Water can create peaceful ties and ensure prosperity

When Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga commissioned a bore hole. [James Omoro, Standard]

Historically, water has been a central factor in human settlement patterns. Ancient civilisations flourished along river banks.

Modern cities cluster around freshwater sources, impacting how and where people live. However, unequal access to water resources has led to tensions, especially where water is scarce or polluted. Competition for limited resources can escalate into conflicts, aggravating social and political instability.

Water also fosters harmony and prosperity when managed equitably and sustainably. Access to clean water and sanitation improves public health and enhances educational opportunities, economic productivity, and overall well-being. By ensuring universal access to water and sanitation, communities can reach their full potential. Water is also a pathway for international cooperation and discussions, promoting peaceful ties and collaborative action on shared water resources. 

The United Nations World Water Day on March 22 is an annual reminder of the global water crisis. This year’s theme, “Water for Peace,” highlights the critical role of water in promoting cooperation and averting conflict.

Kenya’s water story is complex, interlaced with obstacles and opportunities. With its varied landscape and rising population, Kenya faces unique water problems. Understanding how water influences human settlement, collaboration, and prosperity in Kenya provides essential insights for accomplishing the Sustainable Development Goals and advocating water for peace on a global scale.

Because of the variable climate and geographically uneven rainfall patterns, some regions experience prolonged droughts while others experience seasonal floods, hence the urgent need to develop innovative, long-term water management solutions that promote equal distribution and reduce conflict.

Kenya has a long history of applying conventional methods of managing water, such as rainwater collection and sand dams. Kenya needs sustainable water management systems by combining these techniques with contemporary solutions, as evidenced by the increased uptake of modern infrastructure, such as irrigation systems and dams.

Water for peace in Kenya requires a collaborative effort from various stakeholders such as the government, communities, civil societies, NGOs, and the private sector.

With its global network of volunteers and humanitarian projects, Rotary International has been at the forefront of leveraging water for peace and prosperity.  Through initiatives like the Rotary Water and Sanitation Program and the Rotary Foundation’s Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) projects, Rotary Clubs have significantly improved access to clean water and sanitation in underserved communities worldwide.

Rotary clubs in District 9212, which includes Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Eritrea, have been instrumental in drilling boreholes, building rainwater harvesting systems, and promoting hygiene education in Kenyan communities.  

In June In 2021, the Rotary Club of Nairobi, Lang’ata, in partnership with Kenya Defence Forces, drilled a borehole for the Oloomaiyana community, installing a solar-powered water pumping system to supply over 12,000 people.

Let us reaffirm our commitment to using water to promote peace and sustainable development.

The writer is an environmentalist and past president of the Rotary Club of Murang’a