Saturday, November 19, 2011

Yearning for knowledge

It was a well spend educational day for 28 students from Oloibortoto (20) and our lady of mt carmel (8) primary schools who visited the Maarifa center on a learning mission to quench their technological thirst and as well learn about conserving the environment.

Accompanied by their science teachers,the students were happy and excited to learn and have their fingers on the computer keyboards and learn some basics on computer operation.They also learned on tubular biogas and how it operates. The students were also quick to learn and identify some of the effects of climate change and action plan was arrived at that, each student present at the visit should go back home and plant two tree seedlings and take care of them until the time they can survive by their own.

The students could not belief animal waste can produce gas for cooking (Biogas) until they saw it work... "I thought it is just in books for purposes of learning.. I have seen it work" said Margaret Nogipa, a student at mt. carmel primary school.

Mr. Mutisya, the Headmaster and a science teacher at our lady of Mt. carmel primary school had alot to say about their learning mission and could not withhold his joy as he thanked the Maarifa centre team... " Our learning mission has been very positive and we thank the Maarifa centre for imposing such a positive message about climate change to the young generation."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Women as key players in attaining food security

Nguruman location is part of larger Magadi division, Kajiado North District, 160 Kilometres south west of Nairobi. Women around this place have realized that, food security is a factor to be looked into if the health and diet of future generation is important. They have formed women groups and registered them as common interest groups where they undertake activities geared at reclaiming food security which over the past few years has been deteriorating.

Climate change, diminishing soil fertility and poor crop husbandry among other issues have been attributed to food insecurity. According to FAO report on women and sustainable food security, women produce between 60 and 80 per cent of the food in most developing countries and are responsible for half of the world's food production, yet their key role as food producers and providers, and their critical contribution to household food security, is only recently becoming recognized.

Reversing the trend

Nguruman region has long been known for producing fresh vegetables for markets in the outskirts of Nairobi and other Asian vegetables for export. While men are busy venturing in to cash crop farming, women are on the other side ensuring that their families are food sufficient by planting food crops. Women have been seen planting traditional vegetables like cassava, sweet potato and arrow roots which are presumed to be the way forward towards attaining food sufficiency.

When asked where they got the information, Tenebo women group chairlady Mrs. Abu was bold enough to say… “Agricultural information is always available to us courtesy of Nguruman maarifa centre and the ministry of Agriculture extension officers”. The Maarifa centre and the ministry of Agriculture are on the fore front to promote traditional food crops due to their rich source of nutrients and adaptability to weather changes.

Women have reversed the normal trends of holding to large heads of cattle with no enough pasture to feed them throughout the year and are now keeping small stocks like poultry, rabbit, fish and dairy goats which are easy to manage and feed while producing enough food for their families and surplus for the market. One will only notice the marketing activities late in the afternoon when women and children start streaming to the market with bottles and gourds full of milk and others with donkeys loaded with small portions of agricultural produce.

Mama wamboi, a mother of three when asked why she decided to venture in to rabbit keeping, this is what she had to say… "I got interested in rabbit keeping since not many farmers are doing the business and there is a big market for the product. I then borrowed a book at the maarifa centre on backyard rabbit farming in the tropics which helped me to get more information on designing the house, breeding, nutrition, breeds and diseases".


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Changing lives through delivery of timely information

Nguruman maarifa centre has been an information hub for communities living around since its establishment in 2006.
Being the only center connected to internet around this place, its rich source of information has encouraged many community members around this area to venture into sustainable livelihood activities like mixed farming and tapping renewable energy sources like Biogas energy. Farmers have no fears to venture in to these avenues since they are sure they will get the right information from the maarifa center.

The information delivered is repackaged to suit the target audience and in the form that they can understand. For Example, if a farmer doesn't know how to read, the center has information in form of DVDs which are show to the farmers as per their information need.

The youth have also a stake of the center since they are able to apply for online jobs, register for colleges and visit social sites like twitter and facebook. Some also have learn about blogging and are now having their blogs where they are able to market Nguruman through private businesses, (

Nguruman maarifa centre has also featured in the media which is appreciating the work ALIN is doing in changing peoples lives through delivering information at its Maarifa centers within kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Adapting to climate change while improving family livelihood.

Nguruman has for a long time been known for its rich soils and water for irrigation throughout the year. Climate change has had its impacts on the farming activities in this region and people are changing farming patterns in adoption to the change. ALIN has been on the fore front to educate and help farmers adopt to new farming methods which are eco-friendly and at the same time will help improve family livelihood.

In August, 2008 the maarifa center with support from ALIN head quarters collaborated with the ministry of Agriculture officers in this region and organized for an exposure visit to Meru, Ciakago and Thika which involved farmers from Nguruman irrigation scheme. Four years down the line, the impacts are now being felt by the community and are now enjoying the benefits of the exposure.

During the exposure visit, farmers learned a lot of practical lessons which included and not limited to; Dairy goat keeping, agro-forestry, poultry farming and fish farming. Dairy goat keeping in this region has taken shape since some farmers’ bought dairy goats and bucks during the visit and as a result, residents are having enough milk for domestic use and surplus for market.

This breed has also helped improve breeding vigor of the local breeds which are more resistant to harsh environments and as a result, milk yield has shot up and farmers are reducing their heard as a way of adapting to reduced pasture land since they can have enough milk for domestic use and other few liters for the market. Family health has also improved since the families have enough milk to bring up healthy children who are not easily susceptible to diseases.

Over the past few years, farmers have lost a lot of animals worth billions of money to drought and other natural calamities. This has not come out as a lesson to farmers who still hold on to their big heads of cattle. With the changes in climate experienced over the last one year, government policy makers need to enact a policy which will allow livestock extension officers and other stakeholders concerned to take action on farmers who are still reluctant to embrace the information on De-stocking.

Farmers were also motivated and begun apple mango nursery projects as well as planting them and are now reaping the benefits. It will be important to note that, fruits thrive very well in Nguruman and its fruits hit the market when there is no other area producing. This fact gives them a upper hand to venture in the project.

In March 2011, ALIN initiated a pilot project on tubular biogas in Entasopia, which was aimed at conserving the environment by reducing the use of fire wood as fuel for cooking and fossil fuel for lighting thus reducing carbon emissions to the environment. The organization facilitated a four days training for the farmers in which three tubular biogas digesters were installed in three homes in Entasopia. The training also involved farmers and pastoralists from other rural areas like Isinya and Marigat where the technology can be replicated.

The tubular biogas technology is a new innovation that is affordable and the best alternative as an energy source for cooking and lighting for rural folks since it utilizes locally available raw materials while utilizing methane, which if released to the atmosphere contributes to global warming and climate change.

The community members are appreciating the technology since it has reduced family expenditure and now the families can prepare their meals in a clean environment free of smoke. It has also reduced the number of trees felled for charcoal and fuel wood thus contributing to climate change mitigation measures.

These projects have brought a balance in family income since mostly women are the ones involved in dairy goat projects and are appreciating the fact that they can be able to supplement what their husbands are earning. Monitoring the progress has also been easy since they have formed women groups which enable officers to reach them easily incase of information dissemination.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

ALIN wins the Access to learning (ATLA) Award.

Access to Learning Award (ATLA) is an award given by Bill and Belinda Gates Foundation each year to recognize the innovative efforts of public libraries or similar organizations outside the United States to connect people to information through free access to computers and the Internet.

Arid lands information Networks (ALIN) are the 2011 winners. The award was given to recognize ALIN's work of connecting the marginalized communities in the Arid and semi Arid regions of East Africa with knowledge and information by setting up 12 Maarifa (Knowledge) centers.

The Maarifa centers acts as referral points to the communities and have library materials and computers connected with internet. All services at the Maarifa centers are offered free of charge and this gives the communities equal access to information.

Community members are also given a chance share ideas about farming and other livelihood issues through organize open days, Training, exchange visits and also through ALIN's publications (Baobab and Joto Africa where their needs are identified and addressed.

For more information about the award you can follow:



Wednesday, August 17, 2011


During a stakeholders’ meeting for companies, interest groups, the government and NGOs working in Magadi division, the idea of carbon exchange or venturing in the carbon credits markets was raised and discussed as one of the long term plans to mitigate drought and climate change.

It was evident by the views of the members that very few people are aware of the opportunities the carbon exchange market presents.

Normally, carbon trade occurs when companies, mostly in the West, pay a fee for every amount of certified carbon dioxide released to the environment. The money is then used to pay other companies or organizations, which develop projects that facilitate less release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

According to the Kyoto protocol, developed countries are obliged to fulfill specified targets of carbon emissions; countries that produce excess carbon can offset their emissions through projects in their country or by buying carbon credits from other countries.

This has created a multibillion shillings carbon market that companies, organizations and small scale farmers in Kenya can venture into. Carbon credit is the currency for trading carbon emissions and one carbon credit is equivalent to one ton of carbon dioxide emission.

Opportunities in carbon trading can be utilized in different ways. Projects by organizations that are environmental friendly and provide alternative energy sources that help in reducing carbon emissions can be funded depending on the amount of carbon emissions the project intents to reduce.

For instance, the Maarifa Centre’s Biogas project provides a clean source of energy. It can account for carbon credits in two ways, first it utilizes the methane produced by decomposing animal waste and therefore it is not released to the atmosphere and second it provides an alternative bio-friendly energy source for cooking reducing the use of firewood or charcoal.

Kenya’s electricity power generator, Kengen, earns an estimated Shs442 million every year from the sale of 660, 000 tons of Carbon credits to the World Bank as a compensation for the carbon production avoided by generating geothermal electricity.

In October last year, Mumias Sugar Company made an agreement with the World Bank in which the company was to be paid 22 million from selling 43, 000 tons of carbon credits arising from its electricity generation plant that uses sugarcane. Both cases reduced the use of power that is generated from diesel generators by Kengen and therefore reducing the carbon released to the atmosphere by the diesel engines.

Farmers can also benefit from the market in different ways. Farmers can plant trees in their farms and then get compensation for the amount of carbon the trees are absorbing from the atmosphere. Organic farming methods, afforestation, reforestation and agroforestry can fetch farmers in Nguruman extra income.

In Kenya, farmers from Embu, Meru, Mara and Nanyuki are benefiting from The International Small Group and Tree Planting Program (TIST).The TIST program has recruited 7,135 small groups of farmers with a total of 52,637 members to plant trees and earn compensation from carbon trading.

The farmers are provided with tool kits that guide them throughout the process of tree planting from preparing nurseries to transplanting the seedlings and managing the trees. The group’s earnings are paid to its account and they are guided in managing the finances.

The program provides a local TIST organizer to help the farmers in utilizing the toolkit and also in documentation. There are random and annual audits to ascertain the progress and performance of the groups.

Seeking carbon exchange financing

While seeking for funds from the carbon trading market, one needs to prove that the project or activity either absorbs carbon from the atmosphere or reduces emission of the gas to the atmosphere.

The project needs to prove that the reduction of emissions and Sequestration – absorption of carbon from the atmosphere by plants through photosynthesis- would otherwise not have happened without the existence of the project.

It also needs to quantify with precision the amount of carbon emission the project is reducing or the absorbing by providing accurate data about the project’s activities for example the number of trees, their age and size.

The projects need clearly monitoring and evaluation that involve pictures and GPS record of the sites where the project’s activities are taking place.

The World Bank and other organizations have produced guides for communities and task leaders which would enable them to attract carbon markets. Some of the guides are linked below.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011


The Unite for Body Rights project (UFBR) has devised a unique way of reaching out to the Maasai youths who are initiated into moranhood to hold interactive sessions with them about their sexual reproductive health and rights.

The project, funded by the Dutch government and run by Africa Medical Research Foundation (AMREF) has been facilitating forums in the bush in which trained peer educators discuss issues to deal with sexual life, risky sexual behavior, sexually transmitted infections, harmful traditional practices and other issues that affect the sexual reproductive health of young people in the maasai community.

The trained peer educators are also part of the age set selected by the Inkopir (older men appointed to oversee moran activities and represent their fathers) and trained by the project in facilitating participatory sessions on the issues. With the support of the project goats are provided which are consumed by the Moran as lunch.The goats are prepared by the Moran in their traditional ways and herbs and traditional medicine are mixed with the meat.

The project seeks to help Moran realize safe and informed decision regarding their sexual reproductive health. The decisions include choosing to use condoms, reducing stigma and discrimination against uncircumcised Maasai girls, going for HIV counseling and testing and seeking medical help in cases of sexual transmitted infections and other reproductive health related medical issues.

In view of this, the project has been facilitating a medical practitioner to perform the counseling and testing on the Moran who opt for the test after or during the sessions. The medical office also helps in answering technical health related questions.

The bush sessions provide a forum for the Moran to learn and also share their experiences with each other. Facilitated in Maasai language, the sessions reach out to Moran in their socially accepted habitat and are tailored to fit into their lifestyle in order for them to accept the problems and come up with solutions with the aid of trained peer educators.

Apart from taking time to participate in the sessions, no other aspect of the moran lifestyle is interrupted and therefore acceptance of the issues and participation in the process is enhanced. The Moran’s are at a very high risk of contacting and spreading HIV/AIDS and other STIs due to their culturally defined roles and conduct.

Culturally, the Moran’s are allowed to hold cultural dances at night in different bomas(Manyatta). Girls are allowed to participate in these dances and premarital sex is encouraged by a number of practices in the culture. The dances are usually highly explicit and the Moran who knows how to dance the best or the one who is the best soloist is respected and admired by the girls.

Other issues in their lifestyle include the fact that they have a lot of free time and therefore move from village to village. This encourages them to have multiple sexual partners. The culture also encourages girls to have multiple sexual partners and those who receive less or no attention from the Moran are frowned upon by their age mates.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Tenebo is a Maasai name meaning ‘Pamoja’ in Kiswahili and Together in English. The name of the group symbolizes the coming together of 12 women in Oloibortoto Sub location, Olkiramatian location in Kajiado North County to support each other in implementing goals and dreams they otherwise could not achieve on their own.

The group was formed in October 2011 with the objective of creating income generating project to economically and socially empower its members. Since its formation the group has initiated different income generating projects some for the group in general and others for the individual members.
The group enjoys some level of cohesion and commitment to task that is phenomenal. Asked what their objective is.

The chair lady says ‘ tunata kua ikifika mwisho wa mwaka hata sisi tunasaidia kwa boma kulipa school fees, rent na vitu zingine kubwa kubwa(We are aiming that at the end of each year we also help our families in paying school fees rent and other big things )’

Formed less than a year ago (on October last year), the group has supported each woman in buying a dairy goat. A four months old dairy goat is worth more than ten thousands. The 12 members each got one. At the home the meeting is held Mama Kibibi now has two fully grown female dairy goats and one male.

The aim of this, the secretary says, is to be able to supply the women with enough milk for their families and also some surplus to sell to the neighbors for income.
Ina addition to the goats and a bee keeping project the group recently started a rabbit keeping project, the rabbits are six and they are planning to extend that too. The bee keeping project already has ten beehives.

The women in this group have a vision for the products from their farms. They plan to use them to make cake, start a bakery. Why?
‘We are adding value’ Mama Khadija says ‘it would be cheaper and more challenging to sell sweet potatoes, cassava and those other things as they are especially here in Nguruman’

The other things include cassava, millet, soya beans and pumpkins. They are dried, grounded into flour and then used to make cakes. The women believe selling cassava scones, pumpkin chapattis and sweet potatoes queen cakes is more appealing to farmers and residents of Nguruman and its outskirts.

The sweet potatoes also make bar soaps. They have tested their products in the market, displayed them in different field days organized by the ministry of Agriculture and they are optimistic about the reception.

There is a lot of water in Nguruman. This group sees that as an opportunity to make some extra shilling and also help fellow women who are hit by a persistent water problem around the division and beyond. They are planning to start a purification and supply project in which they will fetch the water in Nguruman, purify it and supply to the women who walk long distances to get water that is not even safe for drinking. At an affordable cost.

‘We also have a savings plan’ the chairlady responds. ‘Every month each woman gives 400 shillings in our meetings held twice a month, part of the money is deposited in our account and part of it is left with the host of the meeting. The green books are used to record each member’s contribution’

Their savings have grown rapidly since the group began the plan. Their plan is that at the end of six months, individual members will be able to apply for loans from the organization. With their savings they also plan to start lending out to other groups at an interest to help out other women and to also create an income for the group.

In future they are planning to expand the bee keeping project, have a fully equipped bakery, start the water purification project and expand soap making. By the end of this year, their savings would have grown enough to be able to advance loans to individual members of the group.
They will also be eyeing the loans given to small groups by the government and other organizations.

The main challenges quoted by members of this group include poor infrastructure making it hard to transport their products and lack of finances for expansion.
The women say that their husbands have been very supportive in this initiative
‘Who will prevent you from going to a group meeting if they are drinking milk and he can see goats in the homestead courtesy of the same group?’ Asks a member of the group,.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Open day

Nguruman Maarifa Centre participated in an open day organized by the ministry of agriculture, Kajiado north district. The theme for the open day was ‘Empowering communities through Agribusiness’. The event which saw approximately 600 community members participate had lots of activities most of them by the various groups and community members. The open day was held on June 7th, 2011 at one of the selected farm and by 9.00am, community member and other stakeholders started streaming to the venue ready to display their food security measures, value addition and agribusiness skills. Many groups were seen making their final preparations for their presentations and exhibitions. The chief guest was the DAO Isinya Mr. David Kiiru.

The day’s events begun by touring the farm where the participants got to learn about various farming methods like banana propagation, dairy goat keeping, fish farming and value addition to various categories of vegetables and fruits and other important skills. The participants then proceeded to the stands to see various items on display by different stake holders. Nguruman Maarifa center stand was the first at the entrance where registration was done.

On display was information materials like publications, CD Roms and various books found in our library. We also displayed ICT equipments found at our Maarifa center like the wireless enabled laptops used for computer training and internet access.
We also provided internet connection for people who wished to check their mails and other services from the internet and many people were seen using the service alternately. All the participants who visited our stand were impressed by the free services offered at the Maarifa center.

Next to our stand was Ministry Of Agriculture stand where they displayed their extension materials including publications and manuals. They explained measures that have been put in place to improve food production and shared various market opportunities for farmers from this region who were keen on major issues affecting them on their daily farm operations.

The open day saw 10 women groups present different food security measures and agribusiness ventures. Among the groups was Tenebo women group who had a variety of traditional food stuffs which had been added value like cassava queen cakes, pumpkin chapattis, millet cakes, soya cake and sweet potato soap among others. Wendo Museo women group had different varieties of dried traditional vegetables and foods like; cassava, banana, sweet potato and arrow root crisps ready on display. Tuko disabled group was not left out during the exhibitions as they displayed their well knit bead works which included and not limited to bracelets, hand laces, necklaces and decorated belts.

These entire groups didn’t forget to mention their greatest challenge or barriers to success of their groups. Two groups who had the greatest need were Tenebo women group who had a challenge while baking their value added traditional food for they had to rent an oven to do their baking. They made their appeal to the ministry of agriculture to support them for this cause. Snt Ann women group had a challenge while harvesting their fish due to lack of fishing net and market for the harvested fish. They also made an appeal to the ministry of livestock and fisheries to help them source for a fishing net and market for their product.

Other stake holders who came on board to display their products were agrochemical companies like osho chemical industries who had experts ready to address the challenges farmers are facing when it comes to pest management, both in crops and animal production.
They also had variety of chemicals on display and others to sell to interested farmers. Pest control board had also its stand and displayed a wide variety of pest control chemicals used by farmers to maximize their produce at farm level.

Guests were treated to various entertainment items from various groups. Patterson memorial secondary school opened the floor with a song on the importance of farming to Kenyan economy. They also gave chants on female genital mutilation and its effects of abortion in our society that moved the crowd into tears. Entasopia primary school had some educative pieces of entertainment on the importance of girl child education in our society.

To crown up the day’s entertainment were the oretete traditional dancers who performed traditional dances with the crowd joining in leaving the place in a cloud of dust. The guest of honor Mr. Kiiru gave out his inspiring speech where he encouraged farmers to take up innovations which will help them boost their production. He also encouraged farmers to develop a farm business plan with the help of government extension workers within their reach which will help them become good entrepreneurs in their farms.

He recognized the work of Maarifa center in steering development in this area and encouraged community members and other stake holders to utilize then facility to help the community improve their livelihood. The open day ended at 4:30 pm and every participant was confident and happy that the day was well spent.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Free cooking gas for Nguruman community

The Nguruman Maarifa centre initiated a green energy conservation project on pilot basis as an alternative energy source and approach towards climate change mitigation. Twenty community members were trained on tubular biogas technology which involves recycling animal waste to generate gas for cooking and lighting given that communities in this region rely mainly on firewood and paraffin. By the end of the training three complete biogas digesters had been installed.

Steps involved in setting up the system

1. During the setup for the system, site selection was considered to be one of the important factors that determine the performance of the system. According to Mr. Kamau, an expert in this technology, the site needs to be gentle and not very sloppy and also needs to be close to the kitchen.
2. A V shaped trench measuring 10m long, 0.6m width and 0.3m deep was dug and leveled and some sand or dry manure put to ensure its smooth. Where available, a polythene paper was put in the trench as a cushion.
3. Heavy gauge silage tubing (Digester) measuring 10m by 3.2m was then placed in the trench.
4. Both the inlet and outlets were fixed by tying to the silage tubing extra duty PVC pipes.
5. Fixing the gas outlet was done at one metre from the inlet pipe.
6. Connections from the digester to the kitchen were made using PVC pipes, gate valves, sockets, nipples and flexible tube for connecting to the specially
fabricated biogas burner.
7. Once the system was completely connected, 200 litres of cow dung was mixed with 200litres of water and fed to the system via the inlet pipe.

It took about ten days for the anaerobic reaction to generate enough gas for cooking.
The rise of the silage tube was an indicator that gas was generated.

The community members are impressed by the success of the project. They are now thanking ALIN for the initiative and support they gave them during the training and installation of the same. The three families can now cook their food for shorter period, in a conducive environment free of smoke and at their convenient time.

This is what the community had to say about the impacts of the project:
"I didn't believe that animal waste can be used to produce energy until I saw it working" said one of the elders from the area, Mr. Kamango.

Another beneficiary Mrs. Ndungu had this to say, "I'm grateful for this project. I have been able to prepare my meals in a smoke free environment and in shorter period of time than I used to while using firewood". she is now an ambassador of the technology since people visit her occasionally to proof whether really the technology is working.

Biogas technology is a cost effective investment since all what is needed to ensure continuous gas supply is to feed the biogas digester daily with slurry (mixture of organic material and water, usually at equal proportions). It is also a potential economic enterprise for the trained community members who will be the pioneers of the project and will be able to create employment for a few youths around.

The digestion of organic matter in the biogas plants forms methane commonly reffered to as biogas. This is a combustible gas that burns with a hot blue flame.

Biogas is neither poisonous nor flammable. The residue from the fermentation process in the biogas digester is the main product of the plant. It is a fertilizer of better quality than undigested waste because the nitrogen previously unavailable to crops is transformed into water-soluble ammonia which is readily taken up by plants. by this, the farmers can save their money that would otherwise be spent on purchasing commercial fertilizers.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Free access to information for Nguruman residents

Information has always been a major tool for steering development and improving livelihood in the society living in the world today. On the other hand, access to information has been a challenge to the communities living in arid and semi arid regions. ALIN has taken the lead to ensure that access to information is a ‘Dream come true’ to all people living in these regions and at no cost.

Nguruman Maarifa center is a community knowledge center that has been giving free access to information to communities living together in this area since its establishment way back in 2006. This has brought impact within the community by enabling farmers improve their food production through adoption of best farming practices and pest control measures thus creating food security for their families.

Students also take their time and do their studies at the maarifa center during vacation due to its aesthetic environment for learning.

The center has also been a rich source of information about climate change mitigation and has gone further to train farmers on alternative sources of Energy for cooking other than wood fuel. Biogas energy has taken the place of wood fuel in three homesteads so far and more pending requests for installations put forward. The center has also enabled the youth secure jobs through free ICT skills they acquire from the center.

Mr. Lodaro, a farmer and a youth had this to say;

“I have been able to improve my farming and computer skills through free access to services at the Maarifa center. I am now able to type and print and through the knowledge I got from the books I read at the Maarifa center, I am able to identify and control crop pests attacking crops at my farm.”

Mr. Leonard Ndungu, a youth who has benefited from free access to information had countless testimonies to give. This is what he had to say;

“I have used the internet to search market for Jatropha seeds, sold lots of kilograms, I got research assistant job with a Canadian lady doing her thesis on bio fuel, became a member of bio fuel development in Africa through free access to internet.”

Due to free access and ICT knowledge acquired at the Maarifa center, Mr. Lenard has been able to create a community blog and this is what he had to say;

“knowledge on blogging has helped me create job for myself with well established tour firm, Loita safaris trekks, I have also created lots of casual job for the youths who work as guides, potters, cooks whenever there are visitors.”

“I have managed to market Nguruman as perfect gateway destination, we even featured in international new york travel magazine and locally in the Saturday Magazine travel by Rupi Mangat, Saturday Nation April 2, 2011,” he added.

“At the moment I have a new job with a small media and publishing firm Global vision digital solution as a sales executive a job I applied through the Nguruman Maarifa able to use web 2 tools because of the knowledge gained there.”

Ladies were not left out as they also had testimonies to give about free access to information. Naomi Tonkey, Community Knowledge Facilitator at Nguruman Maarifa center had this to say;

“ Before I knew about the Maarifa center, I knew nothing about computers, but now I can operate a computer and share what have learned with other youths around. I now have a web mail and a facebook account. I have also attended several information exchange workshops organized by ALIN and other partners like PELUM (participatory ecological land use management)."

The physically challenged had also a say on how the Maarifa center has helped them. Mr. Kasifu, disabled representative had this to say;

“ I have been able to successfully submit proposals to donors in support for Tuko disabled group initiative through proposal writing and computer basic skills I acquired at the Maarifa center. I have also been able to open the groups blog that highlights issues of disabled people within Magadi division and Email address through free internet access at the center.”

Some of the students pass by the maarifa centre after school to do their extra studies.

Services offered at the Maarifa center are:

• Internet access
• Basic computer knowledge
• E-government services e.g., KRA pin registration
• Mult-media content
• Online market information
• Publications
• Advisory services
All services are offered free of charge.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Nguruman communities trained on Green energy technologies.

A community exchange visit and training session was conducted at Nguruman Maarifa centre from 16th to 20th march 2011. The tittle for the training was 'Recycling animal waste to generate gas for Cooking and Lighting for pastoralist communities'. Main Goal for the training was to increase environmental conservation using alternative green energy technologies.

The main objectives for the training were:
1.To impart technical skills to participants on construction of tubular type biogas technology. exchange information and knowledge on the role of maarifa centers in development.
3.To discuss viability of biogas technology as an income generating enterprise for Maarifa centres.
4. To create awareness on climate change and the role of renewable energy technologies.

Potential Benefits of using Biogas technology were highlighted to be

• Avail clean and efficient energy for cooking food and lighting at night.
• Reduce women and children’s vulnerability to respiratory diseases and eye irritations caused by smoke at household level.
• Reduce children and women’s workload in fetching fuel wood.
• Reduce deforestation caused as a result of fetching firewood and burning charcoal.
• Improve general sanitation and good management of livestock waste.
• Reduce carbon emissions that cause global warming.
• Increased productivity in the evenings given clear and adequate lighting for children to complete their home work more comfortably.
• Production of high quality organic manure for food production at household level.

The participants were drawn from Marigat, Isinya and Nguruman Maarifa centres. The main facilitators were Mr. George Kamau of Tree Is Life, Mr. Joseph Githiga a member of Nga’rua focal group and Mr. Noah Lusaka, the project manager ALIN. The participants were expected to learn and pilot how to construct affordable tubular biogas digester units and utilization as an energy source for cooking, lighting and organic manure for household food production.

An ‘active participatory learning’ approach was used to ensure all the participants acquired technical skills. The participants were trained on household energy conservation tips and practical sessions on construction, utilization and maintenance of biogas units. by the end of the training, three tubular biogas digesters had been installed with complete kit including the burner.

About 21 participants were trained on this technology and this is anticipated to reach many pastoral communities faced with energy challenges. At Nguruman, we were lucky to have ten of our focal group members trained and this gives us a upper hand to have this technology spread faster within the community around.

A baseline study that was conducted at the three centers namely, Nguruman, Isinya and Marigat before the training showed that, Most rural communities rely on firewood, agricultural residues and animal waste for cooking meals at household level. Collection of these energy sources is normally the responsibility of women and children. The cooking systems used are the popular three stone hearths that is smoky and inefficient leading to fuel wood wastage and carbon emissions to the atmosphere.

In addition, communities rely on paraffin lanterns and wicket lamps for lighting at night which was found to be not adequate for a family. The lamps used poses significant safety and health risks in addition to carbon emissions and expenses involved to purchase paraffin.

ALIN has been in the fore front by promoting green energy technologies as alternative energy sources and also as a climate change mitigation measure. Among the most affordable and appropriate energy technology is the biogas digesters. By the end of the training, all objectives were met and the participants shared their views and the way forward for maarifa center sustainability. This initiative has been well received by the farmers and the community and it has been left out to be a matter of 'wait and see' if the three installed digesters work.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

At the heart of Maasai land where ‘farming as a business’ is the core.

Nguruman is located in the heart of Maasai land, Entosopia location of Magadi division and is one of cosmopolitan areas in Kenya where you find almost all tribes from Kenya and a few from neighboring country, Tanzania living and working together. Due to its rich soils and availability of water all round the year, farming has been its core business and as a result, most of vegetables and fruits consumed at Kiserian and Rongai town located at the outskirts’ of Nairobi come from this region.

Farmers in this region also plant Asian vegetables and other green vegetables for export alongside keeping their animals. There is compelling evidence of an aging farmer population in Nguruman region which need to be addressed to facilitate sustainability in agricultural production in this area. Due to fluctuations in market prices for Asian vegetables which have been grown in this area for a long time, many of the youth have given up farming and gone to look for jobs in bigger towns. The few who have remained back opt to be employed as casual laborers and get their share at the end of the day other that tilling the land all year round and earn less.

Lack of farming skills and capital investment has also contributed to negative perception about farming by the youths since farming requires inputs for output to be realized. Poor infrastructure has also contributed to high transport costs and therefore many youths are discouraged when they fail to get profits from their produce.

Making a change by ‘Beating the odds’

This has not been the case for Mr. Fredrick Kamango, a Youth aged 24 years who has taken the lead to help the youth in this region change the perception they have towards farming. All this started way back in 2009, when he begun thinking of how he can earn as much as the older farmers do. He very well understood that the older farmers didn’t wake up one morning and found themselves earning, they had to be patient so he was.

In his 5 hectare piece of land, located at Darkalali village, Entosopia location of Magadi division, you will find 1,200 banana plants which are barely two years and from them he earns around Kshs 10,000 after every two weeks from the crop sales depending on market prices.

He has also has 150 young pawpaw plants from which he is expecting to be earning Kshs 2,000 after every week.

It will be interesting also to note that, it’s only in Nguruman where you find mangoes during the month of October to December and this makes prices go up to Kshs 30 per every piece(apple mango).

Mr. Fredrick has not been left out and in this case, he started with 50 grafted mango trees and 60 which he plans to graft by the end of February and from this, he expects to earn more than Kshs 8,000 from every tree when they grow up.

When asked about how youth in this region perceive farming, this is what he had to say “Many youth in this area perceive farming as dirty job and for those who are not learned…..they also need a crop that will give them quick money and therefore majority have moved to the city to look for jobs...”. When the expected doesn’t happen and the youths find themselves back to the village, they feel shy to even visit Mr. Fredrick’s farm.

“I feel good when the youths come from the city and appreciate my work and even some have regretted their action and are now back to their senses, ready to join me in farming... I even employ them when I have much work to do in my farm and this even hurts them more...” Say’s Fredrick.

Through the help of the field officer at Nguruman maarifa center, Mr. Fredrick has been able to identify some of the crop pests and diseases which affect his crop and has been able to take action. He has also knowledge on grafting so he doesn’t have to hire an expert to do this job for him.

“I am able to take care of my crops through the knowledge I get from the maarifa center and also after my work at the farm, I visit the center to check my mails and chat with my friends on face book...”
Although in Maasai culture crop farming is not a priority, Mr. Freddy has chosen to go for it and is now creating an impact in his community by challenging the youth and encouraging them to take part in crop farming to ensure food sustainability and also as a way of creating more jobs for the youths since grazing land is diminishing with increase in population.