In ‘Climate Change in the Nyando Basin – The Problem (IIED)’, I showed how this region that traverses the Kenyan provincial boundaries of Rift Valley and Nyanza has been experiencing increasingly unpredictable and intense instances of flooding and drought thanks to climate change. Here, I explore how international donors and local non-governmental organisations have been coming together to help communities here adapt in the face of this reality.
Uhai Lake Forum is a local sustainable natural resourse management NGO. Fittingly, ‘uhai’ is a Swahili word meaning ‘life’. They work with farmers and fisherfolk to enhance their capacity to preserve their environments. The main aim of this particular project is to promote community-based climate change adaptation. It is part of the ‘CLACC’ programme (Capacity building in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) on Adaptation to Climate Change), being undertaken in eight African countries (Kenya, Sudan, Senegal, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa). Uhai have been implementing this project in Kenya for slightly over two years together with the Nairobi-based African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), and have been supported by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), based in London, the International Development Research Center (IDRC) of Canada and the Department for International Development (DfID) of the UK.
This pilot phase has focused on the Nyanza villages of Wakesi and Oyola, which were chosen from 24 villages assessed in a participatory climate change effects assessment during 2008-9. These two communities were encouraged to draw up and share action plans with government departments, NGOs and other supporters. Since then, many have stepped forward to assist with implementation of parts of these action plans. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), for example, contributed funds for improving infrastructure, as will be shown below. Comic Relief also provided support for two manually operated irrigation pumps and application of the ‘farmer field school’ approach to train farmers on tree nursery establishment and management as part of their community-based adaptation activities.
The natural resource management parts of these action plans have been dealt with by Uhai with the support of ACTS, who have been approaching adaptation through a focus on livelihood security. ACTS’ main role is to facilitate Uhai’s work by providing resources, such as mango seedlings, foot pumps for irrigation, etc. They also participate in some capacity building, e.g. training in tree nursery management and training local NGOs in climate change awareness. The pilot phase is now nearing completion, and the organisations involved are looking towards scale-up.
This photo essay, like the previous part, was commissioned by IIED. All the images below, along with others from the same series, may be purchased as beautiful colour prints or licensed for download (I’m offering 35% off until 1st January 2012); they can also be shared via social media platforms. To make your selection, just click on the ‘Buy | Share’ link at the end of any of the captions, or directly on any image, and you will be taken to the gallery entitled ‘Adapting to Climate Change in the Nyando Basin (IIED)’ in my Image Archive. You’ll find all the images from both photo essays there, and more besides.
Both Wakesi and Oyola have established committees to liaise with the outside organisations that are helping them, handle the villages’ response to natural disasters and carry out adaptation initiatives. Pictured are members of these committees. Left: Dokas Omolo (left), Secretary of the Oyola Disaster Committee, and Joshua Ondiek (right), another of the committee’s members. Right: Members of the Wakesi Community Project Committee, namely (from the left) Helidah Awino (Treasurer), Joseph Ogoma (Vice Chairman), Joseph Ayungi (Secretary), Rashid Achiando (Member) and Pius Owita (Member). Buy | Share
Left: Rose, Assistant Chairperson of the Oyola committee, stands outside her home with local children. She is one of those lucky enough to be living on land that’s slightly raised, so hers in one of the last homes to be flooded. Water crosses her doorstep only after rain has been falling consistently for around one month. Some time back, this used to be where the village had an evacuation centre. Currently, there is no official evacuation centre, though people use the school for this purpose. However, as I saw (and depicted in my other photo essay), even the school gets flooded at times. When this happens, people go to the neighbouring village of Kwasa – which is marginally more elevated – and stay with relatives there. The people of Oyola have raised the ground around their houses, and they repair this when April is approaching because they expect flooding from April to June (although this timing is no longer reliable). Right: JICA and the Ministry of Water and Irrigation decided to provide for an evacuation centre in Wakesi after seeing the findings of Uhai Lake Forum’s baseline study. It should be at the village’s primary school, pictured here, and should open after flood levels cross one metre in depth. Evacuation plans assume that 800 of the village’s roughly 2,000 inhabitants would take refuge here in times of bad flooding. Unfortunately, JICA’s project period expired before all the work on this was completed. Culverts still need to be built in the vicinity, while improvements are also necessary inside the school itself (e.g. raised floors, improved walls and toilets). An evacuation centre was not in JICA’s original remit, so the villagers are hoping for a further grant to pay for its completion. Buy | Share
Uhai’s main adaptation strategy for these villages is to develop the use of ‘planted resources’ that are indigenous to the affected area that can provide livelihood security. In collaboration with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, it has established farmer field schools in both Wakesi and Oyola. Those trained are charged with demonstrating what they’re taught to others. Future training intentions include tree choice, crop seed selection and preservation, energy conservation and the manufacture and use of the ‘Uhai stove’ (see below). Uhai are also encouraging soil and water conservation activities, the planting of trees (particularly those that are energy providing) in nurseries, the planting of forage crops on soil terraces and the planting of short-term cereal crops that can increase food security during times of flooding. Some of these crops can be seen growing in Wakesi above; they will be used both for subsistence and sale. Arrowroot, pictured on the right growing by a stream, can survive in wet places. It is an important source of carbohydrates, and moreover stops erosion into the streams. Additionally, it survives better than most vegetables during times of drought. Sweet potato can also be seen growing in this shot, for which the same principles apply. In Oyola, the villagers have been growing crops such as spider weed and cowpeas, which are leafy vegetables eaten traditionally in these parts. As I saw, they still face the challenge that flooding can nowadays even come when seeds have only just been sown or have just germinated, a time when flood resistant crops are also vulnerable as the soil is loose. Recent flooding came less than a month after the crops were sown. Once crops like sorghum (which take about four months to mature) have grown to about a metre in height, water can just flow through them without causing too much harm. Buy | Share
Uhai are especially trying to bring about adaptation by encouraging the growing of mangos, which have also been scientifically proven to cope well in flood-prone places. Mango trees also prevent soil erosion, while the nearby city of Kisumu provides a ready market for this fruit. As shown above, there were already mangos being grown in the area, but this indigenous strain does not produce all that much fruit. Uhai has therefore helped these people enhance their capacity by training them on how to produce mangos in a modern way using improved seedlings that ACTS purchased for them. Left: Joseph Ogoma, the Vice Chairman of Wakesi’s committee, with a grafted mango tree that he is tending to. Uhai gave five mango seedlings to villagers selected by the committee. This one is four months old; it can be expected to start bearing fruits after five years, and will eventually grow to look like the trees on the right. Buy | Share
Each of the roughly 30 homes in Oyola that have benefited from the mango grafting initiative was given five seedlings. The committee laid down the condition that those who wanted to take part should dig places for the trees to grow, manure the area and then wait to be assessed. Those who were given the trees, such as the lady pictured here, were the first ones to do this properly. The point of this was that the committee was eager not to just give without people first taking the time to understand the significance and use of what they might be given. Buy | Share
As discussed in the introduction, JICA has engaged in these two villages, as well as others within the Nyando Basin, undertaking mitigation activities. This donor has helped to implement large-scale projects requiring greater sums of money. For example, they gave the Kenyan Government about Ksh. 400 million (US$ 4.4 million) through its Water Resource Management Authority. This was used to build culverts and repair roads and bridges (as pictured above in Oyola), and also to dig boreholes and begin work on the evacuation centres mentioned above. Buy | Share
Uhai’s initial assessment also identified the fact that during flooding, these villages have insufficient safe drinking water because overflowing stream water gets contaminated easily at such times. Since then, donor agencies have funded the construction of water wells. Left: Gobiero Moris from the Gogini Rajope Construction Company, contracted to build a well in Wakesi using money given by JICA, puts the finishing touches to the block that will hold its inaugural plaque. Right: Nora Atieno pumps water for her household. This borehole draws water from 130 feet underground, a depth that should guarantee water can also be reached during times of drought. Buy | Share
This approach road to Wakesi was badly damaged by flooding in 2009, and later rains have continued to worsen its condition. Left: Villagers help a driver of a two-wheel drive vehicle work out how to release his car from thick mud. Right: A government bulldozer working on long-awaited repairs to this road. Buy | Share
Oyola, as its inhabitants would like it to always look. Left: Irrigation channels carry water to the village’s climate change resistant crops. Right: One of the culverts built using funds provided by JICA helps to ensure the pictured approach road can stay open, so that the villagers retain all-important access to markets. Buy | Share
Uhai Mills, pictured here inside and out, uses highly ecological techniques to produce a kind of cement that is used to make bricks and as a means of binding the two main parts of the ‘Uhai stove’. The need to develop the efficiency of those devices that burn wood has become increasingly clear during recent years, as this is the resource that most people here depend on. They cannot afford to spend on fossil fuels, as these continue to be subject to galloping inflation, and they also need a means of getting by on less fuel at times when flooding makes it scarce and forces them to purchase dry firewood. This is why Uhai has been focusing on building the capacity of people in the region to make and sell the Uhai stove, designed Dr Kapiyo, one of its members. Left: Two of the roughly 40 women who work at Uhai Mills (20 are regular), Chairwoman Eunice Omondi (left) and Coordinator Helida Ouka (right). Right: The cement making process. The cement made at the mills is based on rice husks. Rice is grown all around this area, and generally its husks are just discarded as a waste product; yet they can be very useful. The mill workers collect the husks from the rice grinding mills and bag it up (foreground). They are then burned, and the ash that’s produced (left, in the wheelbarrow) is ground using the pictured machine (right). Two parts of the resulting product are then combined with three parts of regular cement and one part of sand. For brick-making, the mixture is then moulded into shape and baked inside a kiln (not pictured). Buy | Share
Left: Eunice and Helida share a joke while standing by a demonstration latrine that’s been constructed using these bricks. Right: The same ladies show the Uhai stove (left) in comparison with the ‘traditional’ charcoal burning stove of these parts (right). Uhai’s model achieves a reduction of almost 50% in the amount of charcoal that’s necessary for cooking. Currently, charcoal consumption is not at all sustainable, as not enough trees are being planted to replace those cut down for charcoal production. People are having to source their fuel from further and further away; much of the charcoal used here comes from Uganda or similarly distant places. The same mixture as is used to build the bricks of the latrine is used for binding the stove’s clay inner part to the metal outer section. It is because the Uhai stove is made in part using clay that it retains heat, meaning that it requires a lot less fuel for cooking. Unfortunately, the Uhai stove costs a lot more money (Ksh. 700, or US$ 8) than the old type of stove (Ksh. 250), which feels like a big pinch for those on the lowest incomes. However, the Uhai stove clearly pays for itself in time through savings on charcoal. Uhai stoves are sometimes also given on hire purchase, with instalments added together coming to Ksh. 800 in total. Almost a million stoves have now been sold around Kenya. Buy | Share