The language of water – the language of the heart

20/10/2020
Water Warriors, vegetable gardens

 

 
IofC’s Initiatves for Land, Lives and Peace (ILLP) programme works on the links between environmental regeneration and sustainable peace and security. In 2020, it helped to create Water Warriors, a collaboration between experts and activists in India, Sweden and Kenya to share water management solutions across the globe. Sunita Raut, International Project Leader at Four Rooms of Change, and Alan Channer from (ILLP) describe how their first training programme is helping a Kenya community to gain year-round access to water. 

 

Water Warriors - Residents of Habaswein (Abdi Ahmed, second from left)
Residents of Habaswein (Abdi Ahmed, second from left)

 

Habaswein, in Wajir County in northeastern Kenya, is arid and its inhabitants are poor. There is very little water for anything to grow. Mukhtar Ogle is a son of this land. He is also a Senior Advisor to the President of Kenya.

Far away in India, the Tarun Bharat Sangh (TBS) organization, led by Dr Rajendra Singh, has worked for decades to restore the watersheds of Rajasthan. Known as ‘the waterman of India’, Dr Singh has helped bring water to thousands of villages. The climate of this part of India and the climate of Habaswein are similar. What worked here could work in Kenya.

In August 2019, Dr Singh and Sunita Raut from Four Rooms of Change met with Rishabh Khanna and Hassan Mohmud from Initiatives for Land, Lives and Peace* (a programme of IofC International) in Sweden. A deep desire to bring water to the arid lands of the Horn of Africa connected them. They did not know how, but they had hope in their hearts and, more importantly, determination.

 

Water Warriors, Mukthar Ogle
Mukhtar Ogle, Kenya

 

In February 2020, Mukhtar Ogle gave a keynote speech on environment and security at Asia Plateau, the IofC conference centre in India. He also visited Grampari, a rural development NGO inspired by IofC, which has done pioneering work in watershed management. And he heard more about Dr Singh. ‘Bring this to Kenya,’ said Ogle, ‘and we will transform the region.’

Rishabh Khanna, Sunita Raut and Hassan Mohmud were ready to deliver Dr Singh’s land and life-restoring methodology to northeastern Kenya. But as Covid-19 spread, their  prospects of engaging with a remote town in northeastern Kenya seemed dashed.

 

Water Warriors, workshop preparations
Preparing for the workshop in Sweden (Hassan Mohmud, left; Rishabh Khanna, right)

 

That’s when Khanna and Raut initiated a Whatsapp group, linking Dr Singh with Mukhtar Ogle. After some calls, they decided to created an online training module in English based on online sessions in Hindi from TBS. Khanna and Raut devoted their spare time to the project – and the Water Warriors training programme came to birth.

Meanwhile Ogle spoke with the community in Habaswein, nominated Abdi Ahmed to be their spokesman and told them that they would get participatory online training from Sweden.

And so, in August 2020, the first online Water Warriors Training for the  Somali-speaking community of Habaswein was conducted by three trainers sitting on a sofa in Stockholm, frequently joined by Mukhtar Ogle at his desk in the Executive Offices of the President in Nairobi.

The first three days of the programme taught the basic principles of watershed management with aspects of geological, hydrological and agricultural science and community building. Then came the half-day Water Lab, where they examined videos and photographs of the vegetable plots near Habaswein’s seasonal river. They compared  what they were seeing with Google Earth maps of the terrain and did an online community mapping exercise of the watershed. 

Raut and Khanna also facilitated a module on how to release inner blockages and to harness the flow of life, both within oneself and in relation to others. Strengthening trust and collaboration in the wider community is a vital part of the programme.

This was perhaps one of the first interventions of its kind involving both the head and the heart, and overcoming geographical and language boundaries. Technology has given a new meaning to ‘field visits’. 

Water Warriors, vegetable gardens
Vegetable gardens in Habaswein

The Water Warriors’ vision is that before the next rains, the community in Habaswein will construct check dams and johads (percolation ponds), to hold back rainwater and start recharging the aquifers. The programme facilitators will accompany the community online throughout.

The Habaswein community is excited at the engagement coming from across the globe to their doorsteps in real time. Listening to Hassan Mohmud speaking in Somali with villagers near the Kenya-Somali border, while sitting on a sofa with people from India in Sweden, has shown us that water connects people in a way that minds cannot comprehend. What else could we expect? Each one of us is, after all, 70 per cent water!

Now, the mission is to find partners and resources so we can deliver the three-part Water Warriors Training and the half-day Water Action Lab to more and more communities which dream of seeing water all year round. 

 

*Initiatives for Land, Lives and Peace organizes the annual Caux Dialogue on Environment and Security (CDES) and co-organizes, in partnership with the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, an annual Summer Academy on Land, Security and Climate. Mukhtar Ogle was on the faculty of the Summer Academy and a keynote speaker at CDES in 2019.

 

For further information, please contact:

 

Photo top showing: Dr Rajendra Singh (centre) with the Water Warriors facilitators in Sweden.

Photo credits: Water Warriors

 
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