“There was no way out”
Mary in front of the self-help group's barren farmland in 2012.
The self-help group's vegetable plot in 2013, irrigated with water from their two sand dams.
Members of the Wendano wa Kithyululu self-help group working on their vegetable plot.
This month, World Water Week and the Climate Summit 2014 helped bring attention to those parts of the world where water and food shortages present a daily struggle for people.
Mary’s story is a vivid reminder of how tough it is to live in an area of severe water shortages, and how lives can be transformed with just a little bit of help:
"My name is Mary Peter.
"We formed the Wendano wa Kithyululu self-help group so that we could support each other to raise our living standards.
"We are 35 members and we are one year old.
"Some of the challenges we wanted to overcome were lack of water, low income and food shortage. Because, if we earn income we will be able to buy enough food and plant many trees.
"The River Athi is where I collect water from.
"It takes me many hours, three to four hours, to collect water from the river depending on my walking speed. It is really very far.
"I collect water for my family, my three children and I.
"I can only go one trip to the river daily. I cannot manage to go for more trips. I fetch two or three twenty-litre jerry cans every trip using a bicycle.
"There was no way out, I had no other option. Sometime I would skip a day."
Since coming together in 2011, the group have built two sand dams with help from our partners, the Africa Sand Dam Foundation (ASDF). The dams are now maturing and are starting to provide a reliable source of water to the Wendano wa Kithyululu self-help group.
And this is only the beginning. While sand dams take a while to mature, once they store water, they last for a life-time and will provide clean water for future generations. When we spoke to Mary in 2012, she already had great plans:
"My life will totally change. I will no longer be going to River Athi to fetch water because I will have water in the sand dam. Instead, we will grow vegetables and I will stop buying vegetables from Athi which is very far.
"We will use the water for tree planting, vegetable farming and for domestic use.
"We have already planted mango trees, orange trees, papaya trees and grevillea tree."
It takes me many hours, three to four hours, to collect water from the river depending on my walking speed. It is really very far. I collect water for my family, my three children and I. I can only go one trip to the river daily. I cannot manage to go for more trips.
Mary Peter, Wendano wa Kithyululu self-help group