Sunday and Monday January 24 and 25, 2016
By Sunday morning I have worked through almost all the 11.4 km of resistivity results and 5.4 km of seismic refraction data, and prepared 3 presentations. I am fortunate that the other 6 geophysicists made a tremendous effort of completing the data processing before they drove off to Lodwar on their way to Nairobi, on Saturday morning. The presentations are designed for 3 very different audiences, the Turkana village head of Kalobeyei, the 25 or so WASH students in Kakuma who helped run the survey, and the final meeting with UNHCR and NGOs involved in the WASH sector.
But before going to Kalobeyei for the first meeting, Josie and I, and IsraAID staff visit the home of one of the South Sudanese students/IsraAID staff/WASH instructor/friend who is readying to leave Kakuma, and return home. There are no fences to stop a South Sudanese from walking out of Kakuma and taking a bus north to Lokichogio and the border. There is lots to make returning dangerous, though. The civil war in South Sudan still varies from a simmer to a high boil. For Nuer refugees who came to Kakuma at a young age, they don’t have the distinctive coming of age scarring on their foreheads that marks them as Nuer. As such, they may become mistaken targets of Nuer violence, and remain targets of violence from other ethnic groups. Add to that land mines, a failed government, pressures on young men to join the military effort, expensive and dangerous transport, etc. Beyond simply offering security, there is community in Kakuma, but for the vast majority there is also a hopeless future, and returning home, perhaps even to family, may provide an attractive option. For someone like this particular South Sudanese staff person, extensive experience as a WASH instructor, an excellent command of English, and outstanding references from the NGO community may also assist him in securing a position with an NGO in South Sudan, where he will not be subject to the stringent “incentive pay” caps that UNHCR and the Kenyan government place on all refugees in the camps in Kenya.
Lunch is delicious! A traditional spiced dish of couscous, kale, and goat. We eat in a mud plastered, gabled room/house of about 2 m X 3 m, with walls about 1.3 m high. We all sit on the floor or a low bed, as standing puts one’s head too close to the intense heat radiating from the corrugated tin roof. We drink soft drinks that we have brought, something that most of us would never touch back home, but is often a daily treat in the heat of the Turkana desert. We talk about South Sudanese cooking, the journey home, the civil war, English football, and a bit of camp gossip. Then it’s time to go to Kalobeyei. The Camp is divided into Zones and Blocks, but the older areas of Kakuma 1 are a maze of compounds of semi-traditional structures behind fences of thorn branches and corrugated tin, so we need to be guided back to the main road just as we were guided in.
In drive to the home of the head of the village of Kalobeyi, Alfred Kapoko. He lives in a compound with his large family and an architectural mix of a small concrete house along with several traditional manyattas. My computer is charged, and we sit on chairs in the shade behind his home. There is Alfred, Jack Jones from IsraAID, the assistant camera man Josie, and myself. We slowly and methodically go through what we did in the field, where, what we found, and the conclusions of where to drill and where not to drill. Alfred graciously allows Josie to film the entire meeting. Alfred has spent hours with us in the field, and is intimately familiar with the area of course. He is a quick learner. Moving from maps to cross-sections does not seem to phase him. He stops me when he needs to cut through the jargon. He passes on the traditional knowledge of the area, but accepts the science while recognizing the geophysics has its own family of uncertainties The main points are clear to him….Elelia and Esikiriat lagas are saline. Kangura laga, to the west, has some possible water well targets. But the best area is a few kilometers west of Kangura, especially south of the Lokichogio highway where herders from his area will not have to cross the road. I am surprised to hear Alfred describing a long term vision where there is perhaps enough water and feed that some Turkana can abandon their nomadic ways, along with the deadly cattle raids and other inherent hardships, and settle down on grazing land like we do in Alberta. Driving back to Kakuma at 6:30, it’s another evening of Nuer dancing in the soccer pitches!
Monday morning, January 25, I present the results of the work from both Kakuma and Kalobeyei to a combined class of the 25 students from IsraAID’s advanced WAMTECH (Water Management TECHnology) class, and the 25 students of the new introductory WASH class. Josie is once again filming. The new students are both inspired and confused. Maps, cross-sections, geophysics, are all new to them, and I do not have the time to go through everything in the required detail. But for the students who completed the 8 months of WAMTECH training and carried out the field program, seeing the results and the interpretations seems to tie their efforts and learnings together, and there is certainly a sense of satisfaction in the air of a job well done. There are some good byes, and then a “mosquito hand clap” – it’s an East Africa thing-then off to UNHCR.
The UNHCR/NGO presentation is at noon. It is not an easy crowd to deliver a condensed version of 12 days of exploration, as there are no geophysicists or hydrogeologists – they are mostly from the Sanitation and Hygiene part of WASH, or public health, or livelihoods. The questions are reasonable, but not necessarily easy to answer. What will be the fluoride concentration in this area? Will there be enough water for agriculture? Why did you not collect data in the saline areas east of Tarach laga? Etc. Nevertheless, I am pleased that they are engaged, and recognize the potential of not only what was done, but what could be done. We did present results that directly addressed our initial objectives, though: 1. Identify improved water well sites east of Kakuma 1, 2. Identify water well sites east of Kakuma 3 and 4, 3. Identify drilling sites with potentially low fluoride, and 4. Identify drill sites in Kalobeyei. We very much look forward to receiving some drilling results, and modifying our interpretaitons if necessary.
We finished the UNHCR meeting at 1:30. Off to the airport and on to the UNHAS flight to Nairobi. I grab a window seat on the left side of the airplane to catch views of Lake Turkana. Josie films the takeoff – from her seat in the plane. No regrets about missing out on the return drive to Lodwar.