Tiaty residents fetching water from a well along Akwitchatis River, March 17, 2022. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Thousands have lived without love, not one without water, according to American poet Wystan Hugh Auden.

Clean water for domestic use is what each desires. For the people of Tiaty in Baringo County, any smelly or discolored water means life to them.

Due to the ongoing drought that has led to the scarcity of the precious commodity, hundreds of people have been pushed to desperation.

For several months now, the area has gone without rains and residents are experiencing the brutal side of life. Water pans have dried up and the existing water points have turned into battlegrounds.

They depend on boreholes to get water for livestock and human beings, and here, only the strongest survive. The quality of water does not matter.

A fight almost ensued in one of the boreholes between an elder and a youth after the latter blocked the old man’s cows from drinking water. Other people had to intervene.

Around the water points, animals collapse and carcasses are scattered. Other boreholes have been vandalised and solar panels stolen.

Some residents have to trek at least 20 kilometres to reach the nearest borehole. Those who cannot walk dig holes in the dry riverbeds hoping to get water. Women, children and the elderly spend most of their time along the riverbeds and from a distance, one would mistake it for a market.

The little water one gets from the dug holes is scooped into troughs for the livestock. Families are only allowed after the animals are satisfied. Those strong enough to dig the holes in river beds also deny strangers the commodity. Only close family members benefit.

 “What I get here is meant for my family, cows and goats not for the entire community,” said Mr Moses Domogong.

The father of 15 said due to the ongoing drought, his 260 goats and 21 cows died. He spends an entire day by the riverbed digging holes of up to 10 feet to get water.

Donkeys, camels, goats, sheep, women and children scramble at the trough. While women draw water for household use, men draw for their livestock.

Mr Hassan Lomumyoteba said the borehole constructed by the Ministry of Water and funded by Japan International Co-operation Agency serves people from many villages.

He said water from the borehole is too little to satisfy the villagers. He, however, said were it not for the borehole, locals would have had it rough.

“The solar panels installed do not provide enough power to pump water. We need more solar panels,” he said.

A borehole constructed 12 years ago at Katikit village and serves close to ten villages is now a home for residents who camp there with their livestock.

Mr Nyagatia Sigayang said they leave their homes as early as 6am and goes back earliest 10pm.

Gatongo Amongin said over 1, 000 goats and 500 cows depend on the borehole powered by solar panels up to around early evening when it shuts.

“This borehole has really assisted us. Villages like Kariamokitony, Katikit, Chemisik, Kedipo, Kases, Lombul, Kachepkelel, Kipsau and Ghatoi depend on it,” he said.

Four kilometres from Katikit borehole is another one drilled and equipped by the County Government in the Financial Year 2020/21.

Since 2013, over 200 water supply projects have been started. They are 15 government-funded boreholes, 100 gravity systems, 23 water pans, rehabilitation of  60 water supply schemes and pipeline extension for water projects in 30 wards.

Additional 100 boreholes worth Sh1.3 billion from Japan Government through JICA were sunk in 2016.

Governor Stanley Kiptis said their approach to the improvement of access to water is multidimensional. Water projects he said target to reduce long distances locals cover to get the precious commodity.

Mr Kiptis had promised to address water challenges. The county government in June 2020 commissioned a Sh60 million water drilling equipment which moves from one region to another.

Mr Kiptis said since 2018, Tiaty had 35 boreholes drilled and about 180 boreholes have been drilled and or equipped by the County Government. “I appeal to the locals to stop vandalising the boreholes,” he said.

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