How the County Climate Change Fund transformed a little-known village in Makueni County - Kenya

As the global debate on climate change and push for climate action rages on, a small village in Makueni County, Kenya, presents us with a lived experience of how finance that places local people at the centre of decision making, can move communities from a climate-vulnerable to climate-resilient status.

Masue - the small village in question - is characterised by dangerously deep valleys resulting from soil erosion. The surface water runoff from the rocky ground causes a serious loss of topsoil every time the rain pounds the village.

Only a few years ago the village was synonymous with failure despite its determination and grit to change its public standing, and how it viewed itself as a water-scarce and vulnerable community.

Every day local people walked over 5km to the nearest river to access water. As primary caregivers responsible for domestic water, women would leave their homes early in the morning and get back with a 20-litre container on their back late in the afternoon. They were aware of the demand on their time and all the other equally important chores at home and on the farm.

At one point, Masue almost gave up, resigned to its fate of never reversing its vulnerability to climate change.

But since that time, things have changed.

From 2013, Ada Consortium, led by the National Drought Management Authority, has provided technical support to the Counties of Makueni, Isiolo, Kitui, Garissa and Wajir to set up and operationalise a County Climate Change Fund model.

The model devolves finance to local levels and gives communities authority to decide what investments to undertake. The project is funded by UKAid and Sida.


Involving communities in assessing the problem

One of the critical components of the County Climate Change Fund (CCCF) mechanism is use of simple planning tools empowering the community to undertake participatory vulnerability and capacity assessments (PVCA).

It is during this assessment that Masue people saw an opportunity presented by the rocky landscape to address the perennial water shortages in the area.

In 2016, after a vigorous community consultation process led by Ward Climate Change Planning Committees (WCCPC), community members agreed to present a proposal to the County Climate Change Fund Committee.

They were seeking to harness, collect, store and distribute rainwater captured from the rock surface - water that had previously always gone to waste.

The proposal has now become reality. It consists of low walls built across the vast rock surface to harvest and channel rainwater to a collection chamber. From here the water is piped to three masonry storage tanks each with a capacity of 200 cubic metres. The storage tanks are located in different parts of the village, each with their own water distribution systems.

Collectively, the project now benefits over 300 households and three schools in the village throughout the year. And as important, women no longer bear the brunt of climate change impacts.


A village transformed

Anyone interacting with Masue village community now, will observe the transformation this project has brought about. Women now draw water from kiosks closer to their homes, saving many hours. They have time to attend to family chores and take part in economic activities such as small-scale farming - which puts money in their pocket.

School going children, who before the project had to rush to the river to fetch water before and after school, can now enjoy some family time. There’s no better time to be a student.

Beyond the tangible benefits, what is obvious is the change of attitude and the level of pride the local people have in this achievement. According to them, this was made possible not only by climate finance made available at that local level, but more importantly, the real power placed in their hands in deciding what investment to be financed by the CCCF.

As the County Climate Change Fund mechanism is now being scaled out by the Government of Kenya to cover more counties, it is critical it maintains the key principles that enabled the people of Masue to overcome their problems of water scarcity. The most important of these principles being the one guaranteed in the Constitution of Kenya 2010, which calls for strong community participation in planning and decision over resources.