January 19, 2016
The planned 60,000 person refugee camp expansion of Kalobeyei is about 10 km west of the present 185,000 person Kakuma Refugee Camp. The last 3 days we have been exploring for groundwater resources near the planned Kalobeyei Camp specifically for the host Turkana community. Regardless of the presence of the new camp and any tensions it may create, the last 3 days working, seeing young children and old women digging in the dry laga bottoms for any significant amount of moisture, has convinced us Calgarians that the water situation there is desperate, likely more so than in the Camp. Unfortunately, until today, the prospects have not looked good, as the seismic work has shown bedrock to be only a few meters below ground surface, with no trace of deeply incised sands and gravels. And the electrical imaging work has shown that even where the bedrock is fractured and likely having good porosity, the pore water salinity is very high.
But today, we surveyed across an area that also had highly fractured rock, but with resistivity sections suggesting fresh water. Tomorrow, the electrical imaging group plans to continue to map out this prospect.
Meanwhile, the seismic crew will move back to the Refugee Camp. Between Kakuma 1 and Kakumas 3 and 4 there is a large laga (dry river bed) that periodically floods and rips out the water lines to Kakumas 3 and 4. UNHCR has tried to drill wells on the Kakuma 3 and 4 side of the Laga, and indeed they have tested for very large yields of water, but the fluoride concentratons coming from the volcanic bedrock have been extremely high, well above concentrations that cause skeletal fluorosis. So the seismic crew will shoot through this area, looking for deep volcanic bedrock. If they are successful, the electrical crew will come through on our last day to determine if the overlying sediment is fresh water saturated sand.
Despite the better exploration news today, the highlight was seeing a sight that even our Turkana students and the local Kalobeyei Turkana helpers had never seen. The Turkana raise donkeys, both as beasts of burden, and for meat. However, I had never actually seen a donkey carrying anything here, while the women in particular seem to carry everything, and mostly on their heads. I drove a few kilometers away from the crew to scout our next line. Climbing up on a small rise, I saw 2 older women carrying earthenware water jars on their backs, 2 very young children in rags, and 5 heavily loaded donkeys rapidly approaching. They looked like a 2000 year old version of dust bowl migrants, or perhaps a re-enactment of the Israelites hightailing it out of Egypt. When they saw me, they quickly veered away and moved rapidly into the thorny brush, but a quick glimpse of the lead donkey left me dumbfounded, though I did snap a quick and not so good photo. A camel was riding on top of one of the donkeys!