Until she was seven, Norma Adhiambo was left alone in the house every morning while her mother and the other children fetched water.
When she was old enough, she, too, awoke at 5:30AM and left without breakfast. Her family followed the path through dark villages, fields, forest, stepping carefully to avoid snakes, whispering so the hippos wouldn’t hear them.
The walk back took an hour longer since they had to be careful not to slosh. The water was heavy (a 5-gallon jug weighs 40 pounds). Norma’s neck and back hurt.
The family was making a necessary trade off: school or starvation. Cooking soup, rice and vegetables all required water. Her mother boiled water to remove the feathers from a chicken and mixed water with cornmeal to make the staple bread. Before her mother learned to boil water and let the sediment settle, Norma’s family was sick a lot. Nobody knew why.
When she was 21, Norma and two friends started GWAKO (Groups of Women in Water and Agriculture, Kochieng) whose 43 local groups have helped their communities get 73 wells drilled and 13 wells improved.
Paola's chapter on Kenya was featured in September on a new segment of the In Mama's Kitchen website, titled One Good Thing. >>Read more here.