We started our week with a courtesy call to the Molo district government office facilities, which includes branches of education, development, planning, and more. We specifically visited the branch of the Ministry of Agriculture to discuss their relationship with NECOFA. They introduced to us their mission, values, and core functions which are outlined below. They also stressed how much they value this relationship with NECOFA, and how it allows them to more effectively implement community interventions. Samuel Muhunyu prefaced this visit by explaining that ideally, an NGO compliments and fills in the gaps of pre-existing policies set by the government.
One of the ministry officers, Grace, led us through the way in which they implement policies focused around food security, nutrition, youth involvement and gender mainstreaming in agriculture, and sustainable resource management for income generation. Grace noted that even policies surrounding issues such as HIV/AIDS are relevant to their ministry because the disease affects everyone, and those on ARVs (anti-retrovirals) require good nutrition for their bodies to respond positively to the treatment. This is a prime example of the interdisciplinary nature of community development.
We furtherly discussed the challenges faced within the department. Firstly, although agriculture accounts for nearly 70% of the country’s employment and small scale farming is the primary source of food in the country, agriculture is allotted less than 7% of the national budget, a source of money that is not only lacking, but often misused by officials. A major setback this has caused is the loss of “extension officers”: those in charge of bridging the gap between research that is done in the field of agriculture and the community farmers who would benefit from this knowledge. Another challenge that the department faces is the amount of youth involvement in agriculture. Young students are highly disinterested in farming and are overwhelmingly moving toward urban white collar jobs causing rapid exodus from the rural settings that provide produce for the country. Additionally, poor infrastructure leads to difficulty selling products in local markets and extreme weather can make people unable to transport their crops for weeks at a time. Finally, only 25-30% of the land in Kenya is arable, and this number is steadily decreasing due to poor resource management. The ministry would like to be able to restore more land for farming, and train a larger number of farmers on issues of soil erosion and water retention, but the lack of resources makes this unfeasable for the time being.
In the afternoon, we visited the Molo Youth Polytechnic, where we met the principal and various teachers, sitting in on class sessions and touring the facilities. They offer studies in auto mechanics, electrical fixation, refrigeration and air conditioning, construction, communications (computer skills), hairdressing and salon services, and fashion and textile production. Their classes are open to anyone, but most of their students come after graduating standard eight (eighth grade). The Polytechnic is also an exam center, providing the means for their students to get certified in their vocational studies after a two-year course. These students pay 10,000 Kenyan Shillings ($100 USD) for their full two years, but can apply for government subsidies if they are unable. This is a much cheaper alternative to secondary school, which allows the impoverished members of community to earn accreditation and start an income generating career. We ended the day by playing a friendly game of volleyball, and mingling with these bright and amicable students.
Today was a nice break from our busy travel from community to community. We thoroughly enjoy meeting so many different individuals and groups from all kinds of backgrounds, but it’s equally nice to have a calm office day like this one. This week, we are focusing on consolidating all of the information we’ve gathered from our community visits. We synthesized the lessons we’ve learned and the topics we’ve addressed, and we worked on making a spreadsheet to allow for the community impacted, topic of project proposal, pros, and cons. We additionally wrote an article about Raymond, the young college-bound man that we fished with last week in Baringo. We will post a link to this when it’s live!
Today was another office day, and we continued the pros and cons list. We furthermore worked on a spreadsheet with side projects for the GlobeMed chapter to pursue as separate ventures from our main GROW Project. We are very excited to have found several ways for our whole chapter to be involved in this experience, from selling Ogiek honey at farmers markets to being pen pals with some schools that we’ve met. We worked on a powerpoint to demonstrate our ideas to the NECOFA staff, which we will present in a meeting on Friday.
Today, we travelled about 40 minutes to Mariashoni, a community that we’ve previously visited to stay in the NECOFA Manitese Guest House and explore the Mau forest with the Kenya Forest Service. In this community, we had a meeting with several local leaders, in order to discuss the research of an Italian masters student of Anthropology named Antonio. He researched the interaction between the Mau forest, the indigenous tribes there, and climate change. He specifically studied the interaction between their traditions and the forest. This meeting was interesting because it was entirely in Kiswahili and Italian, so we had gracious university students from Eldoret help translate. After this, we ate lunch at Samuel Muhunyu’s favorite café for githeri, and then rehearsed our presentation.
The day finally came to present our ideas to the NECOFA staff! We started off this meeting as we do every meeting – with a word of prayer. The staff were so helpful and encouraging, with very positive feedback and new ideas for the projects we presented. We mainly discussed interventions in Kokwa Island, and the staff helped us expand these ideas to reach out to neighboring communities in the Baringo area. We hope to engage the community as a whole, even if the interventions we present are at school level. If funds allow, perhaps we can even reach out to Kachiru to extend our support. The staff helped us brainstorm ways in which we can focus on both the short term and long term impacts of our ideas, and we left the meeting feeling very hopeful about moving forward with the process of program implementation.
Additionally, we helped the office set up a PayPal account so they can receive direct donations separately from GlobalGiving, and we pursued a sponsorship from LUSH Cosmetics. All in all, it was a very productive week in the office and we can’t wait to keep taking steps forward with designing our project.