Children no longer have to walk miles into the wildlife reserve and collect water from a source that is also shared by African elephants and other potentially dangerous animals.
Thanks to better facilities for female students, the school population has risen from 90 pupils in January 2008 to 200 pupils in May 2009.
The cook and children who assist in the kitchen now have reduced workloads, and their eyes and lungs are protected from the effects of indoor smoke.
West Gate Elementary School now has its own water source and therefore does not need to impact the critical waterholes that provide water to neighboring African elephants and other endangered species.
By not using well water, underground reservoirs are left intact to provide moisture to the trees' waterways during long dry periods and droughts.
Sustainable Water and Housing
Providing clean drinking water and safe housing
ECOLIFE, in collaboration with Save the Elephants, has implemented an innovative, self-sustaining program to provide clean drinking water and safe housing for the 300 elementary school children at the West Gate School in Samburu, Kenya. Permanent and safe dormitories were built to provide housing for female students. With new buildings and metal roofs available, ECOLIFE installed a rainwater collection system at the school.
In the shadow of Mount Kenya, the national parks and extensive ranch and communal lands of the Samburu Heartland support some of Africa’s most impressive wildlife and wild lands. Species like the reticulated giraffe and the Grevy’s zebra roam the acacia grassland where lions and wild dogs hunt their prey.
The Samburu people have co-existed with wildlife for hundreds of years and are semi-nomadic. The semi-nomadic nature of the Samburu means the children often have to live at their school to receive an education. Just outside the Samburu National Reserve, The West Gate School provides an education to a limited number of young Samburu children who need to live at the school site. With crowded conditions, young children are often left to find their own shelter in the local community leaving them vulnerable to many types of predatory behavior.
Additionally, the nearest source of water is inside the Samburu National Reserve at the Ewaso Ng'iro River. The water is not safe to drink and the children are often at the mercy of wildlife competing for the valuable water resource. These wildlife conflicts pit the survival of people against the most important economic resource in Kenya, its wildlife.
Many groups implementing water programs in the Samburu region focus on using wells. Wells create multiple challenges including high installation costs, and the need for maintenance dollars along with specific tools, parts and skills. They deplete ground water and in doing so begin pulling toxins like arsenic to the surface. Once a well part breaks, people return to collecting unsanitary water rather than spending limited funds on repairs. Unlike the current systems used in Kenya, ECOLIFE’s water collecting system takes advantage of the infrequent but heavy seasonal rainfalls as a source of drinking water.
In 2010, the traditional open fires in the school’s kitchen were replaced with a fuel-efficient cooker that will provide meals for up to 400 students with more than a 50% savings in fuel. A properly installed chimney allows a healthy environment for the cook at the school, who will no longer inhale smoke several hours a day.
Bill Toone writes: My memories of the first visit to the West Gate School are vivid after many years. Our group brought and cooked lunch for the children, mostly corn and beans in huge pots and served the food in new bowls we had brought for the school. Never before had I seen people so deeply grateful for so little. Some kids were there simply because their parents could afford to get them educated. Others, like a little girl whose hands had been hacked off in a community feud, had no choice if they were to have any chance at prospering. The opportunity to help those who are so appreciative and who can make significant changes with only a little help was made addictive by these children. My more recent visit reflected many changes as a part of our efforts – in recognition of these efforts, I was made an honorary chief in the community.
How Can I Help?
Travel with ECOLIFE on a Kenya Safari to visit West Gate Elementary School and its surrounding habitat. You can also donate and help ECOLIFE provide greater water storage capacity, sand filtration and solar sterilization systems to improve the water quality.Donate to ECOLIFE Today!