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November 30, 2020
County Focus Drinking Water

Merti community water users association in Isiolo county

The unique and picturesque location of Merti town, surrounded by the beautiful Merti plateau in the county of Isiolo, is a sight to
behold. Over the last few years, the town has experienced rapid growth, with its population rising to over
25,000 people. Although it is situated in a semi-arid
area, the Merti Community Water Users Association
is changing the face of the town by working towards
ensuring that the community is getting sufficient
and clean supply of water to each household. “This
project has literally brought us development and has
helped us a great deal” says Abdullahi Duba, a resident of Merti town.
But the situation in Merti has not always been like
this. A decade ago, the community here depended
entirely on the nearby seasonal Ewaso Ng’iro River
for all their water needs and when it dried up, the
people had nowhere to get water for their animals
and domestic use. This scarcity led to constant water
use conflicts at points of extraction and placed a
huge burden on women and girls who had to travel
long distances to fetch water. Habida Racho, a resident of the town, says that before the project was
implemented, the community was faced with a lot
of water-related issues and conflicts for they sometimes drew water from the seasonal river or boreholes and the quality of the water was not good.
Faced with a harsh and uncertain future but determined to take charge of their destiny, the community in Merti town came together in 2001 and formed
Merti Community Water Users Association with the
sole aim of ensuring that the Merti community gets
access to adequate clean water and improved sanitation. “We strongly felt that we should start the
Merti Community water project. So as a community, we came together, elected our officials and
started work to provide water to our community.
We started by constructing water kiosks until 2012
when we applied for and received funding from the
WSTF” says Roba Halkhano, the secretary of Merti
Water Users Association.
Impressed by this ambitious vision of the community in Merti, the WSTF through its Rural Investment
Programme invested KES 7.6 million in the project
and the local community contributed KES 800,000
in the form of labour and construction materials. The funding from the Water Fund enabled the
Merti Community Water User Project to hire more
technical staff, abandon water kiosks and increase
the number of individual meters, rehabilitate two
core project boreholes and embark on an ambitious
piping and extension of clean water from Merti town to Mulanda Nur, a village situated 8 km away and
inhabited by more than 3,000 people. The funding
also facilitated the construction of modern toilets
and bathrooms at Mulanda Nur, something that had
never been done in this village.
Today, Merti Community Water Users Project is a
proud, well-managed communal initiative, serving
more than 20,000 people through 1000 metered
connections with a staff of nine. Every month, the
project charges each user a minimum of KES 200
per connection. This amount ensures the smooth
running of the project operations including repair
works, payment of electricity bills and employee
salaries. Among the institutions in Merti town that
the project supplies water to are schools, hospitals,
churches, business establishments, police stations
and mosques. Although Merti still remains a harsh
semi-arid area, the community’s big water dream
— slowly but surely being turned into reality — is
a source of great communal pride and a story that
is inspiring and shaping the future of this resilient
community.

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