By Jesse Starita, education and outreach coordinator
Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute irrigation specialist Lameck Odhiambo recently paid a visit to his native Kenya. But unlike any past visit, this one led to a place he’d never been: Nyumbani, a 1,000-acre village sheltering 1,000 children and 100 grandparents whose mothers, fathers, sons and daughters were lost to Kenya’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. Founded in 2006, Nyumbani provides compassionate care to orphans, along with comprehensive medical services, K-12 and vocational education, counseling, shelter and sustenance – the latter of which brought Lameck to the village.
In recent years, droughts and limited groundwater resources have strained the village farm’s productivity. According to Nyumbani’s executive director Sister Mary Owens, the farm has not been producing enough food for the village, let alone to export to surrounding communities. With unreliable groundwater and seasonal surface water, the farm has started looking at ways to capture and store rainwater to irrigate crops. Given the parallels between Nyumbani’s circumstances and DWFI’s mission, Lameck visited the farm in mid-December to assess where and how the institute could contribute.
“There are many possibilities for involvement, but the water pan is their biggest need,” Lameck says.
A water pan is a small reservoir created by excavating open ground that can store wet season rainfall and provide a reliable, year-round source for irrigating crop and forage land. According to Lameck, the orphanage is now seeking funds to build its first pan after identifying four potential locations for their installation.
On the second day of his visit, Lameck and Sister Mary traveled to the Kitui County Ministry of Agriculture. In talking with the country’s agriculture officer for crops, Lameck raised the possibility of rotating crops (currently the village only grows kale) and opportunities to increase forage for dairy cows. For both activities, rainwater harvesting in a water pan would likely play a transformative role.
“I came away from those two days with a much clearer understanding of their needs and how DWFI could partner to help meet them,” he says.