back to shaggz

…but this time I am prepared! :-)


AOB: I modified my gravity water filter and bought some new parts at Nakumatt when I was in Nbo. A STEFANI water filter candooool (ceramic catridge) which is way much better than this simple ceramic filter I’ve used before. The purifying process works through a) ceramic filtration, b) sterilisation through a Coloidal Silver cover and c) granular activated carbon, which adsorbs chlorine, taste, odours and organic chemicals. Also, I’ve managed to obtain one of those really hard to get plastic water taps that make it so much easier to release the purified water from the lower bucket. I’d previously installed a normal, 1/2 inch brass tap which had a really bad hydraulic behaviour (Hola Bwana Toricelli!).

Having modified this gravity water filter, the cost scheme changes to:

2 x buckets @ Ksh. 90 => Ksh. 180
1 x water purifier candle with activated carbon & coloidal silver => Ksh. 795
1 x plastic water tap => Ksh. 415
TOTAL: Ksh. 1390 /=

The very same system sells for Ksh. 2000/= in Embu, and there’s only one shop in town (run by a retired colleague from the WRMA :-) that sells these filter systems in the whole area. Now, that’s much more than the initial Ksh. 400 /=, but still a wise investment – given that I will drink more water in future which is why I came up with my own filter in the first place.


As for those wondering about the yellow colour: I think that’s due to reflections by the flash. Or the camera catches more details than what meets the human eye…

@Harrycane: ich bring Dir demnächst den Messinghahn samt Tankgewinde mit – vielleicht haste da noch nen Nutzen für im Hostel?

Garissa Floods (2)

You may have seen it on the news – Tana River at Garissa has bursts its banks and left 2500 people homeless. The meter reading on 4G01 Tana Garissa (national) station reads a level of 5.65m at the moment. When we arrived on Thursday the reading was 3.90m.

To give you an impression what such floods also do, check this:


The slaughterhouse on the way to Garissa on Friday.


The same slaughterhouse on Sunday evening.

Now, this is not the first time Tana River has flooded the area. Heavy rainfall as well as the opening of the dam added to this situation. People had been warned on Thursday by the local authorities and the Red Cross – but it’s always the same: people just wait until the situation has become worse. Is that really needed?

Also, Garissa is a heavily over-funded, way-too-fast growing City where plots (100×100) cost around Ksh 1 Mill.. As I mentioned earlier, there has been so much financial aid in this area, and yet people are blaming the government for failing to protect them. I think it’s about time for them to take care of themselves instead of always blaming others for their failures.

A very badily hit village was Bakuyu on the shores of Tana River. A police helicopter arrived and picked up the children one by one. When we arrived, 25 out of 85 were already rescued. I was told there are five helicopters available in Garissa by different organizations.


When you meet a little 6 year old girl whose parents have just drowned you start wondering why the surrounding folks need so much time to eventually assist that girl by giving her water, for instance. We gave her water to drink – she had stayed without food for the last three days. Some women took care of her and took her in their custody.



The helicopter dropped them at a Muslim Childrens Home and nearby school compound.


F.T.C. – Farmers Training College in Garissa – flooded.


These people have been displaced by the floods – but will return asap.

All these things are happening while far away in Nairobi politicians are busy with pre-election campaigns and other money-wasting activities…

Garissa Floods





on the outskirts of Garissa



flooded Garissa downtown

AOB: Garissa Water Supply (following pictures)


intake on Friday morning


intake on Saturday – pls note the increase in water levels by about 1m.



Garissa Water Supply – water supply treatment plant


Just to give you a small idea what this is all about: stand on the bridge to Garissa (where we did the river gaugings), look down at the water, wait there for ~30 seconds and you’ll have an idea of the amount of water which is consumed by the ++66.000 people in Garissa city area (= 30 seconds of discharge on Tana River are a lot during high floods).

How to make…a water filter

Almost all supermarkets in Kenya sell bottled water, and many also sell special water filters with about 1-3 filter candles inside. These filters are available in different sizes, often made out of stainless steel and will cost about Ksh. 1800/= (~ US-$ 25,- // EUR 20,-). To filter the water, all you have to do is put a litre of it on the top container and wait for it to percolate through the ceramic filter element into the container below which of course takes some time.

I also wanted to have such a filter system to filter the tap water, but I wasn’t willing to invest so much money. Also, I’ve seen this alternative filter system in use at our office – so it became clear that I had to build my own and see that I don’t spend too much money on this DIY project. Many households all over the country use these water filter systems these days – which is good!


All you’ll need for the water filter are two containers with flat covers (so that they can be stacked), a ceramic water filter element and a sharp knife to drill the two holes. A tap should actually be fixed to the bottom of the bigger container to easily drain the filtered water, but isn’t needed per se for the functioning of this filter. I will add a tap within the next few days, though.


– two containers at different sizes @ Ksh. 99 and Ksh. 89 (~ EUR 1,- each)
– ceramic water filter element @ Ksh. 179 (~ EUR 2,-)
– a small tap @ Ksh. 90 (~ EUR 1,-)

…which sums up to about Ksh. 400 /= or EUR 4,40 / US-$ 5,60 …and considering that a litre of bottled water costs around Ksh. 40 /=, this filter element makes sense after the tenth litre of filtered water. After all, every litre that doesn’t come in a PET bottle is better, as it helps to preserve the environment.


1. take a sharp knife and drill a small hole at the bottom of the top container


2. screw the ceramic filter element through the hole and make sure the rubber washers are in place


3. drill a hole into the lid of the lower container


4. fix the lid to the top container & the filter element – make sure to really tighten the nut


5. et voil? – the finished water filter in use.

Our tap water here is a bit brownish – the other day I was refiiling my water heater and found a cockroach leg in the sieve. Also, this low budget filter should be used for harvested rain and borehole water only, as the filter doesn’t remove fine traces of chemical substances.

UPDATE: I’ve meanwhile fixed a small tap – which doesn’t work that well, though. Make sure to clean any new candle before fixing it for the first time.

UPDATE #2: Tom of Aid Workers Net advised me to include a disclaimer as someone “is just waiting to replicate the steps incorrectly, make themselves ill and blame you”. True! THX!!


UPDATE #3: There are of course different types of filtering candles. The one i used is rather cheap and only consists of ceramic and some silver lining inside, although of course of questionable quality. Hence the low price.
An alternative would be to buy bettter candles with higher filtering rates, an anticolloidal silver lining inside and activated carbon. However, such candles cost around Ksh. 1200/= (~ EUR 13,-) which is a bit too much. Also, good (plastic) taps as used on the buckets are expensive and hard to obtain in rural areas.

UPDATE #4: New filter candle + new tap!

Minni Inn Ltd., Embu

There was this management workshop for a gazettable paper which made us book rooms @ Embu’s Minni Inn. The place itself is very basic, but compared to my new flat in Embu downtown it is pure luxury. Things are a little bit different over here. Whereas Nairobi ppl would be spoilt enough to expect certain things, Embu standards are orientated on the rural comfort, meaning: anything that exceeds fetching water from the river is considered luxury.


A perfect example for the typical kenyanesque overstatement is that they’ve put huge tv sets in each room – despite the fact that there’s really poor reception of tv signals (at least) in this part of Embu. “Please do not try to adjust tv channels” it says on the room information.

SANY9128 SANY9129

In the very same room you’ll find a broken toilet seat and one of those italian water heaters (!!) installed on the shower which – of course – is out of order. A brand new tv set and poor sanitational facilities? Now how does that match?


And the best part was this array of nails on a piece of wood – nailed to the middle of the wall BEHIND the bed which was supposed to be some sort of coat hooks. Aterere….

The first night all guest were woken up at 1 am and 3 am but loud noises coming from the Bar area. Since the Bar officially closes down at 11 pm, it was obvious that the watchman would be the one to be blamed: an old askari who doesn’t speak English and who turned up the volume of the installed tv set (+ poor signal reception!) in order to stay awake and get some entertainment.
The first night we prayed for a power failure and things eventually settled at 3.30 am, the second night the noises came back and so I went to the Bar at 4 am and found this old askari sitting there like a dumb sheep. “Kelele…..mbaya….na hakuna maji”. When I woke up at 4, there was no water in the whole place. How come? The hotel has 4 huge containers and a ferrocement tank but the pump is a little bit faulty and needs to be continously switched on and off in order to work. The guy in charge of that (who??) apparently forgot to take care of it.

“Station under new management” – one often reads this marketing slogan on petrol stations. I wish this could be applied on Minni Inn as well. With the right management and some more diligence / speed by the employees, this place could rock. But instead they prefer to let themselves go. Ok ok, they have never been to places like The Grand Regency, Serena, Hemingway’s (the toilets!), etc etc to see what’s possible, and no one expects a middle class hotel to offer the same luxury as a 4 star Hotel. However, there are a few things that just require little amounts of money and some time in order to make guest feel very welcome.

Minni Inn Ltd., Embu

single room 250/= Kshs.
single room (self contained) 500/= Kshs.
double room (self contained) 1.000/= Kshs.


One of the few moments when people are brought together in unity (watching soccer :-).


Ugali, fried potatoes and nyama, nyama, nyama…..


…you eat nyama all day long and end up longing for such a plate full of vegetabooools na fruits.

My wonderful colleagues have found a nice flat/room for me in Embu for 3.500/= /month. Very secure, with a nice view on Embu. The previous tenant has been a Somali who slept on the floor and who left the place covered with rubbish when he moved out. Did he get his deposit back? If you do this in Germany, your landlord will track you down and kick your butt until it really hurts. Since the place is so popular with Embu folks, the landlord wouldn’t have probs renting it out so cleaning is a matter left to the next tenant. Which would be me.

being around…

I just realized it’s only four (4) more weeks for me over here in Germany. Jessas! How time goes by these days….four more weeks of working on some papers and studying for an exam in hydromechanics. Four weeks left to vacate my current flat, to pack my stuff up again (relocation No.11), to give away half of the stuff that has been accumulating here and has never really been used (so why keep it?) and to repaint the flat. Four weeks that will get me away from here and back on the road again into UHURU – freedom and independance. A lovely, scary feeling!
And then?


Embu, Kenya. For at least 3 months until some time in January 2007. Doing an internship @ a state office on behalf of a German Agency. Will keep you updated on this as blogable content comes up – I am really dying to cover this on my blog as it involves some form of nation building, something with a meaning and hopefully a win-win situation for both sides involved: Kenya & Germany. For my partners at the office, and for me as a student.

The Tana river in Kenya has the biggest catchment area – and Kenya being a country of various landscapes, it will be particulary interesting to see how strategies for integrated water resource management can be implemented in reality and how to scale these complex and sometimes also confusing dimensions on a local level. Consequently, my approach on this isn’t the “mzungu coming to Aaaaafrika to change everything” attitude, but to listen and learn and help where I know an answer.

Now, for others wazungu that have come to Kenya (~you are prolly aware of the stereotyped pic), this might just be a single step on their career, but as for me – I really tried hard to convince the involved agency in placing me to Kenya (and not somwhere else) as I would like to take this opportunity to contribute something from me to the place where I grew up. And let me be honest – the “Kenyan part” in me of course asks why I should leave my comfy nest with 24/7/365 electricity, warm water and broadband inet for such a job. Well, why? Because I can. Because I was given this chance to learn more. And I think that’s reason enough.

Now, enough turgid words – let me go back to my papers and see how this adventure turns out…(yes, I am a bit scared :-)

(Ati, four weeks? Haiyaaaa…..*gulp*)

World Water Day 2006

  • 1.1 billion people lack sufficient access to safe drinking water.
  • 2.6 billion people lack access to basic sanitation.
  • 6,000 children die every day from lack of safe water or poor hygiene.
  • On average, African and Asian women have to cover 8 kilometers a day to get fresh water.
  • The average African lives with less than 20 litres per day while the average European consumes more than 150 litres daily and the average North American more than 300 litres.
  • 4 billion hectares, representing 1/3 of the emerged lands of the globe, are threatened by desertification.

Today is the World Water Day 2006 and I will take this opportunity to inform my esteemed readers of a water related project to contribute my share on this topic:

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is this years UN agency to coordinate events surrounding World Water Day (WWD) around the world – and this years theme is "Water and Culture". Well, water and culture? What does that mean?

According to the director general of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, "technology alone will not lead us to viable solutions" on the world’s urgent water problems but instead "we must better understand the complex interactions between societies, water and the environment". And he goes on saying "water management itself needs to be understood as a cultural process….(…) …The nexus between culture and nature is the avenue for understanding resilience, creativity and adaptability in both social and ecological systems."

Or, to put it in my words: in order to have a positive impact on the world’s urgent water problems, we can not just apply various technologies while hoping that things might work out. Instead, we first of all need to comprehend the connection between the environment and our social systems. Of course, a relatively simple approach – which is still often neglected.
The basic idea behind this is to identify a causal framework which will help to deal with the various and complex water problems the world is facing today and in the future. And this is where the UNESCO’s programmes come into limelight:

The UNESCO, which btw celebrates it’s 60th anniversary, started developing international projects and programmes to improve our understanding and management of the earth’s resources.
One of these projects I would like to focus your attention on is the "from Potential Conflict to Co-operation Potential" initiative – which is one of UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP) contribution to the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) in cooperation with Green Cross International (GCI).

Over 260 river basins are shared by two or more countries. To date, the UNESCO’s International Shared Aquifer Resource Management project (ISARM) has inventoried over 150 shared aquifer systems with boundaries that do not correspond to those of surface basins. Approximately one third of those basins are shared by more than two countries, and 19 involve five or more sovereign states. Of these, one basin – the Danube – has 18 riparian nations. Five basins – the Congo, Niger, Nile, Rhine and Zambezi – are shared by nine to 11 countries. The remaining 13 basins – the Amazon, Aral Sea, Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna, Jordan, Kura-Araks, Lake Chad, Mekong, Neman, La Plata, Tarim, Tigris-Euphrates and Vistula (Wista) – have five to eight riparian countries.

The PC-CP project addresses the challenge of sharing water resources and its role is to help water resources management authorities to tip the balance in favor of co-operation potential away from potential conflict.

For its current 2nd phase, PC-CP has determined the following operational objectives to strengthen the capacity of the target audience in dealing with potential and actual water conflicts :

  • The development of educational material related to conflicts and cooperation in the field of shared water resources;
  • The development of appropriate institutional frameworks for the anticipation, prevention and resolution of water conflicts;
  • The development of methodologies for conflict prevention and resolution;
  • The improvement of legal tools for the management of shared water resources;
  • The development of a comprehensive information system on water conflicts and cooperation;
  • The dissemination of results and best practises at a global level.

So the bottom line to all this is that there are good and well elaborated programmes and projects in the pipeline that include a more holistic approach to today’s water problems. I am specially interested in the development of a comprehensive information system, and maybe today’s blog on this matter has slightly contributed to informing the public about these issues.

Please don’t miss today’s launch of the 2nd United Nations World Water Development Report (WWDR2) in Mexico City, Mexico. Thx! :-)

(deutschsprachige LeserInnen seien an dieser Stelle auch noch auf folgenden interessanten Link zum Thema Weltwassertag hingewiesen)