Research: The Haffir - A bright spot


"In typical Maasai households, women have to walk 5-10 kilometers (3-6 miles) for a bucket of water. Imagine if an entire village had water storage facilities at each household, safe and affordable for all, reducing labor and time to fetch water, enabling the luxury of an occasional bath, and if purified, water for cooking and cleansing, thus reducing disease incidence."


The Bright Spot:

In Longido, a 48-year-old-mother of three, grandmother of seven, has been successfully growing vegetables throughout the dry season. She has been using a Hafir to collect water from natural rain sources. This device along with her double dug vegetable beds allowed her to grow vegetables for her self with enough left over to sell. She says “During the dry season, I used to have to purchase water for 2000 tsh per bucket, which wasn’t even enough to do the house chores, so I never had any water for a vegetable garden; but now with my hafir, I have water available for free, even during the dry season.”  Even with a modest turnover, she has begun an entrepreneurial service of selling her organic vegetables.

The Technology:

" Children collecting water from a haffir: Children collect water from a local reservoir 
(called a "hafir") which fills up after the rains. 
The water is dirty and unsafe for drinking,
 but water shortages mean it is sometimes all people have." 
 Photo credit: Alun McDonald

A hafir is a reservoir system that uses a trench lined with plastic sheeting to collect rain water. Small scale Hafirs can be built for households to collect water, allowing them to collect enough water for vegetable gardens all year round. Global Service Corps (GSC) has been working with local companies to built these water cisterns in Lashaina Village, Monduli. Additionally, they have been provided educational and training services to help local people begin growing their own garden on their own property,


Why This is Important:

This represents a "bright spot" - something that is already working that we as designers can build upon. It is important to be sure that our designs and solutions make use of familiar technologies and use methods that locals will be able to understand and maintain. The use of water reservoirs such as hafirs along with agriculture presents the opportunities for micro-enterprises and sustainable food growth through sustainable water use.


MacDonald, Alun. (2013). Children collecting water from a haffir [Photograph], Retrieved September 19,Year. from:

Transformation in Dry Longido. (2012, October 23). Retrieved September 19, 2014, from

Hafir Water Catchment Project: Addressing the Water Challenge in Maasailand. (2008, January 1). Retrieved September 19, 2014, from

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