During the dry season, the only place to find water is in the lugga's (dry river beds). Pastoralists dig deep wells in the sand to get to the precious resource. As the season gets drier, people travel far distances to find water, and then make the long return back to their villages. The wells also attract wildlife as they are the only water sources around, resulting in human-wildlife conflict. The elephants unfortunately destroy the wells as they quench their thirst and 'celebrate'. Furthermore, the wells are destroyed when young elephants fall down them and the rest of the herd tries to rescue them - often unsuccessfully. Naturally this angers the well diggers, who have spent weeks perfecting them leading to conflict between the two parties.
Additionally when the rains come, the rivers flood and destroy the hand dug wells. The beginning of the rains does not necessarily signal the end of harsh times. Cold and damp conditions can further weaken the immune systems of livestock that have just endured the harsh dry season. We took this into consideration and realised that the best way of alleviating this problem is to harvest the rainwater and build storage in the form of pan dams near their homes.
The pan dams not only provide water for the pastoralists and their livestock but also for the wildlife in the area. Now that elephants are slowly returning to Mt Nyiro and Mt Kulal, we have made a special effort to dig pan dams along the elephant migratory routes which have been left untrod for 40 years.
We have a backhoe tractor that travels with a team of three to communities in need of water. The tractor digs pan dams of different sizes depending on the catchment potential and local population. To date we have dug and continue to maintain more than 65 dams.
Main supporters of this programme
James and Penny Symington