Alleviating poverty for the rural poor of Africa is the primary goal of the Rift Valley program. The rural poor, primarily women and children, are often forgotten with minimal, if any, services provided by local or state governments. By helping solve one of their primary concerns – water – the program provides the opportunity and hope to work their way out of poverty. The time and effort devoted to obtaining adequate water from polluted streams and ponds is a major burden for rural women – significantly reducing the time and energy available for child-rearing, education, farming, etc.
The Water Tank project developed by the Rotary Club of Nakuru was designed to help solve this problem. A durable ten cubic meter concrete tank, constructed by women, stores two to three months supply of domestic water harvested from the roof of the family dwelling, enough to supply the family with enough potable water to last the yearly dry season. Over the last 5 years the project has evolved into an exceptionally effective program to reduce rural poverty. Using a well structured and managed system of Rotary Community Corps (RCC), the Nakuru Rotary Club manages a process by using what is essentially a management team to implement their program. This team uses the incentive of receiving a permanent concrete water tank to initiate tree planting, improved toilet facilities, water harvesting strategies, and micro-financing. As a result, thousands of tanks have been constructed, hundreds of thousands of trees have been planted and numerous small enterprises have been started. Most importantly, it provides the opportunity and hope for the rural poor to improve the quality of their life.
The Rift Valley program is part of a long-term strategy to assist the rural poor to work themselves out of poverty. The program builds on the concept of supplying permanent water tanks to rural communities and families in a very systematic way to ensure ownership and commitment by the recipients. The results will be to finish the goal of almost 4,000 tanks in the Nakuru region while maintaining a team of managers who will service these communities with additional programs. Ultimately the program will have created a basis for the rural poor of the Nakuru region to begin building a better and more sustainable life. By focusing on rural communities the program can hopefully help reverse the trend of families being disrupted by men moving to urban centers for work and all the unfortunate consequences this implies.
The program is now managed in Canada by the Rotary Club of Toronto Eglinton and is currently building 60 tanks per month.