African Heroes: Kenya's wildlife conservationist and "maji man" (water man)

A passion for what they do makes these proud Africans and their acts of service an asset to our beautiful continent.

Since 2016, a terrible drought set in on much of Kenya. Patrick Kilonzo, a sisal and pea farmer, couldn't stand seeing not only the plight of the people and farm animals but also the wildlife in Kenya’s Tsavo West National Park. The area is a corridor for the large herds of elephant passing through, as well as several other species. The scarcity of water also led to conflict, with the animals searching for water where people lived. Patrick decided humans owed the animals something as major contributors to global warming and the resulting drastic weather changes. He took it upon himself to deliver thousands of litres of water to waterholes in the park, as well as create a GoGetFunding campaign to build and maintain waterholes, 15 of which have been built to date with five more in the pipeline.

Tell us how it all began?

When I started, I didn't have a truck but I hired one and started with money from my own pocket, and then later people started donating towards the cause. After getting quite a few good donations I bought my truck and this was much easier for me and less expensive.

Since 2016, a terrible drought set in on much of Kenya. Patrick Kilonzo, a sisal and pea farmer, couldn't stand seeing not only the plight of the people and farm animals but also the wildlife in Kenya’s Tsavo West National Park.

Has the drought been an ongoing issue in Kenya?

The drought has continued up to now because we are living in an era where climate change has affected our weather patterns and the seasons are no longer predictable at all. So this has been an ongoing curse.

Tell us about your passion for wildlife and your efforts to pass it on to new generations by visiting local schools with a conservation group you founded, called Tsavo Volunteers...

Well, I was born in a village, surrounded by wildlife. Growing up close to wildlife, I just knew I wanted to be involved in conserving it. When I was young I felt so helpless seeing how quickly animals died during a drought. I felt I should do something and at least save the few I could. It has worked and I'm happy I helped them. What also fulfils me is the kids I now reach in our schools to embrace and foster a kind and loving spirit towards our nature and wildlife.

Have you had any help with your efforts?

Yes, my American acquaintances Cher Callaway, Angie Brown and Tami Calliope helped by encouraging me and spreading word far and wide to the western world. I really appreciate their support.

I used the funds that were raised to buy the water truck and a car to visit schools; as well as to excavate water dams, construct water troughs and install solar pumps for wells. This has given me a huge sense of achievement!

How can readers in South Africa help you?

They can learn all about the project and the animals it will help by watching the video and donating funds at www.gogetfunding.com/provide-water-for-tsavo-elephants and www.tsavokenya.org

While he's been busy with this noble work, OnRoute discovered by chance that Patrick has had his own set of challenges: Four years ago his kidneys failed and he now undergoes dialysis twice a week at Voi District Hospital. Patrick's brother wants to donate one of his kidneys and Patrick is simultaneously raising funds for a transplant. Ever philosophical, Patrick believes that "it's life, and everyone has their challenges. This is just a health challenge I am going through!" To help him, visit www.gogetfunding.com/kidney-transplant-for-patrick-kilonzo.