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Institutional Development

Strategic Partnerships to Fight Effects of Climate Change

The first thing that strikes any visitor to the Thiiti Mothers group as odd is that there are men in the group! “The group was founded in 1989 by mothers who were then agitating against female genital mutilation but later they decided to strategically include us in the group to increase their lobbying power and voice,” Hassan Kiragu, a group member, explains. The group is made up of 20 members, 5 of who are men. “We had an opportunity through the ICE and RIDEP partnership to go on an exposure tour where we learnt about rain water harvesting as a way of overcoming the effects of climate change,” says Hassan. “Before we received start-up chicken for our poultry project, we were first trained on their management including disease identification, especially New Castle Disease. We can operate incubators and brooders, we are conversant with the selection of eggs for incubation, we know what to look for in a good egg and we can formulate our own feed using local material,” he adds. The group has received additional training on composting, the establishment of kitchen gardens, grafting and the use of Zai Pits. “In fact 90% of our members are using Zai Pits in their farms. The farmers have also been able to diversify into other crops such as Ndengu (green grams) and Mwere (Millet) as they also engage in their own research to identify and focus on those varieties that do well in the area,” he says. Others are keeping poultry and rabbits and farming vegetables and fruits. “We are grateful to the ICE/RIDEP partnership for all the support they have given us this far and we want to assure them that even though some of the technologies might seem labour intensive and costly like the Zai Pits, we know they are ultimately worth every effort we invest in them,” Hassan indicates. “We hope development partners can now consider providing us with a long-term solution to the problem of water scarcity, especially now that we are diversifying into other ventures such as fruit farming. We are forced to walk long distances in search of water and even then it is not enough for all our needs because the vessels we use can only do so much,” Hassan laments. The farmers, through their own local research, have realised that some tree varieties introduced such as Mikimas (Gravellia) are susceptible to Muthwa (termites) attacks. “This tree has a lot of promise if only we can get a solution to the termite menace,” adds Murithi, another group member. “We have also discovered that the most suitable tree for our rocky terrain is the Mwarubaini (neem tree) which is doing quite well around here,” adds Reverend Patrick Mwiti of Kamatungu Methodist Church. Nevertheless, we are encouraged by the survival rate of most trees we have planted through the ECOREC project,” Rev Patrick adds. He estimates that 65% of the trees have survived in the community despite the generally rocky terrain of the area. Chief John Muchiri from Marimanti location believes most of these challenges can be overcome through strategic partnerships. “It is difficult to achieve much in isolation, but through partnerships like the one we have, we can overcome most of the climate change challenges. We have, for instance, just finished sensitising the community through our ‘Nyumba Kumi’ campaign on an upcoming activity aimed at planting trees on the riparian of river Kathita which will rejuvenate the river and the environment around,” Chief Muchiri adds. Reverend Mwiti, who is also the school chaplain, agrees with this. He has had a strong working relationship with RIDEP for the last 2 years partly because of the church’s passion for uplifting the standards of local people but also because he has a personal interest in conservation work. “In 2014 we managed to plant over 2000 trees in our local schools in Marimanti location,” he adds. Reverend Mwiti, who is also the school chaplain, agrees with this. He has had a strong working relationship with RIDEP for the last 2 years partly because of the church’s passion for uplifting the standards of local people but also because he has a personal interest in conservation work. The church has recently invested in a poultry project which was inspired by poultry training under Enhancing Communities Resilience to Effects of Climate Change (ECoReC) project . The initiative looks set to be a model for farmers keen to keep chicken as a business. Rev. Patrick says the challenges the church faces are very similar to the ones farmers are facing. “Our main problem is water scarcity. “Our farmers have not yet fully embraced the concept of trees conservation even though most are aware that cutting down trees creates environmental problems,” he observes. Trees are a source of quick cash when they are sold as timber or firewood. When faced with a financial dilemma in the household, cutting down trees offers a quick fix. “I believe if all stakeholders including the farmers, church, government and partners like ICE and RIDEP put their minds together a workable solution can be found,” he adds. Going forward Rev. Patrick hopes that the project can scale up its activities in Kamatungu to cover a bigger area, “and if possible include a component of water,” he recommends. “There is need for more training to emphasise the need for farmers to revert back to their indigenous food crops like millet and green grams which seem to do well in this harsh weather”. Members of Maendeleo B Chicken group have already taken a bold step towards solving the water problem – they have dug and constructed their own water pan. Within a period of seven months after the completion of the pan, the transformation is remarkable. “We have been able to diversify our farming activities into vegetable farming, bee keeping and tree planting,” says Cathreen Kabiru Mwinzi, a group member. Their cost of living has also received a reprieve because they are now spending less on things like soap since

Institutional Development

Fostering Technology Transfer Through Strategic Partnerships

Anthony Kioko, is the Ward Agricultural Officer (WAO) for Matungulu and Kyeleni wards in Machakos County in the new decentralised government system. In the former system, he would have been the District Agricultural Extension Officer (DAEO). Kioko first heard about the work Institute for Culture and Ecology (ICE) was doing in Machakos through one of the local forums. “It is in this forum that I realised the work ICE is doing is complimenting mine in many ways,” he says. As a government officer, Kioko is keen on promoting sustainable agricultural practices that do not put too much strain on the natural resources. ICE on the other hand is sensitising communities on the causes and effects of climate change and how to counter them. “We are basically different agents preaching the same message to the same farmers” he adds. That is how he bought into the idea of a partnership with ICE. Since then the relationship between ICE and the county government has realised a number of benefits including running a series of joint training events on appropriate technology transfer to farmers. “We have jointly trained in the areas of water harvesting, enterprise diversification and environmental conservation,” he explains. Through these training, farmers have learnt how to use Zai Pits in their cropping systems, harvest run-off from rain water into retention ditches and conserve the soil using terraces. “Through ICE’s support we have trained them on indigenous poultry keeping and commercial fruit farming as strategies for diversifying their farm enterprises,” he adds. Some of the fruits farmers are growing include passion fruits and grafted mangoes which are mainly for export. Kioko is upbeat about what the future of this partnership holds and he looks to brighter days ahead. “You cannot imagine what a simple technology like a Zai Pit can do to a region when well executed. We can now bank on the assurance of a harvest in an area that is largely synonymous with massive crop failures most of the seasons,” he says. Zai Pits are a technique used in cropping where 6 to 9 crops are planted in a single pit lined with compost manure to enrich the soil. The pits are then moistened with water to prolong the life of the crop in times of water scarcity. A Zai Pit measuring 2 feet in height, depth and width can hold 6 plants while the slightly larger 3-feet pit can accommodate up to 9 plants. Because of the concentrated level of water and nutrients in the pit, yields tend to be significantly higher than in a normal farmed crop. These technologies are proving effective in equipping farmers with the knowledge and skills to make better use of their locally available resources to improve their resilience against the adverse effects of climate change. “Nowadays farmers are no longer watching as run-off from the rains goes to waste. They are channelling this to their farms by digging retention ditches, trenches and in-between terraces that increase soil moisture enabling the crops to survive for longer than others. It has expanded their horizon of thinking by enabling them to venture into non-traditional food crops such as fruits and vegetables because of the availability of water for small-scale irrigation. Angelina Ndunge Munyao, a maize farmer and the chairlady of Kyeni kya Mithini group, who has 41 Zai Pits of her own, bears witness to this partnership. “For starters,” she says, “we are visited more by extension officers attached to the ICE project who come to monitor our progress and give us valuable inputs on our work. In my farm, for instance, I am nowadays visited twice a week,” she says. Ndunge is confident the level of awareness created through ICE’s training in the area will make the community more prepared to face the challenges of climate change more resiliently. “Most group members are now equipped with a range of techniques they can make use of to improve their yields through water harvesting, soil conservation and diversification of agricultural activities in their farms,” she beams. “The results of our good work are speaking for themselves. Heads are beginning to turn in the community as our neighbours flock to our homes to learn the secret of our success,” Ndunge adds smiling. Lawrence Musyoka and Grace Mumbua are two such neighbours who frequent her home. They have been engaged in farming for over two decades now and they know all too well the ups and downs of farming in the semi-arid Machakos. Musyoka began farming in 1996. He owns 2 acres of land where he grows indigenous food crops such as millet, green grams and cow peas. He also tries a hand at maize and beans. Mumbua, on the other hand, is slightly older in this occupation having began in 1994. She grows cow peas, millet, cassava and other indigenous food crops on her two acre piece of land. Both farmers, who are not project beneficiaries, have keenly been observing and admiring their neighbours’ farms from a distance for some time now. “The first time I tried planting my crops in Zai Pits I had very devastating results. I later realised that I had left out manure which is a crucial component in the success of this technology. After Ndunge pointed out the omission, I corrected the mistake in the next planting season and now I have a healthy crop,” beams Mumbua. Musyoka, on the other hand, found some of the water harvesting and soil conservation techniques farmers in the ICE project were using in their farms, such as the use of trenches, quite impressive. “I also liked the knowledge they had on the indigenous seed varieties that were best suited for growing in this area,” he adds. The availability of quality seeds has been a major challenge to farmers in Ukambani as Francisca Mbuli Kitheka, a member of Kithio Kya Mawithyololoko group, points out. ICE, through the project is addressing this challenge by not only promoting early maturing varieties but also sensitising the community on

Institutional Development

Sweetness of Self-Sufficiency

Janerose Kairuthi and Judith Mwendwa have one thing in common – they are both members of Jitegemee Agricultural Development Group which was established in 2009. The group is involved in the cultivation of indigenous food crops, rabbit rearing and dairy cattle farming. The one hundred member group has come from far. “My husband and I used to travel to far places like Isiolo to rent land for farming,” explains Judith. This was an expensive venture in terms of land rates, transport to and from the rented land and hired labour. “Yet many were the times we did not harvest anything even after all that work, she adds. With the introduction of indigenous food crops and better and efficient ways of land preparation by the Institute for Culture and Ecology (ICE) life has never been the same for Janerose and Judith. “We are now self sufficient. We no longer have to go to the market for food,” explains Janerose. The group has learnt a variety of alternative uses for some of the indigenous crops they grow.\”We are making fresh natural juice from orange fleshed sweet potatoes,” Janerose adds. The juice is gaining popularity in the village among all ages. The group has also successfully made flour from pumpkins that can be used to bake a variety of snacks including the famous Swahili ‘chapatis’. “We have recently kicked-off a rabbit keeping enterprise after learning a lot about the business potential rabbits have from our counterparts in central Kenya during a recent exchange visit supported by ICE,” says Judith. A rabbit ready for the market can fetch as much as KES. 1,500.00. The group currently has about five indigenous rabbits in only a span of two weeks since the exposure tour and they intend to expand the number further. The extent to which the group can go to enhance the livelihoods of its members is limitless. Judith explains, “We have a drama club within the group that is normally invited to act out plays in public functions. Our plays are educative and generally highlight social issues affecting the community such as the challenges of food security and how to address them through the growing of indigenous food crops.” The group was recently invited by the Meru museum to perform at a function to promote the preservation of culture and practices of the local people. “Some of our performances have been featured on local vernacular radio stations such as Muuga FM and Mwaria Ma FM and we received a warm reception from the public,” adds Janerose. For these two ladies from Jitegemee group, it is now evident that life to them is not just about money and how much of it one makes, but it is very much also about quality of life. Through the use of efficient cultivation methods, use of natural manure as well as the use of indigenous unaltered planting material, it is possible to be food secure and to have surpluses to sell at the same time. “What is even more important is the fact that you and your household and the customers we sell to get to enjoy clean food,” adds Judith.

Institutional Development

Women on a Success Mission

Kiitho kya Mawithyululuko is an all-women umbrella body with 153 members engaged in bio-intensive organic farming, poultry keeping and basketry. But these women are not just any other group trying to irk a living out of small agricultural enterprises – a closer look reveals that they only grow indigenous food crops using natural methods of pest control and organic fertilisation. Even the poultry they keep is indigenous. “We believe that an organic approach to farming is the only way to guarantee a clean and healthy supply of quality foods to society,” says Francesca Mbulu, chairlady of the group. Besides producing food free from hormones and chemicals, the natural indigenous foods are less susceptible to attack by disease and pests. “Coccidiois is a major chicken disease here but normally our indigenous chicken are not heavily affected like the grade chicken,” says Josphat Kyalo, the group’s coordinator. “We also weave baskets”, adds Rose Nduku, the secretary of the umbrella body. The group recently got a big contract to make about thirty thousand units. “We have been making baskets the old way for a long time but now the market wants a higher quality of basket we can no longer keep up with. Recently we had an opportunity to be trained on new methods of basketry that meet international basket standards and now we are back on track. We can now access markets we would otherwise not penetrate – thanks to ICE,” says Francesca. The entire basket weaving process up to the dying stage uses natural materials. “The dyes we use are organic and meet international dye standards. We no longer use saliva to weave the sisal fibres to thread like we used to – this is considered unhygienic by international standards.” The group plans to expand to goat keeping in the future. “Because of the scarcity of feeds, we can no longer sustain large animals like cows. That is why we have opted to keep goats instead,” explains Nduku. These industrious women intend to rear the goats for milk and meat. “These will be indigenous of course!” adds the chair lady with a wide smile setting across her face.

Institutional Development

Water Comes Closer Home

Ntakira water group was started in 2012 in February as an initiative by a group of women to provide access to clean piped water to the community. With an initial membership of only seventeen, this seemed like a daunting task considering other bigger groups in the locality with over two hundred members had failed. “This water issue involves numbers. The many you are, the less the cost of bringing water from the mountain to people’s houses,” explains Poly Kirimi, the group secretary. The group managed to build a water intake. But that is as far as they could go before The Institute for Culture and Ecology (ICE) stepped-in and boosted their efforts. “ICE found us at a dead end. We did not have the funds or the numbers to channel the water to see our project through to completion,” Poly says. ICE provided the group with about forty pvc pipes. “This was a great boost for us,” Poly continues. The group has since managed to cover about 3 Km of piping. We look forward to having our own regular supply of water and stop relying on water from Gikumbo that is unreliable and comes in shifts. Once the group completes the water project, they plan to embark on the cultivation of indigenous food crops.