The region of Rarieda, located in Siaya County, is typically arid, characterized by extended dry periods and brief rainy seasons. Local residents have relied on donkeys to transport water from the nearby lake or the numerous water pans scattered across the Uyoma and Asembo clans for a long time. In this area, teachers often assign students the task of fetching water for school purposes, such as cleaning, drinking, and cooking, which substantially reduces the time teachers can spend instructing students. Eveline Atieno, the headteacher of Luoro Junior and Primary Schools, mentioned that this results in a loss of valuable teacher-pupil interaction as children travel far distances to fetch water.
Furthermore, the water brought to school is frequently unsafe for human consumption, as it may be contaminated with germs that cause diseases like diarrhea, as stated by Atieno. However, a positive change is occurring thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Asembo Bay-based Dala Rieko Community Based Organization, Rotary International, and the Lake Victoria Basin Commission to address the water problem.
They have initiated a project called “Lake Basin Water Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools and Communities,” with the primary aim of distributing water tanks to schools and households. Just recently, they distributed 30 water tanks, each with a capacity of 3,000 liters, to households, along with six tanks of 10,000 liters each to three schools in East Asembo Ward. These schools include Luoro Primary and Junior Schools, Wera Primary and Junior Schools, and St. Nicholas Boyi Secondary School, each of which received two tanks. As part of the project, seven-door toilets will be constructed in these schools, with a designated washroom for girls during menstruation and one door accessible to physically challenged individuals.
The director of Dala Rieko, Alex Omino, explained that they decided to capture rainwater during heavy rains to store for use during the prolonged dry spells, recognizing the climate change challenges the region faces.
Beatrice Ouma, the headteacher of Wera Primary and Junior Schools, expressed gratitude to the project initiators and donors, highlighting the significant improvement in health standards within the institution. The presence of clean water tanks and toilets will address the issues of pupils coming to school with dirty water and the prevalence of waterborne diseases that often led to student absences.
The 30 household water tanks will be used for harvesting rainwater from rooftops and will benefit approximately 180 households in the area. These tanks are hosted collectively by groups of five individuals under a Memorandum of Understanding, emphasizing community trust.
The initiative began in 2015, initially distributing tanks to 14 households and four schools during its pilot phase. Rariw Primary School, in particular, received two 10,000-liter water tanks, as well as a 12-door safi toilet and handwashing kits. The safi toilets are specially constructed to prevent sinking and damage due to the area’s unstable soil.
The project also involves training teachers, parents, and students on water sanitation and hygiene in preparation for International Hand Washing Day on October 15.
Turphosa Atieno, the treasurer of the Rotary Community Corps, highlighted the timely arrival of the water tanks as El Niño rains were expected to begin, potentially helping the region with water scarcity.
East Asembo Ward MCA Gordon Onguru commended the Lake Basin WASH project for its proactive approach in addressing community issues. He acknowledged that the community’s dry conditions often lead to wasted rainwater, and these tanks would enable residents to harvest roof water and share it with others, reinforcing the importance of a community-driven approach to solving problems when governmental solutions may be inadequate.