The deep end: Personal experiences
Heather McCollin

I think the main issue in the area we went to was lack of reliable water, i.e. low rainfall etc. (you will have been aware of the droughts in the news last summer) And the fact that it is hard to collect and store water in a sanitary way when the unreliable rains DID come. We went to work with the ASDF (Africa Sand Dam Foundation) to work with local communities around Mtito Andei building sand dams. We were a group of 15 so were able to give extra pairs of hands at digging, mixing cement, carrying water etc. at 4 dam sites. We worked very closely with the communities and got to know some people quite well. We were lucky enough to make a homestay visit for a day with a family in their homesteads/farms etc. and the main problem that "my" family had was lack of rainfall preventing growth of their crops and as a result, lack of income to support their family.

I am from East Anglia and for a few years now the summer has been too dry for the farmers but because we're so used to having water whenever we like people don't take it seriously when the Environment Agency (for example) appear on the news saying turn your taps off and stop using hosepipes for unnecessary things. It's hard to inspire people who haven't had to go without.

Claire Louise Fooks

Having spent 4 weeks with four communities building sand dams and a weekend homestay it was clear to see the problems caused by the lack of a reliable water source . The more noticeable effect of the poor water availability was a lack of food. There were a couple of days at the Malaika dam site on which the whole community was not present as some families did not have enough food to eat before coming to site and contribute to the food on site. It was also evident on my homestay where it was really upsetting to see the Chief's young children and niece and nephew go with very little food, yet the kindness of the Chief and his family in sharing their food with one of the other Quest team members and me. It was greatly satisfying to work with the community to build the dam and seeing a photo of the dam filled with water after the rains, which will help the community grow crops and feed the children. On an international level, as I am sure you are aware, there have been many conventions and conferences highlighting the issue of water security, such as the Dublin Principles, Agenda 21 Chapter 18, the Millennium Development Goals, and we are currently in the International Decade for Action Water for Life. However, from what I understand there is an action gap between the international agenda and water security at a local level in and around Mttito Andei and the wider region of Kenya. For example the UN indicates that a person needs 20litres of water a day to live on, and from what I saw this was not always the case in the communities we worked in. The MDG goal to reduce the proportion of people without sustainable safe drinking water by 2015 has yet to be met and Kenya has not met.

One of the reasons I believe the rural communities around Mttito Andei have poor access to water is that the government lacks the capacity both physically and financially to supply water to more rural communities. Reforming of the Kenyan water sector began in 1997 and a National Water Policy finalized and introduced for the first time in 1999. Water was recognized as a social good not just an economic commodity in a bid to ensure wide spread access to water, yet this seemed to have yet reach the rural areas around Mttito. A Water Services Trust Fund aims to provide financial assistance to areas where it is hard to form a water services provider organization yet there is little encouragement to apply for and utilize the funds available.

Improving water governance in Kenya is needed through the human rights based approach through increasing public participation and transparency of the water sector; in particular the more rural population of Kenya, such as the four communities that we were working with. NGOs have long had participation in Kenya's water sector along with civil society organizations such as ASDF, and it is such organizations, which are encompassing an array of actions to allow community members to establish relationships with people in the water sector and to have a voice in the issues surrounding water security. The agenda needs to move beyond that of the international level and to some extent the national level. The people we worked with are fantastic people and they deserve to have access to clean water, it's a basic human right. It's important that we worked with the children in the four communities and they helped build the sand dams so that they understand the importance of securing water and can already have a positive impact on their futures. It was a pleasure to work with them and see the work that ASDF is doing to allow the rural communities participation in the water sector.

Radha Kanini Measuria

It was a fantastic trip and we made life-long friendships within the team and also with the locals and the ASDF. Adding to what Heather was saying about the 'mother' explained to me how her and her son had to walk a long way to get water but since the recent dams have been built closer to all their homes, she only walks 10-15 minutes to get clean, 'tasty' water and her son can take the cows to drink water in the morning and evening and still make it in time for school. And having experienced carrying the big gallons of water strapped to my head, I only imagine what a difference it has made to them to have these dams.

It was so sad but eye-opening, the amount of times we were asked if we had to walk to get our water. It was heart breaking to tell them that we actually got running water into our home, both hot and cold water as and when we needed it. Their shock and amazement at this is all it takes to fully grasp their situation and how truly fortunate we are to have such facilities which are too often taken for granted. As it has been said, it's not until you don't have something do you truly appreciate it.

Paul Johnston

El problema también se puede deber a que muchos países reciben toda la lluvia una o dos veces al año y, por lo tanto, se ven limitadísimos por la cantidad de agua que pueden llegar a almacenar, En ocasiones lo que ocurre es que hay agua, pero no existe la infraestructura para acceder a ella. Yo estuve en la India en verano, durante la época de los monzones, y llovía a cantaros; sin embargo, muchas veces no teníamos agua en casa o en la oficina, ya que las tuberías perdían agua y la presión era demasiado baja. Uno no se imaginaría que lloviendo como lluvia pudiéramos tener ningún problema. Pero así fue. Por supuesto, podíamos recoger agua para beber y cocinar, pero hacer la colada, fregar los platos, etc. se hacía mucho más difícil.

You are definitely correct as well suggesting that water is like the new petrol or oil as it is increasingly becoming something which countries are willing to fight over. There is great concern over the Nile, which runs through 10 countries and yet Egypt seems to take most of the water and is unwilling to allow the other countries to have a fair share. This is even more evident with new countries such as South Sudan and it could well be that a new agreement will need to be signed with international backing. In addition we are beginning to even see more frequent water shortages in Europe. I am fortunate to live in a part of the UK where it rains for about 11 and a half months of the year but in the South of England and I am sure Spain is the same, they have periods of drought in the summer and there is real need to reduce the water consumption and formulate a more long-term plan for water sustainability.

The funny thing in this country is how people complain so quickly if they don't have water even if it's only for a short time. Last year there was a cut on the supply of water in Ireland after the pipes froze and broke and a large percentage of people were effected and had no water from their taps for days/weeks. This brought to light how important water is and I hope people were able to look beyond their own difficulties and understand this is the daily occurrence for a vast proportion of the world's population.

The problem can also be that many countries receive all their rain at one/two points in the year and therefore they are severely limited by the amount of water storage they have. The case can sometimes be that there is water around but not the infrastructure to support it. I was in India in the summer during monsoon period and it was pouring down with rain yet there were frequent times when we didn't have water in the house/office as the pipes had leaks or the pressure was too low. You wouldn't think that when it's pouring down with rain that you'd have a water problem, but we did. Of course we could collect enough water to drink and cook with but it made washing etc. a lot more difficult.

Videos about people working in Africa
The volunteer Claire and the employee Rose have sent us some videos telling us about their work in Africa.

Simon Tierney and Jonathan Cassidy sent us video about the work Quest overseas does in Africa.
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