The wider Narok County has witnessed its fair share of drought and famine due to changes in the climatic patterns of the area caused by massive deforestation and environmental degradation of the Mau Forest.
Narok, once considered a water tower with a forest cover of more than 76 percent 20 years ago, currently has a forest cover of less than 33 percent caused by a number of factors with the major ones being charcoal burning and large scale wheat planting as well as an upsurge in settlement schemes in the forest.
As one approaches the somewhat dusty terrain of Narok town, one can’t help but notice the maasai women adorned in the famous maasai attires of wrap around (shukas) and beads dangling on their necks as they carry logs of firewood on their backs while precariously balancing their children on top of the logs.
The spectacle is characteristic in the wider Narok County as most homesteads still rely on firewood energy for cooking. Norparakwo Koriata has been a stern devotee of firewood energy which she has used for over 30 years in cooking for her seven member nuclear family as well as another eight members from her extended family.
It’s only recently that she adopted a cleaner and more efficient way for cooking and lighting at her makeshift home, made of soil and plastered with cow dung otherwise called manyattas.
“When it came to preparation of meals, it was a big challenge for me as the smoke that filled the room was not only uncomfortable for us, but also a health hazard to my family.
Most of my children developed respiratory problems as the kitchen which also doubles up as the bedroom is filled with soot. It was even worse when it rained as the logs were drenched making it difficult to burn,” says Koriata as she carrier her five year old baby.
“She was the most affected of my children by the smoke and I have had to make several trips to the local health center to seek medical attention due to her wheezing as well her eye irritations,” adds Koriata.
KCDF, through a match grant dubbed Pamoja4Change, awarded Nguzo Africa, a Community Based Organization in Narok to provide clean energy for cooking and lighting to the resident of Narok as well improving the learning environment of children by planting 5000 trees in three schools with a secondary objective of influencing other schools to replicate the model.
“As an organisation working in the expansive Narok County for slightly over a decade, we have witnessed the adverse effects of climate change as a result of environmental degradation. We had consultative forums with the residents who largely practice pastoralism and there was a concern that their mainstay may be eroded due to deforestation in the area resulting to poor rainfall. We decided to embark on environmental conservation at the household level.” Said Nguzo Africa Director Elizaphan Ogechi.
Under the match grant, Nguzo Africa was tasked with raising Kshs 1 Million. This being a new concept of funding to the community, Nguzo Africa fundraised from members of the group and community members as well as proceeds from income generating ventures that the group runs.
“The initial cost of setting up the project is relatively high (Kshs 70,000 – Kshs 120,000) for most homesteads, but through the Pamoja4Change grant, we have been able to subsidize the cost as well as offer credit facility for the members to take up the project while offsetting the debt over time through savings made from buying paraffin.” added Mr. Ogechi.
Through the project, four demonstration household biogas systems were installed with Koria-ta being one of the beneficiaries of the project.
The success of the project has attracted more residents to take up the innovation despite the relatively significant cost of installing.
“The benefits of the biogas digester transcends just the physical exhaustion we face as women, with the bio gas project, our families are healthier as the gas produces no smoke. Another benefit is that there is absolutely no waste as we use cow dung from our three cows as biomass for the digester and the sludge harvested thereafter the cow dung that has been utilized is used as manure for our small garden.” says Koriata.
Other than the biogas project, Nguzo also pioneered a solar lighting project for the residents of Narok South with the same concept of getting the lanterns on credit.
Under the arrangement, one pays a deposit of Kshs.2,500 (USD 28) and pays a daily instalment of Kshs.40 (less than half a dollar) for a period of one year through the M-Pesa mobile payment platform.
The comparative cost of the solar lantern which also comes with a transistor radio and a mobile charging unit is much cheaper than what residents use to pay for paraffin for their kerosene lamp and paying to charge for their mobile phones daily.
“The uptake of the solar lanterns has been phenomenal and we have been able to reach some 500 households within this first phase of the project. We hope to reach as many residents as possible in the next phase,” said Mr.Ogechi.
Nguzo Africa and the residents of Narok South are a perfect example of how local philanthropy works. They have come together with a common need; environmental conservation and have gone ahead to raise resources locally to address the issue at the very level where it affects them most.
The role of KCDF has been largely to facilitate this process while entrench the sense of dignity in addressing the communities developments needs by the community members themselves,” remarked Caesar Ngule, the lead programme person for the Local Resource Mobilization Programme (Pamoja4Change Programme).