On June 12th 2016 we landed in Nairobi eager to see the village of Mpagas, all involved in implementing the project and the project itself. This was the culmination of over three and a half years of fundraising. This time, as our trip was not under the umbrella of the BBC we could enjoy the moment and absorb ourselves in the area and culture with greater freedom. Once through customs we travelled to Isiolo staying overnight with Andre and Maria (project hydrologist) before taking a seven hour journey by land rover with them both to the site of the bore hole. That in itself was quite a feat. The area is SO remote and once near its location we needed a GPS reference and a machete to make our route passable. At this point we realised how much work was required to make a road for the drilling rig to site. It was hard enough for a land rover!!!
Once located we were greeted by Helen and Pete of the Milgis Trust (MT) who built the project. Like Andre and Maria it was great to meet them after so many e-mails and correspondence. They both have bags of “Can Do“ attitude which they needed for this project. They have constructed 15 water projects but I think this one has had the most challenges.
Our camps for the following nights included Helen’s Camels which she had mobilised from their home at Lkanto (based at the source of the Milgis). These carried all camp provisions and added hugely to the atmosphere.
The next day we had the Opening Ceremony.
My goodness what a day!!! Pete has his own construction company and headed the development. He was understandably proud of this super engineered project. It includes a solar array for the submersible pump, security features in place, and the borehole itself is built into a platform with boulders for added protection. A hut enables the two water custodians to man the site 24/7. This is all surrounded by a security compound fence. This is then piped in trenches to (approx. 11kms) to two further watering points serving 1600 people and their livestock. This trenching required a digger on site and a great deal of scrub clearance. The water supply from the borehole is massive and of good quality. Andre did well locating it and we drank it happily for many days.
Our next visit was another bumpy trip through the bush to see the two header tanks perched on a big granite outcrop. The climb was an extremely steep one. Full credit to the team that took materials and tanks to the top.
Below, an overflow (Lazaro Falls) runs to a small dam which became Pete’s vision when siting the tanks. This natural cleft just needed a head wall to hold a valuable resource for cattle and wildlife. Even this overflows so a further pan dam for wildlife is planned.
We were delighted to watch the cattle from Mpagas come over the hill to drink the water. The cattle looked so well. What a stark contrast to Richards’s time in the village when water was dug by hand for livestock!
Our next treat was the Opening Ceremony where the elders blessed the water and the well and after speeches we enjoyed the women singing and were all presented with gifts. It was moving listening to the women’s testimonies on the importance of water to them. They are so grateful.
Richards’s reunion with Lemerigichen was an emotional one. He gave Richard such a hug and both of them were clearly delighted to exchange stories and reminisce.
The next day we visited Marti Dorops (neighbouring village) watering point. This time their tank was blessed and gifts were again presented to us all and the scouts. Again water is fully utilised and we watched the camels drink from a small trough that catches surplus water from a standpipe.
Following our reunions and visits to the project we spent time with Helen and Pete walking/camping in the surrounding area with their camels. What an amazing time!!! They both have such an affinity with the people, environment and wildlife. All building work is totally in harmony with its environment. We realised that although our remit was the people the MT are working towards wildlife and people working together. The elephants are a classic illustration. They shake the seeds out of trees for the goats and clear tracks for people and other animals. Baby elephant dung is used to start fires for the stoves. The MT’s impact on the elephant population was witnessed one evening when 43 crossed the dry river bed to drink. The Samburu travelling with us were equally delighted to watch this scene of relaxed Ellies. It is worth mentioning the elephants will take full use of the dams this project provides. Hopefully gone are the days when they became stuck/died trying to find water in wells the villages dug. Such an important feature.
In the course of our travels we could see Helen’s total connection and affinity with the Samburu . She carries a great deal of respect and is well known in the area. At Marti Dorop she was soon surrounded by villagers and their medical problems.
The Milgis Trust has 20 scouts on the ground reporting back continually. These are invaluable for the sustainability of this project and along with the two custodians at the bore hole and a mobile mechanic we have a project in good long term hands. What a find in such an incredibly remote and inaccessible area.
In summary we not only celebrated a successful project we totally absorbed ourselves in the area identifying further possible projects. We thoroughly enjoyed the company of Helen, Pete, Andre and Maria. A memorable trip.
We would like to give immense thanks to Helen and Pete of the Milgis Trust along with their scouts and obviously Andre and Maria of the Indigenous Collective. Further thanks to Nikos and “Bush” the Village Chief.
We plan to stand behind the project for at least 5 years. By this time the community should be ready to take over responsibility. Still fundraising for some of the trenching costs of this project and its long term maintenance and further projects.
Thank you for all your support.