Water water water… IS life!!!..

The Chalbi Desert

DESERTS!!! ???

Northern Kenya… Dramatic, beautiful, dangerous, space, incredible, hot, water is very precious.. theres hundreds of words to describe this amazing place!… 

Rock desert
Rock desert near Mbaso.. Lake Turkana
the Kaisut in a good year!

If you have ever been really, really thirsty in your life you would know to plan properly when travelling in Northern kenya..  a normal journey into the desert can very quickly turn into a disaster..

Serious.. North of Kulal..

One day we were crossing the Kaisut desert in a vehicle when we thought we saw a lone baboon sitting under a tree and commented.. ‘Wow what is he doing here, its dry and theres no water any where.. ‘ In fact, the black shape was a person who was not far from collapsing from lack of water and had  wrapped up in a black ‘shuka’, huddling under a small tree, to try to save his life.. ( he dared not to lie down as that would spell ‘curtains’) .. He heard our vehicle noise and realised this was his only chance to survive his desert crossing.. The black figure erupted, holding his 3 liter container high above his shoulders..

The Kaisut desert..
The lone tree

We were not SO certain what to think.. is this a trick or is it real!??? But when we saw his face we realised he needed help… He stood up, it was like an apparition, his ghostly figure contorted and shrivelled..  and came slowly towards the car.. and sat on the bank, NOT A WORD WAS SAID.. and handed his container over.. it WAS empty… We filled his container up, and he sat on the side of the road and slowly drank the 3 liters.. and handed it back for more…

We were totally aghast, and worried for this old man and tried to talk to him.. For ten minutes he sat there starring into space… BUT finally started talking, very quiet for a bit but after also a little rice that he scoffed down fast he had lots to say..( We had some rice left over from the night before and VERY WISE Lesoloyia, said lets keep it we are crossing the desert,  who knows!?? )

What he said was unbelievable!.. He was a Rendille man with a mission, and he knew what he was doing….. BUT for the very first time in his life, he took a short cut and made the mistake of filling his container from a well that was more salty than his usual well, and very nearly paid with his life.. Where we found him was quite near to a small lugga with some Cordia trees along it, and he knew that they may be in fruit, so he was trying to save himself by going there.. BUT he said ‘ I don’t think I would have made it’..


We tried to make him come with us in the car and we would drop him off in a manyatta further along… He insisted we had saved his life and he pointed into the distance ..’ you see those trees, thats where Im going!!’ We said ‘NO WAY… You come with us’.. BUT he was adamant.. He prayed for us in his beautiful Rendille language and promised us all LOOOONG lives and OFF he went… disappearing back into the desert with purpose in his stride!!..

We later learn’t he made it no problem!

Near where the old man, nearly died

So this is one story but there are many.. As we speak every one in northern Kenya is holding their breath for the rains to come, they should have started end of march….. soooooo worrying times .. the rains so far have failed except for a few places.. its been very patchy..


All living creatures are walking enormous distances in these dry times to get to water…. I’m sure there is much suffering.. Pastoral peoples, their Livestock and Wildlife..

The Milgis Trust works hard to try to alleviate some of these water stressses.. THE COMMUNITIES… THE COUNTY GOV”T…AND THE MILGIS ARE FOREVER GRATEFUL TO ALL OUR DONORS!!

Our tractor team is one programme!  We make pan dams that harvest the flood water.. Imagine if you in the drought are walking 30 even 50 kms to water .. One day you are lucky to have a rain storm and suddenly your pan dam is full of water not far from home..  the absolute pleasure!..

BINGO!!! We were so happy to find this dam with water after a long drought in around 2012, and two nights before there was a big rain storm out of the blue..
again at the Keno.. ! 2016 A rain storm, then there is WATER!!!

Our hard working tractor .. Pete inspecting it.. Its a small machine but its achieved great things!

All these new pan dams in the desert waiting for rain..

New dam near Lmoti East Ngurnit.. We hoped the storm ‘over’ there would come our way… No such luck..
nice big dam.. hopefully one day, full of water??
The catchment for this dam..
A new dam at Mpagas
A little family wondering up to one of the pan dams to do their chores..

repairs… Somebody made a nice water project in Lmoti in the desert but as usual these NGO’s come in do a ‘nice’ project then disappear off the face of the earth.. When their project breaks down, the communities have nowhere to turn..… This tank was one such project and Milgis was asked to PLEASE fix the tank as it was not holding water!

The tank now repaired and ready to go.. ( the main repairs are inside and the cement left over was asthetic!)
holding WATER!!


Since 2008 The Milgis trust has implimented 14 solar projects which we endeavour to maintain … In the last year we have been busy with a few breakdowns, and quite a few pumps gave trouble.. Ndonyo Nasipa, Kileswa, Ltepes Ndare ( Mpagas, Marti Dorop, Sarai ) Ilgwe Eldome, but we try to keep them all going and for the communities are always very grateful..

MATEPIS had a brand new water project.. (a few photos, to take you through the process of how these water projects work.. not all Matepis, some from others show you the gist)

The elders came to visit the ‘Milgis’ with a request.. For many years the community from Matepis on the west side of the Ndoto’s have been getting their water from VERY deep dangerous wells, sometimes 30 feet in soft sand,  in the middle of the Matabauwa lugga, BUT of course every time it floods they loose them, and have to dig them again..

A huge amount of work for a drink..!

The community decided to dig a proper well at the edge of the lugga.. After MANY months they got to water!..

Matepis well dug by the warriors

We agreed to sort the well out for them..and to put a solar pump in.. Here below is the process ending in luxury water piped up the hill to their homes.. They are VERY grateful..

building the casing around the well
consolidating the top, so if a flood comes, over all will be safe..
final touches
drawing water out of their beautiful safe well..
Pipes to lay into the ground
Digging and laying the pipeline
Help from the very keen community
Pumping out dirty water before they put the solar pump
Priming the pump.. the beneficiaries always keen to see whats going on and to help!..
 New lorentz pump.. Putting it all together and getting the correct wiring to the controler
Now to getting the solar panels securely put in to place
The solar panels frame needs to be properly dug in and cemented so they’re NOT easy to steal..

configuration of the wiring is tiresome and complicated, and needs concentration..

The solar array ready to go..
Final touches to the pipeline and connecting to the tank
Junction.. one pipe to the school and dispensary, one to the stand pipe for the community..
hopefull people.. test time..
hooray WATER
crowds gather!!
discussions carry on as normal around the water points.. every one catching up on the news as they wait their turn..
ooooooh its heavey
and off home.. A great invention which has become the norm to take your water home.. Its a broken jerry can covering the good one inside, and a swivel on both ends letting the person pull it.. very simple and clever
Matepis manyattas

FINALLY… somebody who can live with out water.. The Gerenuk.. This most beautiful dainty gazelle..

A gerenuk’s thrive in the desert.. They don’t need to drink.. They get enough water out of the leaves they eat..

2 thoughts on “Water water water… IS life!!!..

  1. What a very touching story about the old Rendille man who nearly died, extraordinary that after all he had been through he did not take a lift. The work you do is incredible & I just pray the rain comes soon for this incredible but oh so fragile but resilient enviroment.
    Thank you.

  2. What amazing photos Helen. I do hope that you get rain soon, for the sake of the people AND the animals. How lucky was that old man, that you came along? Otherwise he might well not be here. Extraordinary piece of luck for him. They make them tough out there! What a remarkable job you and your “small” tractor are doing. Waiting for rain ,must be seriously stressful. So many people have no idea what it is like not to have taps and a constant stream of water – and they WASTE so much! Despite all this I reckon you are in the best place in the world, and I am very envious. I am cut off from both my kids and all 4 grandchildren (Australia and Luxembourg) and have no idea when I shall see any of them. Also no chance of seeing all my friends in SA. It has been a HORRIBLE year. I long to feel the African sun and experience those vast open spaces again. You posts lift my spirits and do me the world of good – THANK YOU. I read them over and over again. Blessings to you and Pete. What a remarkable life you lead. x

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