Rachel Blackmore and her family travelled to Tanzania with Baobab Travel back in August 2005. We organised a luxury camping safari in the Serengeti and on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater and some time on Zanzibar. Whilst visiting a cultural Maasai boma in Irkeepusi on the rim of the Crater their guide was Ponja Tayai, who is from the local village. Later they established email contact and Ponja told the Blackmore family about the urgent need for access to clean, fresh water for the people and their cattle.
The Maasai women and children traditionally collect water from small streams often contaminated by both cattle and wild animals. During the dry season these water sources often dry up and hence they need to travel further afield and dig deeper into the stream beds to find enough water to survive. Unfortunately the seasonal rains have become rather erratic and unreliable in recent years and resulting droughts have hit the whole of East Africa with detrimental impacts on the pastoralist way of life of the Maasai people.
When Rachel and her family returned to the UK, she met Richard Cansdale, who developed a low-cost shallow well hand-pump that was already successfully introduced in many developing countries. She prepared for a second visit to the Ngorongoro area to meet Ponja and the village leaders to amongst other assess the level of community support for this type of technology. Her ideas were received with much enthusiasm and commitment to provide labour for the proposed construction works.
After a first stint of fundraising, Rachel had enough money to build four wells and returned to the village again in 2007 for the actual construction works of the pumps. This involved digging 7 m deep holes that needed to be lined with concrete rings and the pump itself was encased in concrete capping covering the top of the well.
These first four wells serve the village of Irkeepusi, where about 4,000 Maasai people and their 10,000 head of cattle live in bomas spread out over a 100 km2 area on the rim of the Ngorongoro crater. Although the wells are still subject to seasonal variations in rainfall, they do continue to provide a valuable supply for water during the dry season.
In 2008, the Weston Turville Wells for Tanzania charity was formed and the commitment for continuous fund raising made.
The Weston Turville Wells for Tanzania are currently in the process of assessing the possibilities of constructing a gravity-fed pipeline from the Munge River, which would provide a longer-term and more reliable water source. If successful, it will provide quantities of water of the equivalent of about 50 wells.
Their long-term objective is to support a greater range of agricultural activities outside the boundaries of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, as the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) imposes highly restrictive controls on land-use inside the NCA. The plan is to fund these through a no-interest micro-credit scheme, a hand-up rather than hand-out. It will give the Maasai ownership and responsibility for the long-term success of the project.
The NCA has been Maasai land since the 18th Century. Towards the end of the colonial administration, the British demarcated the area as a wildlife reserve and later it was declared national park. Since then there has been a gradual and progressive encroachment on the land and resource rights of the native communities. Recently, the NCAA responsible for the area has imposed a 50% reduction in the numbers of Maasai cattle and a total destruction of their subsistence farming practices. Where Maasai herds have been removed, grassland species unpalatable to both domestic and wild animals have invaded grazing land.
This obviously highlights the need of building a more balanced relationship between the interests of conservation and those of the pastoral communities in the NCA.