A Kenyan priest and community members plant and water a tree.
Fr. Anthony (right) is grateful for how the new water system in his village aids his efforts to reverse deforestation.

Clean Water Helps Priest Create ‘Garden of Eden’ in Semi-Arid Southern Kenya

Imagine reaching the point where your children have to draw their drinking water from a stream contaminated with raw sewage.

Could it really ever get that bad? Yes it can, and we’ve written at length about the severity of the water crisis Kenyan villages are facing. But today we want to focus on a victory in our battle against water scarcity because it is an achievement worth celebrating!

As part of our effort to bring relief to families caught up in Kenya’s water crisis, we recently helped install deep, dependable wells in 15 Catholic parishes serving semi-arid rural communities. This brings the total number of Cross Catholic Outreach wells (with solar-powered pumps and convenient, sanitary distribution kiosks) in southern Kenya to 71. That is a transformative and hope-restoring achievement, and it happened in just five years, thanks to the generosity of our compassionate donors!

In one of the 15 parishes, we received a fascinating testimony about the impact of this effort from the local priest, Father Anthony Muigai.

Related: Learn about water issues across the world.

Fr. Anthony’s Trees

When Fr. Anthony came to St. Joseph’s Catholic Parish in Kinango village 12 years ago, he struggled to acclimate to the hot, dry, barren conditions. He realized that years of deforestation had ruined the environment. The topsoil had eroded, water sources had dried up, and trees and plant life had given way to dust and the punishing, inescapable sun.

Rather than despair about his new assignment, Fr. Anthony chose to act.

His solution: Motivate the community to stop cutting down trees for charcoal — and start planting them instead.  

“I have always focused on the preservation of the environment and climate and also preserving and planting of trees,” Fr. Anthony said. “But the community did not accept it immediately, so I brought the trees into every Mass. Before we celebrated Mass, I told them, ‘Can we agree on one thing: that I have this plant, we are going to plant it here. It will be for your benefit. But you give me just a way of remembering that I was here for Mass, that this tree is for us, and we were here together.’”

The area is majority Muslim, but Fr. Anthony believed he could promote his cause in a way that people of different faiths could relate to.

“My take is from the Garden of Eden. I saw God created us in the Garden of Eden,” he explained. “And that one cuts across religions, whether they are Muslim or whether you are Christian, that cuts across. I ask them if God created us and settled us in the Garden of Eden, what’s wrong? We are no longer there, you know. What have we done to ruin Eden?

“We must have gone against the will of God by cutting down trees, and by doing that we have not taken care of the garden that God gave us. And that’s why we are seeing so many diseases coming. And so if we want to stop all these problems that we are having, we must go back to the Garden of Eden, do what God wanted us to do, and the rest would be blessings to every one of us.”

A Catholic priest stands under a tree.
Fr. Anthony stands under a tree he planted 12 years ago.

Key Ingredient: Water

There was, however, one hole in the priest’s plan. 

Without water, the trees he envisioned refreshing the land would not grow.

Fr. Anthony recruited children to plant and water trees, but the water they had access to was dirty and often insufficient for the plantings to thrive.

Now, thanks to friends of our ministry who provided necessary funding for the project, this water shortage challenge has been solved! The new system not only provides drinking water — it also makes possible a new level of gardening and farming.

“Having this water here, it is now a dream realized, that now we can go an extra step whereby we can plant trees,” Fr. Anthony said. “That can also be a source of income for these people. Because with the trees like moringa and others which are also needed, we can do irrigation, which is also cheap, and they can use that now to continue with a nursery, now by having a way of having a project, of having money to generate some income for their own use.”

Fr. Anthony praised the quality of the new water source. “People ask how we got it so clean, and we say it is God’s doing, and we had a Mass to celebrate. And then we started watering our plants and vegetables.”

Of the first five trees Fr. Anthony planted after moving to Kinango, only one has survived, but that tree has become a source of hope, especially now that clean, abundant water flows in the village.

He said, “I imagine the children from the [tree planting group] will be looking at their trees like this one day.”

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Donations from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures for this project incurred through June 30, 2025, the close of our ministry’s fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.