Taita Taveta has been dubbed as the theatre of the wildlife, the place of idyllic views, and the land of natural extremes.
For the latter rightly so because of the extremely cold weather of Wundanyi slopes and the extreme opposite of simmering heat of the lowlands.
When the rains pour, most of the areas are rendered impassable and the rivers are pregnant with water running downstream. But barely less than a month after such torrents, the residents are left with empty water tanks and severe water shortages.
The water shortage in the county has been grave to a notoriety level and that has got the attention of the national government, which for the last four years has vowed to increase water access and sanitation services in every corner of the country.
True to its promises, the national government in collaboration with local, national, and global partners has aggressively embarked on the implementation of water projects in the most drought-hit and water shortage hotspots in Taita Taveta.
In August 2021, the Coast Development Authority (CDA) completed phase one out of three of a water project for USD $30.4 million expected to directly benefit the lives and livelihoods of 100 smallholder farmers by boosting agricultural productivity and food security.
The three-phase project is set to cost a whopping USD $414 400 (approximately Sh47 million) already secured from National Treasury and aims to support a 1, 000-hectare irrigation project as well as supply domestic water to 7,000 people and 15,000 livestock.
Speaking about the potential of the project, CDA Managing Director Dr. Mohamed Keinan said it would tap into Lake Challa water and benefit residents in Mwatate, Voi, and Taveta.
“The project is looking to harness Lake Challa water resource for both domestic and irrigation use for the areas of Mwatate, Voi, and Taveta,” said Dr. Keinan.
On Friday last week, yet another water project funded by the European Union through the national government’s Water Sector Trust Fund was commissioned at Maktau.
The Sh88 million Nyangoro-Maktau Water and Sanitation Development Project will serve a population of 17,000 residents from Maktau and Godoma locations, who had to walk long distances in search of water for domestic use.
Other small-scale water projects have also been launched by the national government in partnership with the county government and continued to shift the landscape of water access and sanitation.
At the national level, the national government via the Ministry of Water, Sanitation, and Irrigation is intensifying efforts to achieve universal water security by initiating mega water, irrigation, and sanitation projects throughout the country.
Currently, the national access index is approximately at 64 per cent for water and 26 per cent for sanitation in urban areas with worse scores in rural areas according to a status report released in August 2021 by Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Irrigation, Sicily K. Kariuki.
The efforts by the national government are in tandem with the provisions of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 in Article 43 (1), (b), (c), (d) that guarantee threshold sanitation and safe water access for all.
In this spirit, Taita Taveta is benefitting from 28-town water and sanitation projects that also include other coastal counties of Mombasa, Kwale, and Kilifi.
At the global outlook, Kenya’s urban non-revenue water stands at 41 per cent with an annual water per capita falling less than 500M3, placing the country at severe water stress according to UN’s global water security indexing, which mandates an annual minimum of 1000M3 per person.
Kenya’s water sources are unevenly distributed and at times plagued with community conflicts that further increase water access distress, especially among arid and semi-arid regions.
To quell conflicts, the national government is using the strategy of public participation in the spirit of developing water projects anchored on prudent sharing for the benefit of all, which are now bearing fruits in Taita Taveta and other water-distress regions.
By Arnold Linga Masila