Provision of both domestic and irrigation water has remained a mirage to majority of rural homes in Kenya with erratic rains dimming hopes of accessing the commodity.
But to majority of residents in Ndia constituency Kirinyaga County, the vision is slowly becoming a reality as they proudly turn on taps with clean water.
“It never crossed my mind that one day I would have piped water and irrigate my land,” says Purity Wanjiku Njoka, a small scale farmer in Kiandai village.
She recalls how her entire village would queue for hours at a traditional well about two kilometres away from her home in order to fetch water.
Wanjiku points that it was time consuming and the water was hardly enough for domestic use as well as for animals especially during the dry month of September.
But thanks for the devolution of the services which, four years ago, the county government went round collecting views on which projects the public wanted implemented and the answer was unanimous, water.
Although some were skeptical and dismissed the project as the usual promise by politicians, the village gossip has passed and provision of water becomes a reality.
In November 2016, the area governor, Joseph Ndathi officially commissioned Mwihoti water project which draws its water from River Rwamuthambi.
The rest is history and the over 5,000 residents have joined others in the world who can proudly proclaim achieving one of the Millennium Development Goals.
On average Wanjiku earns Shs 80,000 in three months from irrigating her land which enables her to grow high value horticulture crops.
We find her neighbor cleaning freshly picked French beans with five employees who earn an average of Shs 300 per day for the work with a small transistor radio patched on a tree entertaining them.
“We now earn a living from picking the pods from several farmers unlike previous years when we travelled far to get casual employment,” confides a woman who refuses to divulge her name.
It is estimated that small scale farmers earn up to Shs 5 million per month from the sale of French beans in the constituency which has a multiplication effect in the local economy.
Other horticulture crops, include cabbages, kales and tomatoes which are sold to middle men who take them as far as Nairobi for market.
In Mukui sub location we find Maina Mbario a retired provincial administrator whose farm stands out from the rest as a carpet of deep green crop covers the ground.
He is a prominent sweet potato vines farmer whose prowess on this agriculture has been noticed by government officials and now use his farm to train locals on proper agri-business.
“I have divided my piece of land into 12 parts which I rotate various crops but most of it is under sweet potatoes vines,” he says.
Mbario makes up to Shs 20, 000 from the sale of the sweet potatoes which are transported to Mombasa every three months.
The sight of sprinklers watering the green crops across villages in the agriculture rich constituency is a constant reminder that everything is possible where there is a will.
The CEC for agriculture, Ngundo Warui explains that about sh.15 million has been spent on water projects in the past year alone and the investment is bearing fruits.
“Many of the farmers previously depended on the fed agriculture where they waited for March and October rains to plant,” he says, adding that the trend has now changed.
With irrigation water farmers are now planting up to three seasons and are able to plan and ensure the produce fetches the best prices in the market.
Warui says the living standard s of the farmers in the region has improved as evidenced by modern houses which have replaced grass thatched houses, an indication of improved economic status of the residents.
“We have reduced incidences of water borne diseases and prevalent of preventable diseases over the years due to piped water,” Warui adds.
The official said Water is distributed by gravity therefore reducing operating costs and the availability of many permanent streams due to proximity to Mt. Kenya forest has made things better.
Joel Wagura Ndungu, the area member of the county assembly has no regrets investing in the water projects whose dividends are paying at a time when many places are struggling with food shortages.
He says that much of the allocation for the ward have gone to water projects to ensure residents have access to the commodity as per the five year development plan they made in 2013.
Wagura sums up the projects as an ideal investment where hundreds of youths are employed directly and earns a living by utilizing local resources.