By Joe Ombour
When you meet the amiable Mohamed Shurie for the first time, you cannot discern that he is like a god to his people. They like him so much that they have even nicknamed him Bwana Maji.
Bwana Maji, 47, is an answer to a long-term wish of the people of northern Kenya.
Shurie, who is the executive director of the Northern Water Services Board, a position he has held since the board’s inception in 2006, is literally transforming lives in this region in Garissa County.
His board’s ambitious plans to create artificial rivers to flow out of River Tana into the thirsty interior of the seared jungles have lifted the CEO’s profile. The people have gone ahead and composed songs to appreciate the effort.
‘The water you are bringing us will benefit us more than the rain that disappears abruptly when we need it most,” one of the lyrics goes.
Already, one such artificial river known as Rahole Canal, which is expected to run 51km to Fafi District complete with water pans has started flowing, transforming entire neighbourhoods for the better in the areas it has reached as irrigated plots flourish with varied crops in an erstwhile barren and desolate landscape.
Garissa, Mandera, Wajir, Isiolo, Laikipia, Samburu and Marsabit counties where Shurie is the main hope for water cover approximately 43 per cent of Kenya.
But most of it is so water-starved in the dry season that it is easier to wash the face with saliva instead of water.
“Some 3.6 million people now depend on us for their water needs,” says Shurie, humbly. But he is not basking in the glory of the achievement. Instead, he says, much more still has to be done to sufficiently supply the population. With water, he is sure this areas is going to become one of the most prosperous in the country.
“I see northern Kenya as the future bread basket of our nation if we harness properly the huge volumes of water from Tana, Ewaso Ng’iro and Dawa rivers that flow to waste into the Indian Ocean,” Shurie says.