It’s 6:15 and the morning sun has still to reveal his face behind the dry hills of Nattum. Birds have already filled the valley with their melodies. People are have already began to move around, brushing their teeth, washing their faces and getting ready for the first workshop session.

A cup of warm mixed tea was awaiting for us along freshly baked bread that just came out the cob oven served with their home-made opuntia jam and unique tasting acacia honey.

Quickly, our first session began and introductions were already underway. Our workshop time was short, so we had to jump straight in curriculum.

What is water harvesting, and what are its principles. How does erosion and drought look like and how did some people successfully overcome these challenges and thrive in some of the most water challenged places in the world. Mr. Phiri, for example, the Zimbabwe water farmer who through careful observation and constant reassessment manage to firstly harvest water and then create one of the most productive food farms in the driest sector of Zimbabwe.

Today was observation day: long and thorough observation was the first water harvesting principle. We split in groups and walked around the land looking for resources: plants, living creatures and any available material that the locals learnt to value and use in their everyday lives.

I was blown away! How many different uses did cow manure have, how on earth did they figure out that they could use the trunk of acacia tortillis to treat colic pains in babies, or that the roots of aloe barbadensis were an excellent drink when brewed combined with honey? All this indigenous knowledge was meticulously passed on from generation to generation. We were soon realizing that every where we looked, a resource was waiting to be exploited.

We then proceeded to walking the land accompanied by locals looking for erosion and growth patterns.

“If you were water, where would you go?” asked Warren.

Small galleys at the top of the watershed grew bigger and bigger as the travelled down the valley. It was obvious that water was picking up speed hastily, carrying with it anything that got in its way: soil, sticks, rocks and all that that was essential to sustain growth and life. Plants became scarcer as we walked down the hill, galleys respectively grew bigger. It didn’t take us long to end up in a breathtaking galley where now water was flowing in a 5 meter wide galley gaining eroding speeds.

No words could describe the awe I felt when setting foot in that galley. The force of water was tremendous and was able to rip apart entire mountains if tiny water cracks were not managed properly at the top of the hill.

How could community work stop these eroding patterns and begin the process of healing? How possible was it to get this land back to how it was forty years ago: a grass rich land, densely covered in tree canopies?

This was our goal. We were up for a true challenge, a REAL water-harvesting problem. We had a mission: Begin the healing process for these people’s land and create the correct circumstances to allow life to thrive in the valley of Natuum once more.

*To find more information on the course organised in Natuum women’s group in Laikipia North, with Warren Brush, click here. Read more about the Diaries of a Cypriot in Kenya: Day 1