Much of Maasailand is in urgent need of water. Typically communities may have access to adequate water during rainy seasons in May and November, when it is collected through elaborate roof top catchment systems. The rest of the time, women and girls walk long distances as water is primarily women’s responsibility, though the entire community supports that important work. During the height of the dry seasons and especially during droughts, rivers and stock ponds become stagnate and polluted and many streams dry up completely. As a result diarrhea, the second leading cause of death among children in Africa according to the World Health Organization, is chronic among Maasai children. As they spend much of their lives walking for water, women cannot spend that time instead caring for their children, making and selling beads, taking milk to market to sell, and other activities to earn money. Cattle die in large numbers during droughts without access to water, which is destructive to the entire economy. Maasailand schools are under-enrolled as children are needed at home to care for younger siblings and take over home duties, and schools cannot offer lunch without water for cooking, even when dry food is available.
In collaboration with Rotary International, MERC has completed water projects in Erusiai, Mosiro, and Ndoinyo Oloip, and are nearing completion on a project in Eorr Emayian. Our collaborative approach is a ‘cluster model’ through which local community groups, comprised mainly of Maasai women, hash out the plan for a water project, especially where distribution points will be located, how the project will be sustained and whether money will be charged and how proceeds will be spent.