Archive for October, 2007

NECOFA Visits Kokwa Island Refugees, Brings Donations

On Kenyatta Day this past October 20, NECOFA staff and its collaborators boarded matatus, rafters, and then pick-up trucks to supply Kokwa Island refugees with maize, vegetables, rice, sugar, clothes, soap, and other items collected during the recent Poverty Requiem event.

NECOFA invites other well-wishers to support the community with food, cash donations, and other essentials. Simply email NECOFA at necofakenya@yahoo.com.

Realizing the hardships of the Kokwa community, NECOFA and its US-based partner, Friends of Kenya Schools and Wildlife (FSW), are assisting the community with poverty eradication projects. FSW has continuously supported the refugees by establishing pre-primary and primary schools, including meals for the kids.

Within the Baringo District in Salabani, the rocky island is considered unsuitable for agricultural practices, said NECOFA community development officer John Washira, adding that the communities live in “pathetic conditions.” The refugees moved to Kokwa from Longicharo because of ethnic violence; most of their livestock was stolen and their properties destroyed, leaving them poorer and hungrier than ever before.

For instance, some people are still living under trees because of a lack of resources for shelter. The community—especially small children—are exposed to all sorts of environmental risks due to poor sanitation and improper feeding.

In fact, the only staple food for the community is fish, which young boys catch from rafters; however, there is no centralized market for fish sales.

They depend on fish because the island’s cattle cannot thrive due to a lack of fodder to sustain them. (The only livestock that can possibly thrive on the island are goats, due to their natural characteristics of browsing on shrubs and acacia trees. These animals are sustainable only if enough rains spread throughout the year).

NECOFA’s projects on Kokwa island include:

—Establishing a centralized market for fish sales.
—Researching the establishment of a kerosene-based hatchery for the Kailer women’s group. They can later sell the chicks through NECOFA.
—Establishing 4 –K clubs. The project will involve three primary schools: Eldume, Kokwa, and and Kailer.

NECOFA will train the community on establishing kitchen gardens and story gardens, not only providing subsistence to the families but also income through sales of surplus vegetables to other communities. The project will be extended to various community groups, such as the Kailer women’s group, who has already gone through some training on composting and setting up story gardens.

Hundreds Took to the Streets in Molo to Stand Up Against Poverty

“So what! Who cares! So what! I care!…Have no rights, I don’t know why!” These are refrains from the song “Born to Suffer” that some audience members of the Molo District Poverty Requiem were singing days after the October 17 event held in Molo Stadium.

Hundreds of people in Molo District stood up and spoke out against poverty last week as part of a worldwide effort to put the Millennium Development Goals on everyone’s agenda.

A throng of students, teachers, NGO workers and residents marched to the Molo District Commissioner’s office where NECOFA’s Samuel Muhunyu gave a petition to acting DC Solomon Abwaka, urging the government to take action on the MDGs. A Salvation Army brass band played along with the crowd as they left the Molo district headquarters and headed through the city to the Molo Stadium—some carrying signs reading “Promote Our Local Knowledge,” “Stop the EPAs,” and “We Want Good Governance.”

The Molo Stadium is where the procession ended and the festivities began. Students sang and a women’s group performed traditional Maasi dances. NGOs, private firms, and intervention groups including SMART, SLIDE, the Karunga Women’s Group, Baraka College, and Equity Bank exhibited their products and services. The Karunga Women’s group—which spins Molo lamb’s wool to make handcrafted animals, bags, and rugs—brought their trainer to demonstrate traditional spinning techniques. During the “Stand Up and Speak Out” session, these groups and others (including poets and rap artists) took to the stage to speak their minds about issues affecting Kenya.

At 2 p.m., Community Development officer Moses Gachiri conducted a 400-member choir, which appeared in a circle around him and his two soloists. This feat would have been difficult for all but the most ambidextrous conductors but Gachiri pulled it off. The choir performed two songs, “Born to Suffer” and “Hope.”

Awards were presented to district schools who sang in the choir as well as the winners of a bicycle race, which kicked off the day-long event. The grand prize was a new bicycle.

According to the October 20 Daily Nation, more than 1 million Kenyans participated in this year’s Poverty Requiem. They were among the more than 38 million people in 110 countries who broke the Guinness World Record set last year for the largest number of people who stood up against poverty. The campaign is an initiative of the United Nations Millennium Campaign in partnership with the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP).

The last lines in the song “Hope” say it all: “Can you change it, Will you change it, You must change it!”

Poverty Requiem Event in Molo, October 17

Stand up and speak out about the world’s slow response to end extreme hunger and poverty at a Poverty Requiem event in Molo Stadium from 8:30 a.m. to dusk on October 17.

According to the Poverty Requiem Web site, a smashing 42 performances will be staged in at least 23 countries.

The Molo event includes a 400-member choir, speeches, exhibits, food, cultural entertainment and a bicycle race.

Community Development and Public Relations Officer Moses N. Gachiri and other NGO members spent a week in the Netherlands last month for training on how to localize the worldwide event, designed to create awareness around the world that the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are not reaching its ultimate goal: to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty by 2015. October 17 marks the halfway point for those goals to be reached. Click here for more information on the Poverty Requiem.

Gachiri is working with 12 choirs from district schools and community groups, a Salvation Army brass band and percussionists. Massive choirs from around the world will be singing the same moving and inspirational songs with titles such as “Hope” and “Fair Share.”

Speakers for the “Stand Up and Speak Out” event will include leaders from local and international NGOs and universities who are working on poverty and hunger issues, including members of the Kenya Small Scale Farmers Forum, PELUM, Moi Univeristy and others. Exhibitors include various NGOs and intervention groups in the region. The event is free to the public and traditional foods will be available for a donation. NECOFA is also collecting food donations for refugees of tribal conflicts living on Kokwa Island off Lake Baringo.

The bicycle race will begin 8:30, and the top prize is a new bicycle. Other prizes will be announced at the event.

The schedule is as follows:

  • 8:30 a.m.: Bicycle Race
  • 9 a.m.: Assembly
  • 9:30 a.m.: Present petition to the District Commission, urging the government to speed up the implementation of the MDGs.
  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon: Exhibition in the Molo Stadium. Showcases various NGOs and intervention groups.
  • Noon – 1 p.m.: Speak Out
  • 1 p.m. – 2 p.m.: Traditional and Cultural troop performances.
  • 2 p.m.: 400-member Poverty Requiem Choir performs in Molo Stadium.

Why stand up and speak out? Every day, 50,000 people die as a result of extreme poverty and the gap between rich and poor is getting wider. For the first time in history, we have the resources to change this. In 2000, leaders of 189 countries signed up to the Millennium Development Goals, a global plan to halve extreme poverty by 2015. We need you to STAND UP and SPEAK OUT to make governments honour their commitments – it will not happen without all of us taking a stand.

Kenya Ministry Nominates NECOFA for Project Funding

The Ministry of Planning and National Development nominated NECOFA and other NGOs in the Kenya to receive funding for localizing the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals. NECOFA submitted their final proposal to the government office in Nairobi on October 12.

The Ministry project to localize MDGs, supported by the Republic of Finland, is designed to step up efforts to end extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.

Upendo Mushroom Growers attend Workshop at Jomo Kenyatta University

Far in the “damning hot soils” of Juja—an arid region just 36 km northeast of Nairobi—the Upendo mushroom growers of Molo district attended a one-day workshop on mycelium at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. They also visited Juja-based farmers who are successfully cultivating the fungi in soil-and-wood constructed houses.

Oyster mushrooms are not only delicious and high in protein but provide income to farmers and are especially important to people n arid parts of developing countries.

The Upendo Mushroom Growers started growing oyster mushrooms this year with mixed results—they believe that some of the problems they faced stemmed from contaminated “seeds” (spawn).

The idea behind Friday’s visit, which NECOFA sponsored, was partly to give the growers a greater depth of knowledge about mycelium and partly to demonstrate that they cannot grow quality mushrooms without quality spawn, which they can only get from experts with specialized equipment (the university, for instance). Jomo Kenyatta university uses a mixture of mushroom spores, sorghum, lime-derivate calcium carbonate, dextrose and a number of sterilization gadgets and lab equipment worth approximately $30 to $40 million Kenya Shillings to create high-growth spawn using what they call “binary creation” techniques. Partly funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the university is the only institution in East Africa that provides research on mycelium.

IDEA coordinator and practicing mushroom farmer James Njore and his associate John Mucheru also participated in the visit.

Mushroom Factoid: Even expert mycologists haven’t yet fully plumbed the depths of this mysterious lifeform. In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, author Michael Pollen has this to say about it: “What we call a mushroom is only the tip of the iceberg of a much bigger and essentially invisible organism that lives most of its life underground. The mushroom is the “fruiting body” of a subterranean network of microscopic hyphae, improbably long rootlike cells that thread themselves through the soil like neurons. Bunched like cables, the hyphae form webs of (still microscopic) mycelium. Mycologists can’t dig up a mushroom like a plant to study its structure because its mycelia are too tiny and delicate to tease from the soil without disintegrating. Hard as it may be to see a mushroom—the most visible and tangible part!—to see the whole organism of which it is merely a component may simply be impossible. Fungi also lack the comprehensible syntax of plants, the orderly and visible chronology of seed and vegetative growth, flower, fruit, and seed again. The fungi surely have a syntax of their own, but we don’t know all its rules, especially the ones that govern the creation of a mushroom, which can take three years or thirty, depending. On what? We don’t really know (374).”

Want to grow your own mushrooms? Click to find out what you need to get started.