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Livelihoods improvements through integrated and environmental friendly employment development in South Kenya

Southern Kenya is an area located within the monsoon equatorial climate zone, humid along the coastline and dry further inland. The main source of income here is from occasional jobs and small-scale agriculture. The South Kenyan interior, with the Makueni, Machakos and Kitui Counties, experiences seasonal precipitation and is highly vulnerable to climate change, which has an adverse effect on agriculture. The local community is constantly battling structural poverty, lack of access to clean drinking water and unstable food security. During droughts, 58% of people sell their belongings such as home furnishings to buy food, while 55% reduce their eating portions or skip meals to provide food for the rest of the family.

The unfavourable climate makes it hard to maintain healthy and hygienic conditions in educational institutions. Schools without an adequate water storage system neglect cleaning classrooms, while students have no way of washing their hands after using the toilet.

The situation becomes even worse when entire villages do not have their own sources of potable water and are forced to obtain it from distant water intakes or other settlements. This not only poses a threat to the sanitary safety of the residents, but is also an impediment to the development of agriculture.

In extremely difficult conditions, it is very important to act in a spirit of cooperation and entrepreneurship. The most resourceful small farmers form agricultural cooperatives (self-help groups, SHG), which are registered by the local authorities. These cooperatives are responsible for organising local investment projects in the field of water management and agricultural production, and their members become a model for other residents to follow.

Effective support of the local community requires multidimensional measures that include securing access to potable water and hygiene education for the local population, addressing the negative effects of climate change, the promotion of entrepreneurship and increasing agricultural production.

Livelihoods improvements through integrated and environmental friendly employment development in South Kenya

The general aim of the project is to create conditions for integrated development of the agricultural community in southern Kenya, by improving water management, providing access to water, ensuring proper sanitary and hygienic conditions, creating better solutions to deal with the negative effects of climate change, securing employment growth and improving productivity in the agricultural sector.

The actions carried out in 2018 include supplying two educational institutions in the Makueni County – Song’eni secondary school and Miau primary school – with a system for collecting rain water and water reservoirs. The roofed masonry reservoirs will be supplied with faucets, making it possible to store water throughout the whole year without the risk of contamination when opening the reservoir. In the schools, training in hygiene will be held for both students and teachers.

At the same time, measures will also be carried out to benefit the people of the villages represented by three agricultural cooperatives: Kasunguni Frontline Farmers SHG, Mathemu Horticulture Group SHG and Mukuni Women Group SHG. Three sand dams will be built – low structures in seasonal rivers that will not halt the main current, but will accumulate sandy sediment which can hold back great quantities of water, thereby leading to a rise in the local water level. Supplying each dam with a shallow well will provide sand-filtered water for many months after the rainy season ends. Members of the cooperatives will also undergo hygiene training.

Actions to protect the environment and address the negative effects of climate change will include mapping the natural risks occurring within the area of each of the three SHGs. Activities to protect the soil will include the construction of terraces and the creation of green belts with trees planted to prevent soil erosion. The project includes the establishment of three forest nurseries, to be used in places to be under threat. Members of the cooperatives will be trained in topics such as building terraces and how to deal with the effects of natural disasters and climate change, various techniques of preventing soil erosion, operation of forest nurseries, agroforestry, building sand dams and water management. There will also be study visits for representatives of each SHG to other locations where similar actions were carried out, and for local officials, to establish cooperation between the counties and the cooperatives.

The project will provide a source of income for the local community and will stimulate the development of entrepreneurship. Members of four cooperatives (Mukuni Women Group SHG, Mathemu Horticulture Group SHG, Kasunguni Frontline Farmers SHG and Mbuuni Water Project SHG) will take part in training and study visits to learn about the commercial use of water resources and profit-generating agriculture.

The actions taken in 2019 within Module 2 of the project will be a follow-up and expansion of the actions carried out in 2018.