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.

 

 

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.

Model Farmers as Wetland Keepers

 Teaching, communicating, awareness creation, campaigning and training, these are all different strategies that have been employed in the fight for the conservation of wetlands and their resources. People living in proximity to wetland communities are often faced with the temptation to encroach and grab the lands in the wetlands for their own economic gains, not giving any consideration to the flora and faunal diversity in the wetlands and destruction of their habitats.

Among all those people, you occasionally come DSC06770across the conscious few, the people who take a step back and look at the ecological foot prints that they leave behind with their anthropogenic activities in the wetlands. It is these few individuals that are the stepping stone to making a real difference in the communities, in terms of perception and conservation efforts.

This is a story of model farmers, who act as village hubs for alternative livelihoods innovation. Charles for instance, is a Mzee in Dunga wetland community, when the opportunity to make a difference and to be a part of an impacting educational process to his fellow villagers came along, he grabbed it and is now a successfully established model farmer. He is a very proud owner and ambassador of a heavy plastic biogas digester and an ecosan toilet for composting donated to him as an incentive for the conservation of the papyrus wetland.

20160711_145913Charles hosts different visitors on his farm and homestead and is very enthusiastic about communicating the value of conservation to them and practically showing them how they can use their own excreta and that of their cattle for composting to get better yields in their farms and for clean, environmental and health friendly energy for cooking. showing them how they don’t have to farm in the wetlands and subject their farms to trampling and destruction by wild animals and cutting down trees in the wetlands and their surrounding for cooking for them to be able to support their families.

Most importantly, how adopting these strategies will go a long way towards reducing encroachment in the wetlands and this will be a win win situation for both parties because reduced encroachment will reduce destruction of wildlife habitats and this will inturn help curb human wildlife conflicts.

Adopt Papyrus Wetland for Nature’s Benefits

Wetlands, are a community resource, and the responsibility of conservation and protection, starts from the community. Be it individuals or groups, it stars with us, and spreads outwards to the rest of the people.

On this note, we have rolled out an adopt a papyrus wetland initiative with the communities in the wetland areas. The community members, either as individuals or in groups, will adopt portions of the wetlands to help enable their restoration and protection. DSC06770

This community members who choose to adopt a wetland, will be given incentives in the long run. These include the following:

  • Certified seeds
  • Farming equipment for farmers
  • Recommended fishing gear
  • Tree seedlings
  • Educational support materials for children
  • Fingerlings
  • Compost toilets
  • Hybrid feed biogas
  • Solar lamps

This is aimed at promoting the culture of conservation in the community by giving them the chance to be actively be involved in the protection and restoration of their wetlands. They will also serve as examples to the rest of the communities and help increase the number of community members who will be are wiling to take up responsible for their wetlands. hence, this will yield long term results and sustainability of conserving the wetland’s resources.

Farms’ Afforestation for Environmental Conservation

DSC02893Establishment of model farmers is based on the premise of conservation. The model farmer’s are expected to promote wetland conservation through reducing pressure on the wetland caused by encroachment for resources and other economic activities like farming.

To add to this, the model farmers are also supposed to show solidarity for conservation through ensuring that 10% of their homesteads are covered with trees.

In support of this, we are distributing DSC02837tree seedlings to all the model farmers, in the quantity that is equivalent to 10% of their farms. We are also jointly engaging in tree planting with the respective model farmers and their entire households, and encouraging everyone to help in the protection and nurturing of the trees in the homesteads.

Wetlands Demarcation and Zonation for Restoration

Exploitation of the wetlands for their resources has resulted into major degradation of the wetlands. In some instances, this has led to habitat destruction at a high level and this has seen a number of the fauna in the wetlands encroaching to the community lands which in turn brings about human wildlife conflicts.

The community members have cleared a lot of the vegetation in the wetland for farming, poaching, as passage ways for fishing grounds and some have even established settlements in the wetlands.

The level of encroachment has been so high that in some of the wetlands, for instance in Kusa wetland, some community members have fenced out portions of the wetland and declared those areas as their own personal land.

We are therefore conducting a participatory wetlands demarcation and zonation exercise with the members of the community by identifying the activities in the wetland and mapping the portions of the wetlands that they take place in. Then partitioning the wetlands on a map in three zones, economic, buffer and conservation.

This is aimed at helping in the identification of areas of the wetland where we can conduct wetland restoration through both active and passive regeneration. We are also rolling out an adopt a portion of the wetland campaign. Here, members of the community will be encouraged to adopt and protect that portion of the wetland after which they will be incentivized .