In brutal drought, Kenya herders look for hope underground


Wanjohi Kabukuru

Brian Inganga

Associated Press


Harnessing Eastern Africa’s groundwater could be a huge benefit for a region struggling to slake its thirst. Climate change is making drought more likely but, as in much of the continent, people in East Africa and the Horn of Africa lack the resources to tap groundwater on a wide and efficient scale.


In the coastal cities of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania in 1997, and in Cape Town in South Africa in 2017, drought led people to use groundwater. In Ethiopia, wells equipped with handpumps outperformed all other sources during a drought in 2015 and 2016.


Other regions of the world provide cautionary tales of how the misuse of groundwater can make situations worse.

“Not to say it should not be exploited,” said Philip Wandera, former director of the Kenya Wildlife Service and now range-management lecturer at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. But, he said, “Groundwater is not a quick-fix answer for the current drought ... if you have been poor managers of surface water, it means you are likely to do the same with groundwater.”


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