The Precious Gift of Time
Kakewa Kaindi is 76 years old and for all of her life she has been bound to the strenuous and time consuming role of water collector.
Time is an important resource, and for women like Kakewa there is never enough of it in the day – the hours must be divided between the essential tasks of household maintenance and income generation. While her male peers tend farms, Kakewa collects water and fuel, prepares food, looks after her own crops and livestock, cares for family members and maintains a home – all tasks that have, for generations, been assigned to women.
Women in Kenya make vital contributions to agricultural productivity. Yet their limited access to resources and opportunities mean that their agricultural yields never meet their full potential. A recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that ‘if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20–30% ’.
The potential of women to transcend poverty through agriculture is therefore enormous. However, much of this potential is first dependent on the liberation of time. Time that often simply does not exist. In the Kibwezi District of Kenya, where Kakewa lives, a great deal of time is spent travelling long distances in search of water. It’s common for women to devote an average of six back-breaking hours a day collecting water during the dry season. They carry up to 20kgs on their backs or heads, not leaving much time or energy for anything else.
Providing water close to farmers’ homes therefore frees up time for women, and serious time savings have a significant effect, not only on food security, but also the long-term health and quality of life of women and their families.
Making food and water more easily accessible will save women like Kakewa many hours of unpaid work every day. Hours, which she could spend more productively on farming, income generation, looking after her family and having a well-deserved break.
Sand dams are helping to break the chains of water slavery for women in Kenya. Not just for this generation, but for future generations of young girls who will have time to pursue more rewarding and productive activities, such as attending school, and ultimately contributing significantly to household and national welfare.
At least now I am resting. I have been fetching water from very far. It was as if my backbone was about to break. But now maybe I am going to take some time.
Kakewa Kaindi, Muuo wa Kiumoni Self Help Group, Kenya