January 17, 2016
One of the subtexts of the IsraAID programs in Kakuma is “peace building,” whether it is between rival tribes from Sudan, political rivals from Burundi, Christians and Muslims, and especially between the host Turkana and refugee communities. Rarely was this so timely as today, the day after an extreme level of tension in Kakuma town after the accidental death of a young Turkana child at a local health clinic. There is nothing like a long day together in the field, in the hot Turkana sun, pounding electrodes and planting geophones, to occasionally make, but usually break a little tension among Dinka and Nuer, Ugandans and Congolese, Darfurians and South Sudanese, or Turkana and refugees – and we certainly have representatives of all of the above and more in our IsraAID WASH student crews.
Fortunately, as Calgary geophysicists, we are comfortably ignorant of the usual ethnic divisions, and divide the crews into other such tribal categories as ERT cable laying, seismic source operating, recording, GPSing, etc. In fact, there was a great sense of camaraderie today on both crews, in both the morning and afternoon shifts. Employing Turkana from the local Kalobeyei area, and having exploration goals intentionally benefitting the host community, seemed to bring a friendlier than usual crowd of Turkana herdsmen, along with their camels and goats and donkeys. Having a few extra helpers on the IsraAID student crews gave us quite a bit of time to talk during data acquisition and an extended lunch. Inviting the Kalobeyei village leader along with two area tribal chiefs for lunch, sitting in the shade of a large tree along the laga edge, further elevated the level of cordiality for the day. And an unusual 30 minute dry season downpour that drove us all under the shelter of a large acacia tree further added to the discourse time for the day.
To date, we have collected about 6.9 km of ERT (electrical resistivity tomography) data, and about 3 km of seismic refracton data. We are certainly going to have some excellent targets for new water wells in the Kakuma Refugee Camp. Regarding the Kalobeyei area, after a dinner of ugali, rice, cabbage, and goat (for the 9th consecutive night), we did preliminary processing on the ERT data set collected in Elelia Laga, and a quick look at the seismic refraction data from Esikiriait Laga. Rarely are geophysical data absolutely definitive, but today’s data were definitive in their interpretation….and unwelcome. The subsurface of Elelia Laga was clearly saline, and the bedrock of Esikiriait Laga was clearly only a few meters below surface – not the thick water saturated sands and gravels we were hoping to find. We do have a Plan B for tomorrow, though, so stay tuned.