– Winifred Nzioka’s face lit up when a laborer delivered several jerry cans of water to her house on a balmy afternoon to quench the thirst of the lowing cows.
The middle-aged mother of five has built a permanent home among sunny farmsteads in the heart of southern Kenya‘s Machakos County, which is in the midst of a prolonged drought.
Just yards from Nzioka’s home is a public school where a solar-powered well sponsored by a Chinese businessman is providing respite from the water stress that used to plague residents of the arid plains that dot Machakos County.
The small farmer said during a recent interview that water problems are now behind her as she is able to extract produce from the solar-powered well at a modest fee.
“I have benefited a lot from the well where I get water for my cows and for domestic consumption. We are happy because now we have clean, drinkable water just around the corner,” said Nzioka.
Through a partnership with local non-profit groups, Li has harnessed solar solutions to address water stress in Machakos and other Kenyan drylands that bear the brunt of climate-induced droughts.
Li, who had just landed from Egypt where he attended the UN climate conference, said harnessing solar power to pump water from wells is helping to address growing scarcity of the resource in Africa’s climate hotspots.
Fabian Daniel, an 18-year-old farmhand, was in his element as he accompanied two heifers carrying 20-litre drums filled with water drawn from a kiosk powered by the solar-powered well.
“Before, we would walk about five kilometers and it took us more than two hours to get to a water source, but that is not the case anymore, now we are getting the product at this kiosk that is at our doorstep,” said Daniel.
The young son of peasants said that he currently spends less than thirty minutes getting water from the kiosk and taking it home for domestic consumption and irrigation of crops.
“I think this water project is good for drought-stricken rural Kenyans. We have to find a way to make water available to these communities, including drilling wells. Groundwater is more reliable than rain.” Li said.
He noted that solar power, a renewable energy source, could help Kenya in its pursuit of an ecological transition as well as improve sustainable water supply for underserved rural communities.
Li stressed that access to a reliable water supply will enable Machakos villagers to undertake climate-resilient farming practices, boost their food security and expand their sources of income.
“The water not only helps them drink, but it also helps them increase productivity on their farms. And solar power is a must, because in off-grid areas, you can’t get water from underground sources without solar power.” Li said.
Li said that through a strategic partnership with local businesses and charities, his company has been able to use China‘s prowess in groundwater utilization to address access gaps in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid areas.
More than five million liters of clean drinking water have been delivered to homes since the solar-powered borehole and kiosk project was completed in May this year, said Tajinder Singh, managing director of Project Maji, a non-profit social enterprise. profit. that he has partnered with Li to address water issues in Kenya.
Singh added that the public primary school has 1,000 liters of drinking water daily to help quench the thirst of the pupils, water the trees and improve sanitation and hygiene.
Singh revealed that a 20-litre jerrycan of water sells for 2.5 Kenyan shillings (about US$0.02) at the kiosk, adding that regular monitoring is carried out to ensure that the product meets the safety threshold. and quality.
Susan Kennedy, principal of Kwakatheke Primary School, said that the establishment of a solar energy well has improved the academic performance and health of her 107 students.
“Children have been spared the agony of walking long distances in blistering heat to fetch water. The water from the well is safe to drink and the children also use it to nourish trees and maintain hygiene in their classrooms,” Kennedy said. ■