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.