According to UN estimates, the number of people in need of food assistance has increased from 1.3 million in August 2016 to over 3.5 million. This is as an outcome of the drought experienced in Kenya for the past three years. The drought experienced in 2017 was the worst yet, hitting 23 out of 47 counties.
Kenyans in rural areas access water through boreholes which sometimes dry up without the locals knowing it. The boreholes are covered to prevent pollution form reaching the water.
A partnership between Oxfam and SensorInsight and Internet-of-things system provider is helping the situation by giving the locals a heads up before the wells dry up. This has helped give them time to seek alternative sources of water.
The project has equipped over 400 boreholes with water level detecting sensors since its inception in September 2016. It however kicked off in June in Turkana and Wajir counties where the drought has dried up 40% of the water supply.
The SensorInsight system feeds data from the monitored boreholes into a mobile dashboard, which can be accessed by both Oxfam Kenya workers and local water utility companies.
According to Sumananjali Mohanty, country director for Oxfam Kenya, the sensors track data on flow rate per hour the amount of sun received by the solar panels that power the pump, and power consumption, which denotes how much water the pump is moving.
”If the dashboard shows low flow rates, a lot of sunlight, and minimal pump activity, it’ll send an SMS and email alerts to Oxfam and the water utilities that the borehole is close to drying up.”
”Once the information is relayed, Oxfam and the water utilities work with local borehole operators to ensure that the borehole is switched off, giving it time to recharge instead of continuing to pump a dry aquifer. The operators can then alert the community that their water supply will soon become unavailable and give them time to prepare alternatives,”he told Fast Company.
The SensorInsight system might not totally resolve the drought in Kenya but will warn locals against it by giving them time to seek alternative sources of water.