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Post Card from Sponge Town KwaVonza
KwaVonza residents in the driver seat

by Luwieke Bosma, Nancy Kadenyi & Theophilus Kioko
October 31, 2019

Welcome to the town of KwaVonza in Kitui County, the semi-arid part of Kenya!

When it rains, it rains much. This water is taken out the soonest, following the current planning paradigm, causing floods and erosion. On the other hand, in the dry season this leaves the people without water, and the roads very dusty.

A Sponge Town taps into the potential of the rains. Soaking it all up through harvesting and retention. And releasing it slowly during dry times. Acting as a Sponge. Providing a buffer for storm water and drought!

Overview of a Sponge Town

In the development of Sponge Town KwaVonza, the residents have been in the driver seat from start to finish. Before anything the team would meet with the community to ask them what they want, what they see as solutions, get their feedback on designs, and learn together. The residents often surprised us, proved our assumptions wrong and came up with out-of-the-box solutions. This resulted in smooth implementation with a lot of co-investment and work done by KwaVonza residents.

People make up the town, thus they also make the Sponge Town.

Furthermore, there is a rich variety of local resources, skilled workers and expertise within a town.  There is an amazing blend of young and old, men and women who are experts in different sectors. In the creation of Sponge Town KwaVonza, all has been sourced from within, giving the local economy a boost, building skills and enabling them to continue with the work in the future.

And that is exactly what is now happening. While the project has ended, the residents still continue what they have started. Transforming their town into a Sponge Town!

Residents have for instance bought other water tanks, to supplement what they had installed. Others became motivated to save money for a water storage system, while adopting a kitchen garden (small and dense urban farming system). The money saved from producing own vegetables is set aside. Residents also continue to plant trees, they have done so in the last rainy season and will keep doing this. Many farmers have dug new ponds in their farms, after seeing the benefit of it.

KwaVonza residents with their urban vegetable gardens

Is KwaVonza now a Sponge? Water availability has certainly improved at household level (people worry less about sourcing water every morning), the town is more developed and greener. But, the residents say there is more water that the sponge can hold.

Changes in water quantity, availability, and purchases from street vendors

They are eager to take the initial activities to another level. They have three approaches to scale up their sponge town:

  1. Working with government to propose what they think should be implemented within their areas, e.g. factoring in more kitchen gardens and road runoff harvesting.
  2. Working with local businesses for a check-off system, especially for cost-intensive investments like water tanks and dam liners.
  3. Looking for other development partners to continue working on similar topics.

The take-away: residents are very keen to make their town a better place to live and have to be in the drive seat to keep on driving transformation.

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