The unique and picturesque location of Merti town, surrounded by the beautiful Merti plateau in the county of Isiolo, is a sight to behold. Over the last few years, the town has experienced rapid growth, with its population rising to over 25,000 people. Although it is situated in a semi-arid area, the Merti Community Water Users Association is changing the face of the town by working towards ensuring that the community is getting sufficient and clean supply of water to each household. “This project has literally brought us development and has helped us a great deal” says Abdullahi Duba, a resident of Merti town.

But the situation in Merti has not always been like this. A decade ago, the community here depended entirely on the nearby seasonal Ewaso Ng’iro River for all their water needs and when it dried up, the people had nowhere to get water for their animals and domestic use. This scarcity led to constant water use conflicts at points of extraction and placed a huge burden on women and girls who had to travel long distances to fetch water. Habida Racho, a resident of the town, says that before the project was implemented, the community was faced with a lot of water-related issues and conflicts for they sometimes drew water from the seasonal river or boreholes and the quality of the water was not good.

Faced with a harsh and uncertain future but determined to take charge of their destiny, the community in Merti town came together in 2001 and formed Merti Community Water Users Association with the sole aim of ensuring that the Merti community gets access to adequate clean water and improved sanitation. “We strongly felt that we should start the Merti Community water project. So as a community, we came together, elected our officials and started work to provide water to our community. We started by constructing water kiosks until 2012 when we applied for and received funding from the WSTF” says Roba Halkhano, the secretary of Merti Water Users Association.

Impressed by this ambitious vision of the community in Merti, the WSTF through its Rural Investment Programme invested KES 7.6 million in the project and the local community contributed KES 800,000 in the form of labour and construction materials. The funding from the Water Fund enabled the Merti Community Water User Project to hire more technical staff, abandon water kiosks and increase the number of individual meters, rehabilitate two core project boreholes and embark on an ambitious piping and extension of clean water from Merti town to Mulanda Nur, a village situated 8 km away and inhabited by more than 3,000 people. The funding also facilitated the construction of modern toilets and bathrooms at Mulanda Nur, something that had never been done in this village.

Today, Merti Community Water Users Project is a proud, well-managed communal initiative, serving more than 20,000 people through 1000 metered connections with a staff of nine. Every month, the project charges each user a minimum of KES 200 per connection. This amount ensures the smooth running of the project operations including repair works, payment of electricity bills and employee salaries. Among the institutions in Merti town that the project supplies water to are schools, hospitals, churches, business establishments, police stations and mosques. Although Merti still remains a harsh semi-arid area, the community’s big water dream — slowly but surely being turned into reality — is a source of great communal pride and a story that is inspiring and shaping the future of this resilient community.

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