Collecting rainwater in Kenya

| March 26, 2013 | 0 Comments

Whilst some countries must cope with flooding, in others, often, every drop of water counts. Last year, the charity Oxfam issued an international warning that northern Kenya risked yet another humanitarian crisis this year in the form of a “prolonged, biting drought”.

The drought is due to the La Niña weather pattern, when cooler than normal sea-surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean impact global weather patterns, causing drought in East Africa. Even in years when phenomena like La Niña do not affect rainfall, northern Kenya is semi-arid.

Food insecurity forces people to flee their homes, resulting in high school absentee rates. Now a new design for rural schools could keep children behind their desks. PITCHAfrica, a US-based non-profit, in alliance with other organisations, designed and constructed what they hope will be the first Waterbank School. The school, also called the Uaso Nyiro Primary School, was officially opened in late November 2012 in the drought-ravaged Depatas region of Kenya’s central highlands.

Its main aim, says Jane Harrison, PITCHAfrica founder and Waterbank co-architect, is to “demonstrate the dramatic potential of rainwater harvesting in semi-arid regions”. Harrison incorporated a specially designed reservoir located in the centre of the school courtyard into the design. It stores water harvested from a catchment system installed on the school’s 600 metre square roof.

An integrated filtration system ensures that the water is clean, and – when the country is not in the grip of La Niña – the reservoir could capture up to 350 000 litres of water per year, enough for five litres a day for each student. In addition to improving sanitation and malnutrition (local food gardens can now be irrigated), the design, says Harrison, will promote greater gender equality, as the girls in the community – who typically spend hours collecting water – will be able to attend school and do homework instead.

“And every child will be able to learn about economically and environmentally sustainable rainwater harvesting, water filtration, sanitation and agricultural practices.” Co-architect David Turnbull is equally excited that the school “was built using local materials and a local workforce. As well as classrooms, it has protected vegetable gardens, four teacher’s rooms, community spaces and a courtyard theatre.” 

Category: Autumn 2013

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