Bending down, Anastasia Wanza 55, plucks a tomato from a stem and calls out to one of her children pumping water from a shallow well nearby to come help her tend the garden. Anastasia's little garden stands out like a small oasis, a sharp contrast to the dry brown environment that surrounds it. "It wasn't this way", she says, “Before the well, we could not grow vegetables here. But now we can. Thanks to Amref Health Africa, we have a well."
Before 2003, the community in Kaweto village in Kaaunguni sub-location in the Eastern province of Kenya had to trek many kilometers in search of water. Many had given up on the dream of ever having water outside their doorstep." We had to walk close to 10 kilometers", Anastasia says as she points to hills on the horizon" and we had to climb them to reach the spring".
For Anastasia fetching water had become a nightmare. A routine she had become tired of doing. “During the dry season, we had to walk for up to 3 hours with a 20 liter jerry can on our back." The best time she could go to the spring was in the evening after she had completed her household chores and ensured that her 8 children had food. “Because of wild animals like elephants, we had to walk as a group of 5 to 10 women accompanied by some men from the village. We would start our journey at 6:00 pm and get to the spring at about 9:00 pm," she says.
At the spring, Anastasia and women from her village and other neighboring communities had to spend the night in an open field." We would do this because early morning was the best time for us to fetch the water as this was the only time that the spring's water level was highest", she says. Going to the spring she recalls was not difficult but the journey back with water on her back had become an exercise she dreaded each time she went to the spring. Her yellow 20-litre jerry can weighed over 10 kilograms when filled with water, which she had to carry on her back.
“It was hard", she laments, “by the time I got home, my legs and body ached and I would be exhausted to the extent that I could not be productive for the rest of the day". Like many of the women in her village Anastasia had worked out a timetable with her husband where they would alternate days to fetch water.
"The water we fetched would be used for cooking, drinking and sometimes for bathing the children", she says. Depending on the dryness of the season, her children had to sometimes go without an everyday bath.
With little time after fetching water and having very little water to spare, Anastasia could only concentrate on growing maize and beans, which are relatively drought resistant. The Maize and beans became a major part of her family's diet, as it was easy for her to dry and store after harvest. "We would dry the maize and put them in our stores to eat in the dry season", she says.
Her family's main source of income came from selling charcoal or building blocks, an activity that earned the family sometimes a dollar or less a day.
"Now" she says, I can make close to Kshs 300 (about US $3.70) after selling my vegetables at the market or to villagers", she says with a glitter of pride in her voice." Life has truly changed for the better. We now also eat better; our diet has variety from kales to tomatoes. My children also bathe every day and are even looking healthy."