West Pokot County lies within the arid and semi-arid regions of Kenya, with the area experiencing erratic annual rainfall, high temperatures, and being prone to high evaporation rates in some places.
Water resources in the area are not well developed, and as a result, the county faces frequent incidents of water scarcity.
Other challenges experienced by residents include food insecurity, endemic malnutrition, and border security, among others.
To address some of these challenges, the Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA), with funding from the Italian government and support from the government of Kenya, has initiated a water project in the region with the aim of providing access to safe, sustainable, and well-managed water facilities for the residents who face intensifying water shortages as the growing population draws water from scarce sources.
KVDA, through the government of Kenya, has embarked on a mission to address the impact of climate change and intercommunal conflict that is devastating communities, especially in the arid and semi-arid regions, through the provision of reliable water points.
The authority is rehabilitating a water pan at Cheparkule grazing land in Masol ward along the West Pokot and Turkana border to help address the tension and conflicts residents have been having over limited access to water and pasture.
For ages, the region has experienced a change in precipitation patterns and more extreme weather, which has threatened human health, safety, food, water, security, and socio-economic development.
The dwindling supplies of water and limited pasture increased the risk of inter-community conflicts.
The root causes of the conflicts among the pastoral communities in the area are attributed to revenge attacks, competition over land and water resources, and cattle rustling.
The conflicts have led to the loss of lives and property in the region, forcing the communities affected to live separately.
Pastoralists from the Pokot community have been moving with their livestock to neighbouring Turkana County and Uganda in search of water and pasture during drought seasons.
The Pokot pastoralists in Masol ward now have something to smile about after the government, through KVDA, agreed to pump in resources to rehabilitate and expand Cheparkule Water Pan, which was constructed during the colonial period but has not had water for livestock or domestic use.
Once rehabilitated and expanded, Cheparkule Pan will cushion residents and livestock from perennial drought and mitigate the effects of climate change.
Area residents, who are mainly pastoralists, say that the water pan will reduce conflict in the region as they will no longer migrate in search of water; hence, reduced migrations.
KVDA Managing Director (MD) Sammy Naporos says the water pan that will be refurbished at a cost of Sh20 million will be expanded in capacity to hold 35,000 cubic metres of water.
He said a team of engineers will be sent to the area to work with residents and come up with ways on how the water pan can be revamped to hold more water.
“We shall also set up peace dams, which are key to eradicating conflict that arises due to the scramble for commodities and making people settle in the arid regions. This will help end hostilities among the three neighbouring communities,” MD Naporos said.
He added that the dam will enhance peace in the region since, initially, residents used to clash owing to the scramble for water and pasture for their livestock.
Naporos said the water pan is projected to serve 3000 households and 7000 animals in the region.
“The water pan has gotten water after a few weeks of rain. We shall no longer have conflicts and clashes because of resource-based feuding and water scarcity but because of trade,” he said.
He said that the government has implemented measures to increase access to water through harvesting and storage in arid and semi-arid areas.
“The government is doing 15 water utilities, 10 bore holes, and 5 dams this financial year.
He went on: ‘”We want to end competition over shared resources”.
The KVDA MD said natural resource conflicts influence sustainable livelihoods, reiterating that the government is pumping in resources to help address conflicts brought about by competition for resources.
“We have been experiencing a prolonged drought for three years with many challenges,” he stated.
He said that they will take advantage of the El Nino rains to harvest water in the water pan.
Sigor Member of Parliament (MP) Peter Lochakapong, who doubles up as the regional development chairperson in the National Assembly, said the multimillion-dollar water pan project is a long-term measure against the biting water shortage in the area.
MP Lochakapong explained that frequent drought and famine have been the major causes of conflict among the neighbouring communities, which compete for a shortage of water and limited pasture for their livestock.
Lochakapong said Cheparkule Water Pan will help to harvest runoff water once the rains come, and water will sustain the community for both domestic and livestock.
He said the harvested water will cushion the residents and their livestock from ongoing drought effects.
Eric Kolikwon Masol, ward manager, said the water pan has the potential to change the livelihoods of the residents.
He said the project addresses the government’s efforts to provide sustainable water sources to its people and will also help restore peace in the area.
Mr. Kolikwon said the water pan has helped their livestock remain in good health even in the drought season, enabling them to fetch good prices in the market.
“Livestock prices have gone up from Sh1,500 to Sh6,000 per goat,” he said.
Jane Chepoisho, a resident, said the water pan will attract those who have migrated to other parts of the county in search of water to come back to their homes.
“We have been moving to Kadengoi, Amolem, and Kainuk to look for water. The water shortage has been contributing to cattle rustling and banditry activities in this region,” John Loposiwa said.
Mr. Loposiwa said the project in the area would tremendously transform their livelihoods.
He further added that their major source of income is pastoralism, and the water pan will help stock more animals for posterity even during droughts.
By Richard Muhambe