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Inadequate water supplies are a huge concern in both the rural and urban locations. Joseph stresses how hard daily life is in Kibagare without water, especially for old people. Promises have not been kept: “Our Member of Parliament said that some money from the Constituency Development Fund, about 500,000 shillings, had been set aside for bringing water to the residents…but nothing has been forthcoming.”

Helen, from Kimana village in Oloitokitok district, says: “Poverty of water – that is the big thing in our area.” Most people have either to buy water or get it from “far away”. The nearest water point is “just a ditch”, with long lines of people queuing to use it.

Some people have the means to pay for their own supply, she says, either by digging wells or “connecting pipes to their property”. Those with water sell to others: “You are forced to buy it – if you do not want the water from the ditch.” Yet paying for water means sacrificing other things: “Will you pay [school] fees or will you buy water?”

There are other economic implications. Peter agrees that Kimana has “a big water problem – for irrigation and for drinking”. Water for agriculture is only available for seven months of the year – after that they can’t farm.

Mary, who lives in Oloitokitok town, says that compared with elsewhere “the water problem is not so great, apart from when the machine breaks down”. Deborah counts herself lucky too, since she also has access to piped water. Elsewhere, she acknowledges, “the problem of water supply is huge and women have to walk the whole day long looking for water for cooking and drinking”.


Water is a key theme of the Living with poverty: Kenya oral testimony project.


Alice: sleeping hungry

Deborah: widows have rights

Elias: cultural change

George: no jobs

Helen: poverty of war

Joseph: keeping optimistic

Lemaron: challenging discrimination

Martha: battling corruption

Mary: life of struggle

Mercy: completely forgotten

Nyiva: cardboard homes

Peter: search for work

Key themes






Self-help initiatives

Sanitation and health

Political representation


Crime and unrest



Homelessness and insecurity

Pastoralism and agriculture