In January this year, CO2balance visited Kenya to see our safe water and improved cookstove projects and conduct a mangrove planting workshop.
Visiting the 421 boreholes in the two projects in Western Kenya near Lake Victoria, and the coastal Kilifi County, provided a great opportunity to see the diversity in the communities where our projects are implemented. The challenges people face in the Western province of poor transport infrastructure were less of an impact in the compact and more urban Kilifi, yet by the coast there is an ongoing struggle with saline water making wells and many piped systems unsafe to drink. Added to the fact that both areas are battling erratic and delayed seasonal rains, the trip emphasised how vital our provision of clean drinking water is to 125,000 people across the country.
The trip also coincided with the audit of the Kilifi boreholes by the validation and verification body (VVB). Visiting water testing laboratories, WASH engagement personnel from the University of Pwani, village chiefs, and travelling with implementation partner Griot Consulting gave an insight into how the project is put into practice on the ground and how the different stakeholders collaborate to achieve the provision of safe water.
One of the most valuable parts of the trip was the interaction with community members, where they explained how much more difficult their every day lives were before the project, and how the field team engage with the communities. This feeling of inclusion in the project by all members is vital in the success of the work, and these conversations with the beneficiaries were also a chance to learn from them to see how we can improve and increase our impacts in the area.
The time on the coast also saw a workshop take place between the two mangrove planting groups working on our project, Abent and Comensum. The workshop invited Dr Joseph Tunje of Pwani University and Elvis Fondo of the Kenyan Forestry Service to discuss partnership and communication techniques between the groups, providing a space for them to share planting methods and improve the survival rate of mangrove saplings. Another key topic was sharing advice on community engagement; the groups offered their tips on how to educate community members on the importance of mangrove forests, and how encouraging biodiversity can benefit everyone living in the area, which will ultimately help the mangrove forests develop.
The visit concluded with a brief visit to the Wisdom Energy cookstove project in the Aberdare highlands. A visit to the factory offered much welcome relief from the coastal heat and was a chance to see the production of the stove that had not previously been possible by CO2balance due to COVID-19. This gasifier improved stove is enabling end-users to reduce their fuel use in times where the cost-of-living crisis is severely affecting large parts of the country, particularly impacting those in the highlands where they must purchase increasingly expensive wood due to restrictions on cutting down trees.