Frequently Asked Questions
WHY DID YOU SET UP THE AFRICAN BOREHOLE TRUST?
On a family safari holiday in Kenya, I was appalled at the poverty in the Samburu and Maasai populated areas of East Africa. In particular the long walks and time spent by women in carrying water from distant rivers and water holes was a clear sign of deprivation. As importantly, there is no alternative employment, in these semi-arid areas, to traditional pastoral agriculture other than tourism, and the local people benefitted relatively little from this industry with most direct employment going to other Kenyans.
I determined that a charity aimed at working with local communities and tourist operators to provide water both for human use and for wildlife would be an important contributor to a sustained improvement in living standards. Fortunately, I found others who were sympathetic, and have been willing to provide their time and energy.
WHY IS THE PROBLEM WORSE THAN HISTORICALLY?
There has been significant population growth, and governments have interfered in the traditional semi-nomadic life style by allocating significant tracts to land to particular villages, and providing static educational and medical facilities. In recent years parts of East Africa have suffered significant drought, aggravating the problems of overgrazing, particularly by goats.
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE MAIN CHALLENGES?
The key, as I said earlier, is to find the right combination of enlightened local communities and tourist operators, committed to sustainable development and to the local community. It is little use providing a water hole; if the pump equipment is not maintained; if there is not some arrangement to cart the water to the local village; if the local community see no employment benefit from a thriving tourist industry because many wild animals are predators or competitors for habitat with domesticated livestock.
It has taken time to find a local Safari operator and Community Trust who will commit to the maintenance of any infrastructure provided by the ABT. In the Maasai Wilderness Community Trust and Luca Belpietro, we have found such a combination.
Once we have proved the model, we will be able to convince others of the merits of the community based approach, working with like minded tourist operators.
WHAT OTHER ISSUES HAVE BEEN DIFFICULT?
Many British people have a preference for simple charitable giving to the poor and destitute, which in our view creates dependency. They have queried the involvement of local businesses in a charitable activity. We, on the other hand, see the involvement of local like minded businesses working with local community, as the key to a sustainable improvement. It is imperative therefore that the tourist industry commits to continued provision of water to the local community and employs the locals rather than importing labour from outside: failure to do that results in the local people being on the periphery, providing kitsch tribal dances and charging for visits into the villages, and selling cheap artefacts.
WHERE DOES THE WATER COME FROM?
Unlike in the UK and India where the water from the water table is used for irrigation, and is causing considerable problems as the water table falls as a result, the available water comes from underground aquifers/streams originating from the mountains of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya. This increases the cost quite substantially compared to the UK as the result of detailed surveys, precision drilling to some depth and some fairly sophisticated pumping equipment. It also means that the boreholes will be where the aquifers are, not necessarily that close to the village and school, resulting in some carting of water: preferably by truck as part of the day to day activities of the safari operator. Ideally the pumps will be solar powered with batteries as back-up.