Maji

After yesterday’s discussion about water development Ezra was eager to take my on a walk to show me some water development in action. “These hills are littered with water projects that are dry” he said “but I’ll show you one that actually flows.”

We set out through ankle deep dust with the dog, Detu, to trek up the foothill where our water comes from. On the path were a steady stream of Masai, red cloth draped around their western clothes, carrying water and grain to and from their villages. Ezra greeted everyone he saw on the road enthusiastically, and stopped with most of them to converse in Swahili, which gave me a perfect chance to pick up some vocab.

Soon after starting out we came across a revine about 30 feet deep. When rain comes it rips through the soft soil creating these canyons. We hiked through to catch some shade and saw the goats and monkeys that had wandered too close to the edge and perished there.

We came onto the first junction of the water project, which was foreshadowed by a small stream of water trickling down the path and disappearing into the dust. Ahead of us was a large concrete box surrounded by women and children with buckets. On the front of the box was a faucet which flows at the rate of a kitchen sink. This faucet, Ezra informed me, is left running night and day despite the drought. Tired of waiting in long lines to fill their buckets at the tap, the local village had busted open the top of the concrete box so that they could dip their buckets in directly, buckets which had previously been resting in the cow dung while the children waited their turn. A hose had been inserted into the pipe which feeds water into the box to allow for even faster filling, and this hose was left running onto the ground when not in use.

The results were clear to see. All of the excess use left the output pipe running to a nearby village high and dry. Ezra grabbed the hose and scolded the children, explaining to them that the nearby village was suffering because of their actions, then jumped down from the box exasperated. “A big German used to go an rile up the downstream village when this happened, and it kept the system working,” he said “but now that he’s gone it’s just falling apart.”

We hiked up further, past fields of baby corn to a large concrete trough which farmers were siphoning with hoses to inefficiently irrigate their fields. “This was designed to allow cattle to drink.” Ezra explained “Now the population is too dense for herding and it’s all farmers.” An old man explained how the pipe had broken, and how he had warn out his shoe hiking up the mountain to repair it. We both thanked him and continued up the slope.

We entered a tree farm, and came across a group of four boys who had designed an ingenious cart. It had four wooden wheels, handles for six boys to pull it at once and a steering mechanism built out of sticks. We were so impressed that we helped them to push it up the hill, the eight year old engineer leading the way.

As dinnertime approached we stopped to rest and turned back to head for home. The dog kicked up dust racing through the trees and we enthusiastically followed, jumping off hillocks and landing in a cloud. “Every generation these fields get divided” Ezra mused, “there isn’t enough water and there’s already barely enough land. These people used to be herders, now there’s nowhere to graze.”

As we trekked home, I noticed a small pile of plastic wrappers and bottles swirling by the side of the road. In this vast, populated hillside with no waste management system the amount of plastic left lying around was roughly equivalent to what my apartment puts out in a week. Maybe plastic is just a holiday here.

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