The Schools Solar Lighting Project
Provision of energy to rural communities in the County has proven to be a very big challenge, with electricity infrastructure (particularly in Mwingi) covering a very small percentage of the rural population. This coupled with a County poverty index of 66%, (Source: 2008-2009 Kenya demographic and health survey)
means that, 2 out of every 3 people live on less than a dollar a day, and thus, only an extremely small number of those living in the urban centers can access power from the national grid for economic activities.
However, with the ongoing drought in Country, the little power available from the national grid is also characterized by rationing and outright black-outs. The use of paraffin is the other available option, but given the high incidence of poverty, in the area, this is completely untenable. For example, an average household, with an average family size of six spends about Kshs.300 on paraffin for lighting alone. Assuming that the family has a monthly income of Ksh4, 000/-, the paraffin bill will translate to about 8% of its total income. And in addition, the family has also to cater for other basic amenities like food, clothing, shelter, education, health care among others.
Thus, the vast majority of these people depend on traditional fuels (wood-charcoal, crop residue maize stalks, cobs and dung), often using primitive and inefficient technologies (open fires). For many, this combination barely allows them to fulfil the basic human needs of nutrition, warmth and light.
Regrettably, the open fires used have very low efficiencies of less than 10% resulting in a consumption of more than 2tons of fire wood for an average household per year. On other hand, cooking on open fires also comprises a very serious health risks for users with emission comprising of numerous products of incomplete combustion like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, diverse hydrocarbons and suspended particulate matters .
The concentration of those components very often exceed the values of health standards by far .For example, in any one given day, an average rural woman is exposed to the quantity of benzo-alpha –pyrene (BAP) which equals to smoking of 450 non-filter cigarettes. These noxious gases cause respiratory diseases like chronic bronchitis and lung or throat cancer. Other health effects of open fire emissions are severe eye diseases like blindness. Charcoal burning and selling in many parts of the region is causing heavy pressure on the forests and tree resources and this situation remains, arguably disproportionately, the main concern of government authorities and policy makers at County, and national levels.
Education Status in the Greater Mwingi area
According to the 2009 population census, the greater Mwingi region, with a total population of 329,280 people, a total of 201,931 ( 61% of the population) has completed basic primary education, 27,254 (8.3% of the population) has completed secondary school education and only 1,213 ( a mere 0.4 of the population) had ever seen the inside of a University lecture hall.
Research elsewhere has shown that, there is a close correlation between the level of education one acquires and poverty. This sad state of affairs has further been compounded by the fact that, over 80% of the slightly over 400 primary schools and about 50% of the over 100 secondary schools are not accessible to the national grid and are likely to remain so for a very, very long time.
This, coupled with the high cost of paraffin as an alternative source of lighting, means that, the teacher –student contact hours are likely to remain low, hence further contributing to the low student performance in national examinations, unemployment /underemployment and cyclical poverty. On the other hand, there are quite a number of organizations willing to donate computers to start ICT programmes in school but are discouraged by lack of lack of power in such schools.
WATER HARVESTING & TANKS
Water Harvesting ,Management and Agro-forestry farming
The cyclical drought regularly experienced in the area has told us one lesson. That, agro-forestry initiatives will only succeed if the CBOs in the network have access to reliable water all year round. Over the last 3 years, we have successfully supported construction of 3 subsurface dams and two rock water catchment and in the process giving water to slightly over 300 households. The management committee of each of the participating CBO is then given some basic training on project management and sustainability. However, water harvesting is a fairly expensive affair and we have realized that, for the agro-forestry initiative to make tangible impact, this is one area we still need to do a lot. In addition, we have also been offering training to participating CBO leaders on tree nursery training management and marketing.
Our water harvesting initiatives will go hand in hand with the scaling up of tree nurseries and agro-forestry farming. To date, we have supported our affiliate CBOs with polythine papers which has enabled the groups to plant well over 300,000 indigenous trees and over 500,000 exotic ones. Many of the CBOs have in turn been able to sale their seedlings to theKaziKwaVijanainitiative, thereby enabling them to make quite some bit of good money.
Weaving of Sisal Baskets
Historically, the KambaCommunity is very much endowed in the making of artifacts (weaving) and woodcrafts (wood curving), with the world renown Kyondo (African Basket) having its roots from the Community. It was because of this reason that, in 2008, RISE adopted weaving as one of the core Social Enterprise projects. In January of 2008, the first class of 63 Community Resource Persons (CRPs) commenced lessons under the tutelage of a qualified artifacts designer. The classes were held once per week, for a total of 6 months after which, many of them were deployed as CRPs / ToTs in their respective CBOs / SHGs. In addition, the CRPs/ ToTs also received training in other areas important in of community development, which included, group dynamics, leadership, conflict, basic book keeping and general project management.
To date, over 1,000 Women have directly been trained and are benefiting from the selling their assorted hand made sisal products locally and internationally (including in Japan, Netherlands, Italy and the USA). Currently, plans are at an advanced stage toregister the said products as eco-friendly as well as under fair trade.