The world we live in is quite a fascinating one. One part is cold throughout the year, the other has longer days than nights and yet another is inhabited by endemic creatures that can be found nowhere else in the world.
But in Huri Hills, in the northern frontier town of Marsabit, a people exist, who get their water from the falling mist. They are called mist harvesters. The hills indeed derive their name from the word Badha Hurri which in local dialect means foggy forests.
The mist harvesters have taken advantage of the thick mist around the hills and trap it as it condenses on trees as water. When you visit this place you can actually see water trickling down the tree trunks as it condenses on the branches.
The mist harvesters tie a plastic sheet around the base of the trees and direct the condensed mist into tanks for storage. On average, using this method, they are able to collect up to 1,000 litres of water in less than 3 hours!
It appears not any tree can be used in this mystical practice and so the tall and first-growing Eucalyptus introduced in these parts by early missionaries in the 70s, seems to be the best candidate even though using it has come at a high price to the environment.
Northern Kenya today owes its monotonous barren look to the Eucalyptus tree. Notorious for its ability to drain water from the soil, causing erosion, and adversely affecting nutrient recycling, the tree is the most selfish tree I know – where it grows, nothing else thrives.
Now a few not-for-profits are exploring other tree alternatives that will not cause such destruction to the environment and still allow mist harvesting to take place. A tree species that shows great promise is the Lucina.
Besides being a good candidate for mist harvesting, Lucina also provides a rich source of fodder and helps in fixing nitrogen in the soil. It can also be used as firewood although I doubt it will be too high on the agenda in this region.
Next time you are tempted to leave that water tap running, remember somewhere else in this world, some people are going to great lengths to get barely enough to get them by.