Let’s harvest water during rainy season


A crowd gathers around a 150, 000-litre tank during the commissioning of the Masue Water Project, a Sh 5.6 million project that harvests rain water from Masue Rock, at Masue Village in Makueni County. FILE PHOTO | NMG

We are a few days to the onset of the much-awaited long rains. The weatherman has issued a warning that the rains may be below average.

This is disheartening news after a period of prolonged drought, but the encouraging bit, there will be some rain.

The rains may be delayed, may fall over a short period, and there might be some flash floods in some regions, but one thing is sure.

Some water will flow from the dryland all the way to the ocean. It is not just water that flows to oceans, it flows along with topsoil.

Water runoff from farmlands means sedimentation of water bodies which ruins aquatic life. Expect this to be worse given that the land is overgrazed and bare.

Let the rains fall, have some stormwater runoff, and a few swollen rivers, and then the blame game begins.

Heavy salvos will be fired at the government, we will criticize, some will curse, and social media will be abuzz with attacks. The government will be blamed for failing to harvest rainwater.

Then suddenly we will all become experts in irrigation farming. Everyone will be giving lectures on desert farming in Israel and Egypt.

It is okay to accuse the government and we should mount pressure on them. But the government may do nothing, after all, rains may fall anytime soon.

Before we ask what the government is doing for us, we must ask what we are doing not for the government but for ourselves.

Water harvesting is a responsibility at the national, county, community, and more so at the individual level.

Water harvesting at the individual level may be interpreted to mean installing water tanks but there is more to it than just tanks.

The Swollen rivers we see are fed by seasonal streams and the streams are fed by brooks and the brooks by channels flowing from private land.

Rain water should be harvested at the point where the drop hits the ground. The objective should be to collect the water on the surface or force it to sink into the ground.

When rainwater percolates on the ground, it becomes moisture for plants, when it goes further deeper it recharges shallow wells, springs, swamps, and even boreholes.

Urban dwellers are happy to have running taps. Much of this water comes from boreholes. No one is thinking of recharging the aquifers, some deliberate action is urgent.

Stormwater is very easy to manage at a small scale but when it accumulates it overwhelms everyone including the government.

Some stormwater harvesting techniques include digging doughnut rings around trees, terraces, and contours as well as ponds in farmlands. Any method that stops water runoff is good enough.

Maybe we need to borrow a leaf from India’s Miracle water villages, their stories are popular on the internet. Through a farming method known as permaculture, rural communities have come together to recover wastelands.

By digging contours and terraces up the hills, they have revived water streams that had long dried up. Communities that were surviving on aid two decades ago are now living in bounty.

I remember my days growing up in the village, there used to be Agricultural extension officers. One of the key roles of the officers was to advise on the prevention of soil erosion.

I remember how they used to direct the digging of terraces and benches. It was an offence to defy their orders.

This is the best national and county governments can do, mobilize communities to manage water runoffs. The government will not enter private land and start harvesting water, maybe it is illegal, or maybe it has no resources.

The reality of climate change has dawned on us, we can’t blame others while we do nothing. For those who are believers, I take you back to the beginning. The instructions were, to multiply and fill the earth, secondly subdue the earth.

Get your hands dirty, subdue your earth, and make a little Israel out of your space.

Faustin Mwinzi is a lecturer at KCA University.