June 30, 2015
Earlier this year, Voss Foundation’s implementing partner Milgis Trust outfitted a well dug by the community with a solar-powered water system to provide water to the community of Lekeri in Samburu, Kenya. Our Program Director, Caitlin Rackish, visited Lekeri in April and shared an update on the newly completed project. Moses Lesoloyia, Milgis Trust’s Ground Manager, recently shared a project report that provided further information about implementation.
The Lekeri water system was funded by Lene Maria for Rent Vann in memory of Maria Annette Ofstad Derås, a friend of Lene Maria’s, who passed away at the age of 21 from Batten disease. When Maria Annette passed away, her family asked friends to donate to Lene Maria for Clean Water in her memory. Prior to completion of the project, the only sources of water people in Lekeri had access to were the shallow, open wells in the riverbed or the river if it was flowing. Now, thanks to the generosity of the Ofstad Derås family, clean water, pumped to a water tank and piped to 2 community standpipes, provides over 1,000 people in Lekeri with access to clean water. In dry periods, when water is scarce, people from other communities come to Lekeri to collect water, increasing that number to upwards of 3,000. Previously, some people walked over 5 km to collect water, and the trip could take 3-4 hours. Now, the longest distance anyone has to walk is 2-3km. Reducing the distance people have to walk to collect water has enabled members of the community to collect more water on a daily basis. Moses said that “before a family of 6 could use [as little as] 20 liters per person for two days… [Now], the same family uses the same amount [or more] in one day.”
In addition, Moses explained how the community participated in implementation of the project. “The community was involved in digging the well, mapping out where the pipeline would pass, digging the trench, putting the pipeline in and covering it, and collecting hard core for making slabs for the water tank base… One challenge was that the terrain that the pipeline had to pass was very rocky, so the community spent a lot of time digging the trench.” A community-elected management committee consisting of 8 women and 3 men was established and trained. In addition, two water watchmen were selected to guard the borehole and solar panels, and take care of daily tasks like dusting the solar panels. Both groups are supported by Lazaro Lepito, Milgis Trust’s Water Coordinator. A maintenance plan and a financial management plan were also put in place. As Caitlin mentioned in her trip recap, the salary for the water watchmen was not included in the project budget so the community assigned someone to collect a small fee per Jerrycan at the community standpipe. The fees will cover the watchmen’s salary and future repairs. Although the solar water system is up and running, there are a few components of the project, like the signboard, that still need to be completed.
Lene Maria for Rent Vann, Norwegian for “Lene Maria for Clean Water,” is a global grassroots initiative to honor the memory of Lene Maria Bergum, who was killed in the shooting attack on Utøya, Norway in July 2011. Her family chose to build a water project in Sub-Saharan Africa with Voss Foundation in Lene Maria’s name. They felt this was the way she would want to be remembered. Lekeri is the fifth Lene Maria for Rent Vann project with Voss Foundation. The campaign has funded 4 sanitation facilities and 17 water access points in 9 communities in Kenya, Liberia, and Uganda.
Thank you to Helen, Pete, and everyone who helped Milgis Trust complete the Lekeri project, as well as to the Bergum and Ofstad Derås families. Both have transformed terrible events into inspirational projects that benefit many, and Voss Foundation is honored to be a part of their efforts.