combination of rain water harvesting and conservation agriculture in one site. This package is truly set to change the face of dry land communities in Central and North Laikipia.
Njenga Kahiro is the Laikipia Programme Manager, Zeitz Foundation – Kenya, Email:, Tel: +254 061 2309996, 0721475876
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