The name Garissa conjures up images of a dry, dusty town in Kenya’s North Eastern Province. However, it is actually one of the fastest growing towns in East Africa. On this Sunday in May 2012, residents of the town braved the heat to witness an event that was going to improve their lives.

The North Eastern Province suffers perennial water shortage due to inadequate rainfall all year round. It is predominantly inhabited by pastoralists, who travel long distances in search of water for domestic and livestock use. It was these problems that the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) sought to address through the donation of 16 water bowsers, 2 trucks, 3 4WD vehicles, 180 water tanks, 16 generators and 16 submersible tanks worth approximately Kes. 200 million. These were going to 16 districts in the province, for use in distributing water to areas in dire need of the resource.

The chief guest, Minister for Water and Irrigation, Hon. Charity Ngilu, flagged off the vehicles and equipment, with the Japanese Deputy Chief of Mission to Kenya, Mr. Yoichiro Yamada and JICA Kenya Office’s Chief Representative, Mr. Hideo Eguchi. The Minister of State for the Development of Northern Kenya and Other Arid Lands, Hon. Mohammed Elmi, members of parliament from the region and other local leaders were also in attendance.

The Japanese Deputy Chief of Mission reaffirmed Japan’s commitment to continue supporting Kenya’s development. On behalf of JICA, Mr. Eguchi added: “This project is intended to help the host communities of the Dadaab refugee camps cope with the environmental, economic and social stress caused by the presence of large refugee population from Somalia. It is expected to reduce the competition between the community and the refugee population over the scarce natural resources and to contribute to the reduction of conflicts in the area.”

“We walk long distances to look for water, especially in the dry seasons. This project will help us a lot and we thank JICA for assisting us,” said Cllr. Omar Abdillahi Hassan.

His Worship the Mayor of Garissa, Cllr. Ishmael Garat, noted that the residents of the town face many challenges, including the need for a water piping system. “Japan has spent millions in improving water infrastructure in the town. We have had a good relationship with the country; they are our very reliable partners,” he added.

Hon. Ngilu expressed her gratitude to the Government of Japan and JICA for their support. “The cash donated will help us buy more water bowsers, sink boreholes and construct dams”, she said. In addition to the water bowsers and equipment donated on this day, JICA plans to construct more water pans and sink boreholes to further improve water security in the region. It is hoped that with these and other efforts, the water problems in the province will be a thing of the past.