Winam Gulf Wetlands Resilience Project Goes International

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Investing in the Nile Corporation for a Water Secure Future – is what the headlines read from Rwanda to Kenya and through all the 11 countries of the Nile Basin. Suffice to say, sustaining the waters of the Nile was the main Agenda of not only the 5th Nile Basin Development Forum, but also the entire mass of stakeholders who so generously graced the occasion to share their experiences and expertise and together find solutions to ensuring a water secure future in the Nile Basin.

IMG20171027141050Lake Victoria being the largest Lake in the Nile Basin, plays a very crucial role in this initiative and as an organization committed to ensuring the sustainability and restoration of the wetlands in the Lake Victoria, we were very pleased and honoured to be invited to share the work we have been doing towards this under the Winam Gulf Wetlands Resilience Project over the last couple of years.

IMG-20171025-WA0004A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step and as clearly depicted in our results portfolio, we have taken a number of steps forward since the initiation of the project and were happy to share our interventions especially with regards to our Community Conservation Agreements Model for Sustainable Management of Winam Gulf Wetlands in the Lake Victoria.

24079282528_3579f885e7_kAs an initiative working towards ensuring sustainable Management and Use of Wetlands and by extension that Lake Victoria’s water resources, our participation enabled us to get better insight, ideas and strategies on how to make more lucrative steps forward for the sake of our natural ecosystems and the communities depending on them.

A Shinning Moment

“Ecofinder Kenya’s Nature Based Solutions Receive Wide Recognition by The Equator Initiative” 

At Ecofinder Kenya, we are, or rather have been on a mission to empower and work with grass-root communities, government and private sectors and the civil society, through a conglomerate of different Nature Based Actions to see to local Sustainable Development. Our efforts have bore good fruits over the years and this sense of success was picked up by the Equator initiative, in a bid to share our feasible nature based solution on their online platform for learning purposes across the globe.

DSC04475The Equator Initiative is a learning instrument, which collates these actions which they term Nature Based Solutions for Local Sustainable Development and shares them on their portal so as to recognize the success of local and indigenous initiatives, create opportunities and platforms to share knowledge and good practice and develop the capacity of local and indigenous initiatives to scale up their impacts.

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Our shared Nature Based Solutions are:

  • Community Adaptation Action Planning for Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience
  • Community Monitoring and Enforcement for Wetlands Protection and Restoration
  • Conservation Scheme Agreements for Incentive Based Conservation.

The Ecofinder Kenya team has worked tirelessly to actualize for the benefit of grass root communities and the natural environment. We are not only proud of the recognition of the success of our solutions but we are also humbled that other local and indigenous initiatives worldwide will get the chance to learn from our nature based actions and together we can contribute to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Follow this link: http://www.equatorinitiative.org/knowledge-center/nature-based-solutions-database/ and get the details on each solution and how they contribute to local sustainable development including their scalability and replicability measures.

 

 

The Save Lake Victoria Campaign Launch

The Messiah complex, well, at some point in our lives, we all experience this. As this is a common phenomenon in many people who consider themselves good and helpful people, we at Kenya Lake Victoria Waterkeeper have taken up the responsibility on instilling this in the minds and hearts of the Lake Victoria Community.

20170729_115411(1)This is a community which is consistent of a very wide and diverse group of people all either depending on and/or working in and for the Lake. To make this happen, we initiated an interschool essay competition to see what the youngsters in this community have to say about the problems they see and encounter on a daily basis and their perception on what should be done to curb these issues. We were hopping to get new and fresh ideas that will work a long way towards making the much needed change and to our surprise, the pupils were able to deliver much more than we expected of them as they came up with refreshing and feasible ideas.

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These ideas were used as messages in the design of the campaign posters which were unleashed during the official Launch of the campaign and as a result, we ended up reeling in more advocates for Lake Victoria and instilling the savior complex phenomenon into them, for the sake of Lake Victoria. They were all branded with the I Waterkeeper badge, #IAmWaterkeeper, and we look forward to working towards transforming our campaign messages into actions, practices and lastly norms in the Lake Victoria Community. Eventually, we will achieve our set goals as Change Makers.

Keep it here as we discuss in detail each message on the posters in the subsequent posts.

The Unheard Voices of the Young Waterkeepers

At Kenya Lake Victoria Waterkeeper, we strive to make Lake Victoria more Drinkable, Fishable and Swimmable. We are a community of water stewards and advocates for change for Lake Victoria. Looking back at our community and forward to our goals, we realized that we are missing some very important voices, which tend to be overlooked in many instances and which also have the potential to make the changes that we desire. 20170202_162638(0)

These are the voices of our next generations. To ensure a strong foundation for the work we are doing, it is paramount that we involve the little ones, who will be the ones practicing tomorrow.

 

18278736_1096895183748700_553424153405679302_oWe therefore set out to bring fourth pupils from different schools around Kisumu County and give them the opportunity to express their views on Saving Lake Victoria as we also teach them and give them the opportunity to be front runners in the fight for a better and cleaner Lake Victoria. We started by announcing a call for interested, passionate and enthusiastic pupils, to come up and submit written materials on why they think Lake Victoria is important enough to be saved. We were perturbed by the huge mass of applications we received and the very different and illuminating points of view that the little primary school pupils had. This led to a selection of the best pupils, who were then educated more and given a chance to express their thoughts more as we helped shape them into the stewards we want them to become. After the comprehensive learning sessions, it is now time for them to again put their voices down on paper and tell us what they thing we need to do to save Lake Victoria.

18216713_1096895070415378_1713379999147209277_oThis will lead into the launching of a campaign for Lake Victoria which will be based on the voices of these pupils and in the long run we are not only hoping to create change makers out of these little advocates, but that their speaking out on behalf of the Lake, will inspire our current generation and all the stakeholders are resource users of the Lake, to come together and do a better job in Making Lake Victoria More Drinkable, Fishable and Swimmable. We are bringing out the power within each and every one of these young advocates and manifesting it into a comprehensive collaborative communal power, which will work together and strengthen our actions to Save Lake Victoria.

Sole Support “For All Walks of Life”

We wake up, we put on our shoes and sandals and we go, it is part of our lives, it is just a reflex action to 90% of us. What about this 10%, ever thought of that? What passes to most of us as a reflex, is indeed a lifeline to this cohort of people and is the margin of distinction between healthy lives and diseases, missed education and unimaginable discomfort. In a small village in Siaya County in Kenya, there lives a community which is so much infested with jiggers (small fleas which burrow into hands and feet which get swollen, painful, and itchy and eventually makes it hard to even walk.) and so many of the people, ranging from very young children to the elderly are infected. DSC_2100

This is however a case of not just double, but triple tragedy. Imagine a situation where you live in a place infested by jiggers, you are so far below the poverty line you cannot afford the standard three meals, which means that something like shoes to cover your feet, are a luxury you cannot even afford to think about. Well, this is the norm here, children have to walk for up to 20km every day to school and back barefoot and parents have to walk around in search of food and money still barefoot in those jigger infested and dirty roads.

20170411_114624Ecofinder Kenya in partnership with students from the University of Southampton, have taken the initiative to help remedy this problem in this community. We have started an initiative called Sole Support, through which we engage women in the community as Sole Support Entrepreneurs and train them in hand making environmentally friendly, simple and yet very effective shoes made of recycled tyre strips and cloth materials for their local community members and distributing them at very affordable costs.
In addition to this, we are also providing medicine and training manuals for treatment and prevention of jiggers as we also engage volunteers to help treat the already infected people, before distributing the shoes to them, and ensuring they know all the preventive measure to avoid re infection.DSC_2068

Sole Support is for all walks of life and is set to empower the community members to make the change they need themselves through providing them with all the tools, skills and knowledge they require to do so. We aim to see more children back in school and be healthy and comfortable enough to concentrate on their studies and also improve the living standards of the youth and the elderly so they can be able to provide better lives for their children and eventually be rid of the jigger menace in the region.

Kusa Wetland Community Struggle for Conservation

Kusa wetland supports a number of economic activities including fishing, mat weaving and papyrus and sand harvesting. The community members have however been practicing indiscriminate harvesting of the wetland’s resources which has over the years led to its massive destruction.

20170215_110556(0) Naturally, rural communities are known for practicing agriculture and rearing of animals which majorly contributes to their livelihoods. They keep cattle including cows, sheep and goats mostly and just like all living things, these animals also have to feed in order for them to survive. What therefore happens when there is too much drought that the usual feeding sites of these animals have all dried up because of prolonged drought?

20170215_112034In wetland communities, these only leaves one choice, which is encroachment into the wetlands. Kusa wetland is one such areas which have been stricken by drought.

 

Cows are now forced to forage deep in the wetlands while some of the cattle owners harvest the plants and take them to their cattle, some young men in the wetland community have also created employment from this and they harvest and sell them to cattle owners.

We have been attempting restoration of the wetlands and through our Wetland Keepers, the Village Environment Committee and working hand in hand with local conservation groups, we managed to get the community to appreciate their wetlands and engage in best practices so as to ensure the conservation of the wetland. After taking steps to ensure they do the right thing by themselves, Mother Nature and the future of their wetland, they are forced to take steps back because of unfavorable climatic conditions which in turn yield disasters.

 

Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction

The Wonder Kids of Joel Omino Primary Schools 

WWDJust a couple of days ago, we marked the day for the wetlands of the world. As we all know, wetlands are some of the most productive ecosystems on the planet and aside from the ecosystem goods they provide, they are also paramount in disaster risk reduction.

 

It is said that if you teach a son, then you will have taught the entire community. Well at Ecofinder Kenya, we decided to bank on that and teach the little ones in Dunga Wetland Community, the importance of wetlands in Disaster risk reduction. So we went to Joel Omino Primary School in Kisumu and had a session with members of the environmental club who proved to be very conversant with the subject and great lovers of their environment.

20170202_161428Dunga Wetland is a beautiful wetland with a charismatic biological life and we were eager to share this with the pupils. To our surprise they were well aware and had gone ahead and prepared poems and speeches about this and much more, which was to be shared with the other pupils in the school, a population of over one thousand, and in various social media sites, with the aim of improving the knowledge of our next generation and equip them well in the fight against wetlands destruction.

 

Village Eco-Enterprises Movers and Shakers.

“In The Making”

To empower local community members with the skills and knowledge of conserving their wetlands, you need to subject them to training and skill building seminars, this has always been the par for the course. Needless to say, more often than not, these skills and knowledge only ever stick to a small fraction of the target audience. But that one enthusiastic, willing, able and ready person is all we need to make a change right?

20160829_140446Well, the same was the case for an Entrepreneurship training conducted by Ecofinder Kenya. Paul is a community member of Koguta Wetland and he was one of the trainees. During the training, he did not have a business but had been thinking of starting one. He was very impressed with Ecofinder Kenya’s nature based enterprise portfolio with particular interest in ecotourism. This is because he believed that there is potential for ecotourism in Koguta wetland especially in terms of avi and boat tourism but this has never before been tapped into.

After the training, he set out to set up an ecotourism venture in the wetland. As it is known, starting any business from scratch is not easy, but in his case, this proved to be even more difficult because he did not have a leg to stand on. There was no past activity that he would get reference from, but he was still determined to try and make it happen. He then put together a group of determined young men like himself, who to the best of his knowledge, he thought would be competent enough to make their idea fly. This however was not the case because a few weeks later, things fell apart.

His entrepreneurial spirit was 20160829_140236crushed, but he did not lose hope non the less. He went back to his notes from the training and decided to go at it with a different approach. Paul established a tree farm by planting 3000 tree seedlings in one of his farms, that is in close proximity to the wetland. His main aim for this was to tap into the water available in the wetlands and use it to establish his planted forest, when mature, he would harvest a percentage and plant double that every time.

Aside from his tree farm, Paul is also getting into fish farming. His family had tried this some years back with lung fish and cat fish, it was successful but they did not stick to it. He is therefore tapping into a source of water close to his farm and establishing fish ponds.

Paul hopes to get more and more of his community members to embrace and adopt these alternative sources of livelihood, so that they may reduce the pressure they exert on the wetlands. As these plans are in motion, he is slowly coming up with a portfolio of attractions and ecotourism products and activities in his village. He has a vision that more people from his community will join him, together they will develop numerous nature based enterprises and reduce the over dependence and over exploitation of the wetland. By so doing, they will have a healthier wetland ecosystem and Koguta wetland will eventually thrive as an ecotourism destination.

 

Meet the Team!!!

DSC_6447Leonard Akwany is a Kenyan environmental scientist born in Kisumu, Western Kenya. He is passionate, enthusiastic and committed to working on interactions between society, economy and ecosystems to realize the dual objective of conservation and poverty alleviation amongst the communities he was raised in. He has a long and successful history of work with Lake Victoria’s communities, having worked as both a program manager and adviser on numerous sustainable livelihoods and conservation initiatives for the papyrus wetlands of Lake Victoria. Most recently Leonard and a coalition of ambitious young Kenyan scientists formed Ecofinder, which CREE has helped support and grow over the years.

Leonard holds a B.Sc. in Natural Resources Management from Egerton University, Kenya and M.Sc. in Environmental Science, Policy and Management from University of Manchester UK. He is the inaugural winner of the prestigious Pan-African Entrepreneurship Award for his work on environmental and social entrepreneurship for poverty alleviation by Educating Africa and Teach A Man To Fish, UK. Additionally he is Kinship Conservation Fellow and Ford Motor Company International Fellow of 92nd Street Y for 2011 and 2015 respectively for his work on Business Based Solutions for Environmental Problems, Civil Society Leadership and Community Work. He is the Project manager for the Winam Gulf Wetlands Sustainability Project.

 

12832443_10206844459803250_7894955053644081148_nCaroline Odera Holds a Bachelors Degree in Business
Administration (Human Resource Management option) from Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science & Technology (JOOUST), and Diploma in Business Management (Kenya Institute of Management). Currently undertaking Masters Degree in Strategic Management (University of Nairobi). She has professional skills and five years of working experience in Resource mobilization and Project management, Group Savings and Loaning, Producers Group Mobilization and Training, Enterprises Development, web2.0 for tools for development (CTA Netherlands & Moi University), Business Incubation and Mentorship and Nature Conservation.
She has experience working with Agricultural producers and entrepreneurs under Banking on Change Project in collaboration with CARE Kenya, Plan International and Barclays Bank and working in the Kenyan sector of Lake Victoria basin wetlands for many years engaging in participatory rural appraisals, wetland biodiversity assessments, community climate vulnerability assessments and adaptation options including climate smart and ecosystem friendly livelihoods for wetland-dependent communities. She is Alumni of Akili Dada fellows, Spark Kenya changemaker, EarthCorps International Corps member (www.earthcorps.org) USA and Ferry Beach Ecology School Naturalist (www.fbes.org), USA.
Due to her professional background and vast experience in both project management and working with communities along the Lake Victoria Basin, she works on the Winam Gulf Wetlands Sustainability Project through providing technical expertise in the implementation of the project, entrepreneurship development and ensuring community entry of the project’s activities in the wetland villages.

 

DSC02027Roniance Adhiambo is a graduate from Egerton University with a degree in Wildlife Enterprise and management where she obtained professional training in courses like natural resource management, ecotourism, biodiversity conservation, bush craft techniques and first aid, Environmental impact assessment and Social Impact assessments, museology, wildlife based tourism, research methodology, protected area management, management of aquatic ecosystems, engineering for wildlife and environment physiology.
She is an Environment and Conservation enthusiast with focus on having ideal ecosystems that support flora and fauna diversity through the development of conservation strategies that strike a balance between economic empowerment and environmental conservation.
She has a lot of experience in working with locals in communities living in wetland areas to implement strategies that will contribute to wetlands conservation, economic empowerment through nature based enterprises and combating issues of human wildlife conflicts. She is currently the Environment Officer at Ecofinder Kenya and works on the Winam Gulf Wetlands Sustainability Project as the Project Officer and is charged with project field activities implementation,project volunteers supervision, delivering local logistical issues at the project sites, generating field activity narrative reports and communication of the project activities through multiple media.

 

ogomaMaurice Ogoma holds a B.Sc. in Environmental Science from Egerton University, Kenya and M.Sc. in Tropical Aquatic Ecology from University of Bremen, Germany. Has benefited from various professional trainings that have augmented his academic and professional qualifications including scholarships and fellowships from VLIRUOS short courses, Global Climate Change Adaptation Partnership (GCAP), Tropical Biology Association (TBA), National Museums of Kenya (NMK), and the Darwin Initiative for Conservation of species. Likewise, a Lead Expert on Environmental Impact Assessment and Auditing (EIA/A) registered by National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) under Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA).

Has worked in the Kenyan sector of Lake Victoria basin wetlands for many years where the work assignments have included wetland biodiversity assessments, community climate vulnerability assessments and adaptation options including climate smart and ecosystem friendly livelihoods for wetland-dependent communities. Worked previously at the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) as an Important Birds and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) research fellow and as conservation program officer at Nature Kenya-the East African Natural History Society. Also worked with the State Department of Fisheries as a senior fisheries officer based at the Kenyan Indian Ocean coast. Key consultancies include Wetlands International, Kenya where I assessed climate vulnerabilities and identified climate smart livelihoods for wetland communities in the Ewaso Nyiro River wetlands. Has experience in biodiversity and ecological surveys, environmental impact assessments, participatory rural appraisal, analysis of climatic data through GeoCLIM software, climate change adaptation and capacity building.

Maurice is currently an assistant Lecturer at the Department of Natural Resources, Egerton University, Kenya. He has been engaged in the Winam Wetlands Sustainability project through technical backstopping on Wetlands co-management strategies, spatial mapping, participatory Wetlands Assessment, Baseline Surveys and technical reporting.

 

SwetaLeonard Sweta received the Bachelor of Education from Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya and Master of Science degree from University of Twente, Faculty of geo-information, ITC, the Netherlands. He works as Geo-information instructor/Lecturer at Regional center for mapping of resources for development (RCMRD) an organization serving over 21 countries in East and Sothern Africa.
He is experienced in GIS mapping activities using commercial and open source software’s. He is part of the team in charge of training in use of GPS and mobile technologies to carryout utility mapping, participatory GIS, mapping of cultural sites, and mapping of tourist sites. He assists Ecofinder Kenya through technical backstopping for GIS related interventions such community mapping,spatial wetlands mapping and analysis and technical reporting. His research interests are Disaster management, land use/land cover mapping, water quality and participatory GIS.

 

IMG-20160810-WA0001Francis Odhiambo Omungo is a motivated team player and enthusiastic self-starter, he enjoys working with those who have interesting ideas and a passion for serving the community. Being successful in his job is important to him, and he strives to excel for his employer and the community he serves, and for his own personal satisfaction.
He is the Team Leader (Drama and Outreaches) for Ecofinder Creative Players. His duties and responsibilities include Strategic planning, resource mobilization, reporting and community mobilization. Additionally involved in volunteers recruitment, coordination of outreach activities on community empowerment, nature and social education and public awareness. Likewise involved in community training and capacity building, research data collection and monitoring. He is engaged in Winam Gulf Wetlands Sustainability project in the capacity of drama and outreaches that relate to relaying the Project’s key messages to the public through Community Education.

 

20160810_104108Erick Owira is an Accountant by profession. He was born in Kisumu County in Winam Division, West Kolwa Location and is 36 years old. He has the skills to analyze and interpret account records, compile financial information and reconcile reports and other financial data, process journal entries and perform accounting corrections to ensure accurate records, track all spending against approved requests; he is also responsible for production and publication of monthly, quarterly and annual financial reports.

Erick has professional training in Quick books professional accounting, Practical Financial Recording and Reporting (Based on the Pot Module), Microsoft Office proficiency and Internet Communication. He has a lot of expectation that through providing services to the local community, it will be possible to have a direct and positive effect on their well-being. He is in charge of the financial management for the project, as he is currently the finance officer for Ecofinder Kenya.

 

DSC06761Richard Juma is a conservationist based in Yala, Siaya County, Kenya. He is currently a government gazetted warden with the Kenya Wildlife Service at Lake Kanyaboli National Reserve, Siaya County, Kenya. He is also a bird expert as he has had professional training in birding from Nature Kenya and has had several years’ experience in bird watching, identification, and avi tourism.
He is a community mobilizer and the lead wetland keeper for the villages in Yala wetland community for the Winam Gulf Wetland Sustainability project and does this voluntarily as he believes in the goals and objectives of the project, and is passionate about its implementation and sustainability in Yala wetland.

 

tobiasTobias Otieno was born in Kusa, Nyakach sub county, Kisumu County, Kenya, he is married with 5 children. He has been farming for over 10 years, growing beans, maize, tomatoes and kales for both commercial and subsistence purposes. He is currently the vice chairperson of NYAPACO-which is an umbrella of farmer groups, and a member of the Upendo Farmers Group. He has a half an acre piece of farm which he inherited. He also rears cattle in his homestead.
He has studied up to the A level/ Form 6. He depends mainly on farming as a source of income. He used to be on a salaried job which he decided to quit concentrating on his farming.
Tobias is also passionate about wetland conservation and is the community mobilizer and lead wetland keeper for Kusa wetland for the Winam Gulf Sustainability Project. His extensive farming experience and willingness to shift his farming away from the wetlands to a farm close to his homestead, made him a good beacon of conservation agriculture knowledge and is also a model farmer in the wetland.

 

juliusJulius Akenge is a farmer and a village elder in Koguta wetland community, he is married with 8 children. He has been farming for 18 years, majorly growing maize, beans and kales together with his wife. Apart from crop growing, he also keeps livestock, currently owning 10 locally bred cattle and 10 goats from where he gets the manure to enrich the soil fertility of his land.
Julius being a village elder has a lot of reach and influence over his people, he thinks that conserving the wetland of Koguta will in the long run help sustain his fellow community members and their children’s children. Julius is also very supportive of women empowerment and nature based enterprises. He is the community mobilizer and lead wetland keeper for Koguta wetland.

Village Hubs for Wetland Conservation Agriculture

Over dependence on wetland resources as we have seen, is the root cause of wetlands destruction and the degradation of these resources. Over and over again there have been efforts of creating awareness on the importance of wetlands and ways of conserving our wetlands. Truth be told, you cannot tell people to abandon a way of life, especially a source of livelihood for them and their families, without showing them that there is actually an alternative that works better.

One that will take care of their needs, their environment, IMG-20160725-WA0008provide them with sustainability for those resources they need from the wetlands in the long run and on top of it all, be a health conscious alternative. At Ecofinder Kenya, we have been able to demonstrate to members of the community the alternatives that they have to wood fuel, through providing them with green technologies, like biogas digesters and compost toilets which they can use to get organic manure that they can use in their farms and get even better yields, as opposed to farming in the wetlands, where aside from habitat destruction, they are also exposing their farms to being destroyed by the fauna in the wetlands.

IMG-20160725-WA0009Our model farmers act as village hubs and they are charged with teaching and demonstrating to visitors and the rest of the community members how biogas digesters work and explaining the importance and contribution of the technology to wetlands conservation.
The model farmers are therefore also wetland keepers, they promote Conservation agriculture and through that, they also advocate for wetlands conservation, curbing destruction of wetland wildlife habitats and avoiding human wildlife conflicts in wetland communities.