During our visit to El Pajeta with the International Reporting Project, we visited a water collection cooperative. The co-op has 250 members, and they pool resources to purchase water collection kits for each household in the co-op. So far, 78 families have received a kit.
The water collection kits allow households to capture and store rainwater during the rainy season, treat it to keep it safe, and then use the water during the dry season. One of the main causes of child mortality here is water borne illnesses, and the use of water collection devices along with water treatment has cut infant mortality substantially (there were no deaths the last year, which is a welcome change from the past when such deaths were common).
We were being sold the idea the El Pajeta conservancy is doing wonders for the community by helping them purchase the water collection tanks -- the conservancy imposed many costs on these communities when it closed off land to preserve animals. The economics of this is a post in itself, I am not at all convinced that the communities are being anywhere near fully compensated for their losses, but setting that aside it was great to hear the mothers talk about how much the water co-op has done to change their lives (just little things like all the extra time they have to do other things instead of searching for water for hours each day). It also allows these communities to develop democratic instituitons. For example, which families in the co-op should get water first? And once the inswtitutions are in place, they can be used to address other important problems.
This is a bridge, not a long-term solution to the water problem. In the longer run, what's really needed is the infrastructure to deliver water to the local communities. But, at least from what I saw, it does seem to be a relatively effective interim solution.
This was our greeting when we arrived for our visit. I apologize for the video, part way through they made me dance (you can see them laughing at me) and the camera got a bit shaky.
Once we sat down, we heard testimonials from co-op members about how this project has improved their lives (they stressed that although it is green now -- the rainy season just ended -- in a month or so it will be bone dry, so having water that lasts a month or two, as the tanks do, is extremely helpful).
Here is a small part of what we heard. I almost didn't post this, the wind interferes with the sound and the lighting wasn't great, but it will give you a pretty good idea of what we were told by the women in the co-op: