Half of Kenya's population - 16 million - lack access to safe drinking water and the majority of them, about 13 million, live in the rural areas. Siongiroi subdivision is located in the southern part of the Rift Valley in Bomet district, Kenya. Siongiroi is a semi-arid and the area receives variable annual rainfall. In the 1990s and 2000 the area experienced severe droughts that decimated the community's livestock and maize (corn) harvests. People were forced to walk long distances to find water that was unsafe to drink. The Siongiroi community has identified water as their main problem and prioritized rainfall harvesting to proactively mitigate the recurrent droughts. In the past, the community worked at solving the water shortage by building dams with measured success. Many of these dams were constructed in the 1950s and are in desperate need of rehabilitation. The dam water is not the cleanest and contains harmful bacteria. The nearest flowing water is over 15 kilometers from the community, and alternatives for getting clean, reliable water sources and distributing to neighboring villages is a priority, especially for the children.
Siongiroi Community Development Organization (SICODO) was started in 1996 as a community-based self-help group. SICODO has targeted several significant water security programs to harvest the rain during the short and long rains seasons. These projects include the construction and rehabilitation of community dams, the survey and drilling of bore holes and shallow wells, and the construction of water catchment tanks for community use. SICODO is the brainchild of Mr. William Chelule who observed the impact that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) could make on improving the lives of rural when he worked with an NGO in Nairobi, Kenya. The principal objective of SICODO is to increase the capacity of low-income communities to define their own priorities and become effective agents of development and change. SICODO aims to create local ownership of these development processes and create an enabling environment for community development work.
The SICODO water security initiative aims to make water accessible to over 11,900 people and their livestock, provide a clean and reliable water supply to the area schools and dispensaries, and to train the community on the importance of water management. SICODO works with several organizations that have the financial and technical resources required to make the water security initiative successful. SICODO worked with Kenya Rural Water Development to rehabilitate the community dams, carry out geological surveys and drill boreholes. To build special water catchment tanks for the area schools and community buildings, SICODO engaged Waterlines, a US-based NGO that specializes in the construction of tanks.
The Water Security project has empowered the community by ensuring a clean and reliable water supply for agricultural activity, which is the primary means of livelihood in Siongiroi. Dairy production, which is crucial to the Siongiroi community, relies heavily on dam water and other water sources to maintain consistent levels of milk production.
The SICODO Water Security project is a community-based initiative. SICODO completed a Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) in 1999 in which key stakeholders including village chiefs, elders, teachers, community leaders and spiritual leaders indicated that water security was a high priority for development. The community endorsement gave SICODO the mandate to proceed in identifying resources to address water security. The community contributes between 20-25% of the total costs of a project and is invited to all major events such as ground breaking in dam construction and at the start and completion of water tank construction.
The initiative uses community and local resources when available. Construction labor and expertise is sought within the community to ensure the transfer and constant availability of skills and knowledge. During the construction of water tanks, local artisans observed and were trained on the construction of the tanks. Community members observed the rehabilitation and construction of the dams and boreholes to facilitate their understanding of maintenance and for future initiatives. SICODO educates the community on the importance of water conservation and preservation of water sources with each successful intervention. Complementary development projects like the Community Agro forestry nursery reinforce this education.
SICODO has completed the construction and rehabilitation of 4 community dams that provide water for over 12,000 community members. More than half the farmers in the community rely on these dams for their livestock. 4 water tanks that provide clean and safe drinking water to the area schools have been completed in partnership with Waterlines USA. A community bore hole has been successfully drilled, with the potential of delivering 2,000 liters per hour to the village once funds are secured for a windmill to power the pumping of water from the bore hole.
Other achievements SICODO has made in agriculture and rural development, health education, and women & youth issues are:
Training 4,500 farmers on modern farming techniques
Establishing 2 banana bulking plots
Introducing sweet potatoes to local farmers
HIV/AIDS Awareness Campaign for 6,000 community members.
Constructing 2 maternity wings
Training 240 HIV/AIDS Trainers
Training 40 women in brick making, pottery and poultry
Introduced dairy goats to 4 women groups
Developed and offered tailoring course for women
Trained 30 youths on tree nurseries and brick making.