By Laura Lereo and Lucy Ahatho
Girls from Samburu Girls Foundation (SGF) neither drink water from rivers nor from salty boreholes. Right at the door of their dining hall is a new technology that has changed their lives in this water-starved area.
An aerial view of the institution shows a fenced off parcel of land containing 40 rectangular panels, sitting parallel to each other with a uniform inclination. The panels were laid on a level ground and installed in order to extract pure water for drinking. Each time a girl turns a tap outside the perimeter fence, a bee-like hum is heard as the machines come to life, pumping the water from the source.
On the base of each panel is a black tank that holds this water, before consumption.
Zero Mass, a company based in the US did the project with the help of Mike Ford, an Artist using Hip Hop to inspire architecture.
Found in a semi-arid Area in Northern Kenya, Samburu Girls has been facing water challenges and clean drinking water is a relief to the organization and the community around. The company installed panels in the foundation in the month of June and extracts atmospheric water.
According to Frank Aswani, Samburu Girls Foundation’s lead structural engineer, the manufacturers are constantly monitoring the panels for optimal production. 2G sim cards are used to communicate to the control center in the USA.
“When there is a problem, we report to them and they troubleshoot.” Said Mr. Aswani. “If there is a major problem that needs expert attention, they send one to the center, to fix the panels.”
According to the founder and executive director, Dr. Josephine Kulea, the only challenge would be the availability of water when the panels break down and await repairs. “It has not happened yet.” She said.
The panels are laid at an angle that guarantees exposure of the solar cells to direct sunlight from dawn to dusk, for optimum water production.
According to the center manager, Ms. Cecilia Nduta, the water panels have helped reduce common complaints of stomach aches and contaminated water-related infections. “We are very proud to show our visitors this water project.” She Said. “They are almost always amazed. We are very unique.
The girls now have more time to study and enough water to drink. According to the elected Member of the Councli Assembly in charge of hygiene, Mercy Lekumoisa, more girls now drink enough water daily. “The water is not salty and it is easily accessisble,” she said.