Progress of water security project for Turkana, Kenya

Community participating in compost making ©UNESCO/Pablo Moñino

Turkana County lies within the arid and semi-arid regions of Kenya. It experiences low annual and erratic rainfall, with very high temperatures and high evaporation rates. The water resources in the area are not well developed and as a result, the county faces both physical and economic water scarcity. Other challenges experienced by the inhabitants include cyclical drought and famine, food insecurity, endemic malnutrition and border security among others.

To address some of these challenges, the Slovak Government partnered with UNESCO to provide funding and support for a water security project for Turkana. This project was initiated in 2020. It aims to provide access to safe, sustainable and well managed water facilities, improve water harvesting technology, provide water for agriculture and livestock as well as promote the use of alternative energy for groundwater pumping in Turkana region. ON 19February 2021, a virtual meeting was held with the project donors and the UNESCO team to discuss on its the progress.

In her opening remarks, the Director of UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa emphasized on the timeliness of the project in helping to achieve the SDGs at a time when the impacts of climate change are devastating communities especially in the arid and semi-arid areas. She also appreciated the progress made so far despite the outbreak of the Covid- 19 pandemic and the slow start of the project due to administrative reasons.

Since its inception, a number of benefits have been realized for 34 community groups out of a target of 53 envisaged by the project. These benefits include maintenance and repair work on 37% of the 161 targeted community water points; 19 Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) awareness and sensitization activities conducted in 12 different villages;  technical training for the pump maintenance unit in order to improve their capacity on conducting repairs on the pump systems and groundwater pump testing; and a workshop organized on desert agriculture and a practical demonstration on compost making to provide an alternative livelihood for the community and for improving agricultural yields in the communities’ small farms respectively.

Speaking on behalf of the Slovak Government, the Director of the Department for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid was pleased with the progress of the project and with the implementation status despite the challenges that Covid-19 presented. She confirmed that the Slovak Government remained committed to the project and will continue to provide financial support to ensure its successful completion. Commenting on the progress, the Kenyan Government representative who is the Chief Executive Officer for the Regional Centre on Groundwater Resources, mentioned the possibility for continued collaboration with her organization on capacity building of the water managers and the community in Turkana, research on artificial groundwater recharge since Turkana is highly dependent on underground water resources and public awareness in order to promote sustainability for the project beyond the project period.

Responding to the comments raised by the Slovak Government representative, UNESCO will address the gap that existing in terms of local and national government participation and boost the cooperation with the implementers for longevity. UNESCO will also continue to increase the visibility of the project through inclusion of the donor’s logo in all publications and reports, webpages and any presentations related to the same. Finally, a detailed financial report detailing actual amount spent per activity is to be sent to the donor.

Being an ongoing project, the way forward includes strengthening the collaboration of the national as well as the county government in order to ensure sustainability of the project after the end of donor funding as well as to avoid duplication of efforts. In addition, UNESCO is to organize a monitoring visit for the Slovak government representatives to the site when travel restrictions have been lifted.