The communities around Utooni, in Kyangwithya West Ward, Kitui County have had to contend with a general lack of water in the area as the nearest rivers; River Tiva, and River Ithimani are 8 and 9 km away. The Kavingo earth dam has been the only source of water for the community since it was first dug up in the mid 1950s.
“This dam is our only source of water since it was excavated in 1956 when two neigbours Nzilu Kithongo and Mutie Munya were requested by the colonial government to allocate land for its construction to solve the problem of water shortage.” says Mr. Fred Mitie, a member of the dam’s Project Management Committee (PMC), adding that by 1994 the dam had accumulated so much silt that it had been reduced to a seasonal water point. In the same year the government de-silted the dam but did not protect it. People used to draw water manually from the dam for domestic use and the animals used to drink the water from the same spot.
Mr. Musembi Muthui a member of the community who uses water from the dam recalled that by 2001, incidences of water borne diseases, most notably typhoid, ring worms and bilharzia had increased to such high levels that AMREF took action by creating awareness and training the community on the dangers of utilizing unclean water.
In 2012 the government once again de-silted the dam and expanded it to hold more water and the dam was fenced off for the first time using thorn bushes but by 2019, the dam which lies on 2.4 hectares of land had silted again. It was at this stage that implementation of the NARIG project had been initiated in the country. During the PICD process the dam was identified by the community as a hot spot and selected for conservation. Through NARIGP, the dam whose capacity is 40,000m3 and serves over 300 households was fenced off, de-silted, expanded, and a solar pump that pumps water to overhead tanks was installed. Separate watering points for animals (cattle trough) and humans were constructed and the intake has mechanisms that slow down runoff water to avoid rapid siltation. A toilet to serve the community was also constructed. The work at the dam started in May 2021 and was handed over to the community as finished work in December 2021
Mr. John Nzilu Secretary to the PMC expressed his gratefulness to NARIGP for designing and funding the rehabilitation work.
“Before NARIGP, all we saw were government tractors which would come in and dig up the dam and go away. They never talked with us but NARIGP has helped us set up a committee to manage the dam and that is a good thing”.
“We are particularly appreciative of the design. The dam is well fenced, our women do not have to scoop the water at source and the animals have their separate drinking point. As a committee we are here to see that the dam is well managed. And yes we charge the community ksh.50 per household per month for the maintenance of the dam.”
To reduce siltation as a result of soil erosion from the surrounding farms, soil conservation structures were laid down and excavated in 30 farms. The community was also trained on soil conservation, tree planting, nursery management and already two farmers were using the water to irrigate their farms.