How'd you like to live in an area where normal rainfall is only three inches a year and have to face a devastating drought for two years?

That's exactly the situation today in western Kenya, where up to 850,000 people are struggling to exist in the bone-dry region.

"Hundreds of people a day are dropping dead from thirst. I spent 22 years in the Marines and nothing in my experiences there compares with what I've seen for the past five years in Kenya," said Ed Hirshman, secretary for Harvesters International.

The group is an interdenominational mission effort founded by a group of businessmen from throughout the US in 1978. Harvesters International has been working since 1988 with the Pokot people who inhabit the arid, drought-ravaged area of Kenya near the border with Uganda in Africa's Upper Rift Valley.

To find water, Hirshman said the Pokot people are being forced to dig holes into dry riverbeds to try to locate enough muddy water for them and their livestock.

"They need a better quality of water that's not as hard to locate," he said.

Harvesters International, which is based in Hilton Head, SC, currently owns one old drilling rig it purchased earlier from the Corps of Engineers, but Hirshman said the rig cannot drill to a sufficient depth in the parched earth to access groundwater supplies known to be in the area.

The group is hoping to find someone who would be willing to donate a drilling rig to Harvesters International so more wells can be drilled to help alleviate the severe water shortage in the region. The donation would be tax deductible, he added.

"We know there is water in the area, but we don't have the capability of going deep enough with our current rig to get to it. We want to find a better rig," he said.

Hirshman said the group, which drilled some wells in the area with the old rig, but has begun hitting dry holes due to the drought, is seeking a mid-size rig similar to an Ingersoll-Rand TH10. He said the rugged terrain in the area would make it difficult to use a larger rig and it would be more expensive to ship to the region. The cost of shipping a rig to Kenya probably would exceed $9,000, Hirshman added.

He said the organization has checked with other groups about helping them with drilling wells and the cheapest price they found was $31,000, plus having to be on a waiting list to have wells drilled for that amount.

"We are not opposed to trying to raise money to buy a rig, but with all we're trying to do, it makes it difficult to afford it," he said.

Anyone who might be interested in donating a drilling rig to Harvesters International can contact Hirshman by phone at 843-861-6698 or via e-mail at

He said Harvesters International, in partnership with other national ministries, has previously established a Bible college, assisted a large orphanage, helped establish churches and train pastors to work in the area and provides medical aid to people in the water-starved region.

Hirshman said the area where Harvesters International is now focusing its efforts in conjunction with the Pokot Outreach Ministry program is so remote many of the Pokots have never seen a white person or a paved road and 99% of them are illiterate. The Pokot Outreach Ministry is led by Julius Murgor, a Kenyan and Pokot who has been ministering to the Pokots since 1988.

Hirshman said the lives of the Pokots revolve around their livestock.

"The people are nomadic and they are constantly moving their goats, camels and cows looking for water. They usually dig into the riverbeds to find water but because of the severe drought for the past two years, there is even less water than usual," he said.

"Water is a lifeline for their animals, which are the most important things they have. Their whole worth is tied up in their animals and they would sacrifice their own life to protect their animals."

Due to the severe water shortage, the goats, cows, and camels are also serving as a lifeline for the Pokot people, Hirshman added.

"Right now the people are living off the milk from their goats and cows. They have a way of tapping into a cow's artery and draining some of the cow's blood which they mix with the milk," he said. "It's not a matter of how many meals they eat per day, it's a matter of how many days they go before they eat. People are literally dying of hunger and thirst and others are just wandering aimlessly."

Hirshman said many of the older wells in the area have gone dry during the drought or have become inoperable because their pumps have failed or due to other problems.

He said there is little hope for assistance from the Kenyan government, which is considered the third most corrupt in the world.

"When other countries try to help, by the time the aid gets to the people it's supposed to help, there's nothing left," Hirshman added.

"It's hard to talk to someone about how God loves you and cares for you when you're starving to death or dying of thirst," he said. "We realize what we're trying to do is only a drop in the bucket, but perhaps that drop will have a ripple effect and will touch many others."