Water and Life: Safaricom Marathon in Lewa


Each year, I am determined to run at least one marathon. Yeah, we all know that it might need a miracle for that to happen, but well, it doesn’t stop me from trying.

One of the marathons I have never attempted is the Safaricom Lewa Marathon – simply because I think I can’t do it without proper preparation. Given the weather in the year at that time – hot! – I would probably faint at the 2km mark and have to be (disgracefully) stretchered off. So I prefer to make a contribution by cheering the teams and individuals who participate in the actual marathon. Such brave souls!

However, while running in the wild is an amazing experience for the participants, there’s more that goes on behind the scenes after the marathon. Since its inception in 2000, the Safaricom Marathon has raised over Ksh 243,000,000 (over US$3.25M) for a range of education, community development, health and wildlife conservation projects across Kenya.

I got a chance to travel and tour the Lewa Conservancy area and the projects that the marathon supports. One of the first things you notice when you get into the conservancy is the abundance of wildlife. Right at the gate, we were met by a huge herd of elephants who seemed comfortable with us driving right by them. By the time we had reached our residence, Ngiri House, I had had a good eyeful of wildlife that you don’t often find in many places. The other noticeable thing was how green the area seemed. For a land in the middle of almost nowhere in Kenya, water is a precious commodity to the animals and communities living in and surrounding it.

After a restful evening, we started off in the morning to visit Manyangalo, an area that is focused on agricultural engagement and land management just on the boundary of the conservancy. With 370 acres of fertile land, the community is comprised of about 800 families from many different tribes who have adopted farming as their primary economic activity.

When I met Eunice, she was watching us tour the Manyangalo Water project in Lewa. She shyly approached us, as we were taking pictures of the farm that turned out to be hers. Tomatoes were growing in lush, green bountiful bunches, with the fruits starting to appear on the stems. There were a couple of sprinklers on the farm, slowly but steadily watering a crop of maize on one side. If you didn’t look too far in the hills, you would think that this was just another farm in a well-watered area of Kenya.

Eunice at Manyangalo

Manyangalo, however, sits in a dry, arid area of land, part of the Lewa Conservancy settled areas. For a long time, the community had not been able to reach the full potential of their land due to a highly inefficient water catchment system, fed by two furrows that drained into the main river. To this end, the water was polluted, and the people downstream were highly affected, as well as the river being steadily degraded.

Thankfully, now there is a more efficient water catchment system that ensures equitable distribution of water across the land. The community around enjoys a plentiful and clean source of water, thanks to the funds raised by the Safaricom Marathons each year. The project supports the surrounding community to sustain a profitable agricultural practice with the water that is dammed up in the tank and redistributed to the community.

At the top of a hill that is in the center of the community, a tank pumps water in and out to the community that is spread around it. Water flows from the distant Ngare Ndare hills and forest, providing the community of people and wildlife that live side by side with the scarce commodity. If it were not for this conserved area of forest, the animals and people would not survive without this essential commodity.

As I chatted with Eunice, she intimated that she was delighted with the fact that she had moved from Lepaania (beyond Isiolo) to settle in this area. Life in her previous community was hard, and she remembers waking up each morning at the crack of dawn, and walking endless kilometers, from 6am to 2pm, in search of water. And when she did find it, it was never clean and clear or safe to drink.

Now Eunice can focus on making her life much better. Using the little farm she has carved out for herself, she is able to provide a supplement income for her family of three. And her kids do not have to walk endless miles in search of water. They can now concentrate on their studies, for a better future. For a mere 300 shillings a month, each member of this community is able to live a healthier, cleaner and better life, thanks to the runners who plod the hills and plains around them annually.

With the celebrations of World Water Day this month putting focus on clean and adequate water availability, Eunice is one more person who has reason to celebrate this precious, life giving commodity.

Read more on the Water Community Development Projects in Lewa.

More on projects in and around Lewa, focusing on security, education the North Rangelands Trust, and health, all supported by funds from the Safaricom Marathon.


Join the 13th Safaricom Marathon on June 30, 2012.

Run wild, test your limits, get your heart pumping, and experience the beauty of nature, all for a good cause!

  • safaricom really does great things for the lewa area..thanx for highlighting

    • Lee

      Bankele… Good post.. how about changing the Background color of the site to white.. black sorta hurts eyes if we stare on the page for hours rdinaeg the detailed input…Just a suggestion…In other news.. the SAFCOM brand perception has changed amongst the Youth (not as vibrant as it used to be) – they have larger Market share but the number of SIM holders between SAFCOM and ZAIN is almost going to balance out this year… (sim holders not necessarily active subscribers). SAFCOM is especially worried about ZAIN because if they stay consistent and change slightly many will start utilizing their ZAIN simcards more than SAFCOM…

  • This is a very informative piece about what happens behind the scenes especially after all the hullabaloo about the marathon is over. Good work Kenyan Girl! 🙂

    • Beatrice:I think that one reason that Safaricom is so susfecscul is that instead of doing what many of the continent’s other providers like celtel and MTN have done, they have chosen to dig their roots deep. They have focused so intensely on the Kenyan market that I would venture to say that they must have at least 35 to 40 percent of the Kenyan mobile market to themselves. Also, it is worthy to note that the market will pay what the market will bear. If anything though, they are probably helping to reduce the mobile costs in the region. On the cost reduction note-the test of time will come when the other providers take note of how despite the per capita GDP in Kenya, someone is reaping more than handsome returns from the industry and then these other bigger players swoop in on the market.Even still, I think Safaricom is here to stay!

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    • Too much going on for Zain, opefully they can sit back and reap this year. The 1 milolin new customers; I wonder if that includes the new Zain SIM card buyers who keep their old safcom numbers? The vuka tarriff should have effectively killed the need to keep one’s safcom line, but it’s gonna be hard until people can move and get to keep their numbers-talk of immobile mobile phone numbers.

  • abdi mohammed

    thumps high to the Lewa safaricom marathon. am one of the community members

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    • Kirima: I think the company has by and large saitsifed its main customers – prepaiddon: I think they see over in KenyaMainaT: You’re right, Kenya was be an easy sale, with straight forward marketingm: It seems that data, post paid and corporates have not been their ‘satisfied’ customers. I considered a swith to Celtel early thsi year, but my 5 year history with one line was a difficult bond to break. But if too many cosuins continue to hassle me for money, I’ll make Celtel my main lineMichael: It’s the same with petrol & driving now. But if you top up/fule a larger amount, you may find it goes a longer way than many smaller paymentssambaza: The nummer of subscrinbers is only an estimate. How active are the lines as revenue sources is more importantB.K.Muthoga: Celtel is chipping away at Vendor lock in by making the cost to call all networks. Bring on the IPOalexcia: big numbers indeedbenin mwangi: safaricom will be a case study for multinationals for many years.

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