With solar power, a community in Makueni can now access water affordably and reliably

Photograph of a group of people gathering outsideProlonged droughts have always affected the output of hydropower plants in Kenya, forcing the Kenya Power Company to supplement it with diesel, a more expensive alternative. When this happens, it means that some communities that depend entirely on power from the main grid to pump water have to cope with expensive bills, or risk disconnection.

However, this is no longer the case for the Makutano-Sinai community in Makueni County. In June, KIWASH installed 44 solar panels and a new hybrid water pump that runs on both solar and conventional power from the grid.

“We used to pay up to Ksh300,000 ($3,000) per month, which was a huge burden to the community,” said Peter Nganda, the chair for the Makutano Community Borehole Water Project, as he flipped through old power bills. Now, the amount on the community’s water bills have dropped dramatically to Ksh50,000 ($500) per month or less.

The cost savings from the solar pump have enabled the community, with KIWASH support, to extend the water pipe system to two additional water kiosks in the neighboring Mathemba community, 2.4 kilometers away. Now, more than 320 households with approximately 16,000 people are benefiting from clean, reliable water piped to 13 different locations.

The availability of sufficient and reliable water is boosting agricultural activities and improving sanitation and hygiene for women and children. “This project is a big blessing to this community,” said Rose Wavinga Nzomo from neighboring Kangondi village. Before the upgrades to the Makutano borehole, she would trek for more than two hours to the Kyaka River to fetch water from shallow wells sunk in the riverbed. Almost her entire day would be dedicated to fetching water. “I needed two hours to walk to the stream, two more hours to sink the wells and wait for water to clear up, and at least three more hours to trek back home with loaded donkeys,” she said. With a reliable water source close to her home, Rose and more women like her are now about to engage in other income-generating activities.

The Makutano-Sinai Water Supply and Distribution Project was commissioned on June 21 by the Deputy Governor of Makueni, Adelina Mwau, and USAID’s Acting Chief Officer of Economic Growth and Inclusion, Adam Norikane. Along with household and water kiosk connections, the community project supplies water to health centers, schools, hotels and other public institutions in the area.

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