In Eastern Kenya the four Ututu brothers inherited a large area of fertile farmland, which had been terraced by their father in the late 1950s. Despite this resource, they were experiencing problems because they lacked water both for drinking (meaning wasted time, fetching water from 9 miles away in the dry season) and for irrigation.
The Ututu brothers drilled their first successful well in 1997 where water was found at a depth of 30 feet. One of the brothers, Joseph Ututu, designed a working wind-pump to try on one of the wells. He and his brothers constructed the moving parts mainly from spare bicycle tires, and made the sails from corrugated steel roofing sheets. Joseph is particularly proud of the enclosed pulley mechanism, which has so far worked for six years without maintenance. The wind-pump is fixed in position and faces the prevailing wind. At night, when the wind picks up, the sails turn very fast, clanking and creaking as they turn. Every night, the turbine pumps over 1,000 liters of water.
While it may seem extraordinary that wells had not be Â“discoveredÂ” in this part of Kenya until the last decade or so, the Ututu brothers have certainly capitalized on their initiative. There is a good market for water, and from the income earned they have managed to educate all their children. They have also raised vegetables for food and for sale on a small horticultural plot close to the wells. Since they began, more than 30 wells have been dug by neighbors.
Wells and wind-pumps are hardly revolutionary technologies; nevertheless their development by the Ututus has revolutionized the local water supply. With improved technical knowledge, people gain the tools to make the most of their own imaginative design capability to solve local problems in the most relevant way. We should therefore recognize and encourage initiative where it occurs, and support such creativity with Â“scientificÂ” knowledge.