Security Guard by Night, Environmental Watchdog by Day

Blog entry created by: Jennifer

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Security Guard/Nonprofit Manager

While outside the Canteen (a small general store in the village) one day, we struck up a conversation with one of the village security guards, Danlewis. After talking with him for a few mintues, we realized that this is far from his only occupation. In fact, Danlewis is one of the founders of a local environmental protection and conservation group formed to protect the nearby Tiva River. Upon hearing that we are a nonprofit group working to help others, he excitedly began to tell us about the work he was doing. We were inspired by the fact that, instead of relying on the help of others, Danlewis was getting people together to help his environment

A Community Problem, A Community Solution

Danlewis and other people living on either side of the Tiva River noticed that the river banks were collapsing after flooding, the root systems of trees along the river were being exposed, and trucks from Nairobi were collecting sand from the edges of the river without paying anything. These community members filed a lawsuit against the company taking the sand, and in the process of doing so found out that the company had also taken almost an acre’s worth of red dirt from land nearby the neighboring village of Kwa Vonza.

Crime and Punishment is Not Enough

Up to this point in the story, the actions of the community members living near the Tiva River sound typical. A group of people see something bad being done where they live, and they want justice to be served. They call on local law to right the wrongs that have been done, and expect that those laws will fix the problem. But this is not the end of the story. Instead of leaving the situation to be fixed by others, these villagers decided that in order to return their river to a healthy state, it was their duty to get involved as well. Seeing the crimes taking place near the Tiva River inspired them to see what they could do to restore it. This group of concerned community members contacted their municipal and county authorities, and eventually formed a riparian resource management association, the Tiva River Environmental and Conservation Self Help Group (TRCSHG). Within this group, they also formed the Tiva River Environmental Youth Group (TREYG).

Real Results

As far as getting things done and making real progress, Danlewis’ group could set an example for many nonprofits in the US. Through determination and perseverance, the TREYG has made partnerships with like-minded Kenyan organizations that can help them achieve their goals. Already they have planted 20,000 trees at the river site and other local areas in partnership with the Kenya forest service.

The members of the group have been trained in nursery practice and management, and are going to use that knowledge to create a seedling production nursery with a 250,000 shilling (approx. $3,000) grant that they have received from the Drought Management Office in Kitui, Kenya. They expect that this nursery will allow them to grow 60,000 seedlings for future planting.

Challenges and Strategies

Dan Lewis was excited to add something to this post when I told him that I would be writing about his organization. He writes, “TREYG is a young environmental group and funding, especially for rolling out a meaningful tree planting exercise, is a big challenge. The group is currently trying to find sponsors to fund the planting of the seedlings and the subsequent care and maintanace of the planted trees. The group is running a campaign dubbed ‘Adopt a Tree’ whereby individuals and organizations will support the planting and upkeep of a tree or trees and have name tags or plaques afixed in honor of the sponsors. Already several public places, schools, and churches have been identified as places that would benefit from trees, as well as roads/highway reserves and river banks where the tress would be planted permenantly.

In this arrangement, a single tree will be sponsored for Kes. 200 ($2.48) for a year. Theis amount will be used to sow new seedlings, prepare holes for planting, planting labour, cagin the young trees to fend off goats, cattle, and small game from foraging, put mulch and manure, install bottle-fed drip irrigations, pest control, and general maintenece of the tree for the period of one year. The group will be commited to availing progress reports of the sponsored trees to the sponsor as agreed.”

People who Have Nothing are Giving What They Have

It was so wonderful to hear that even in rural regions of Kenya, where people on average earn 100 shillings (A little more than $1) per day, people were working hard to improve their lives and communities. This is something that we have seen multiple times during our stay in Kenya- whether it is an environmental group finding partnerships to plant trees, or Nyumbani villagers taking a collection in church to help fund the building of a dormitory for a nearby school, the generosity of those who have so little has astounded us. The members of the village know that they have the power to help others, and use it. It doesn’t matter that they wear donated clothes, or that they eat meat four times a year- they don’t use their poverty as an excuse not to reach out.

Learning by Example

I can’t say that I have done the same thing in my life. When I am low on money, I feel like I cannot donate to the causes I care about even though I technically still have that power. But after seeing the work that the villagers are doing, I have realized that there is always something to give- whether it be money, work, or time. When I get back home I am going to reconsider the ways in which I help others- and if I am low on money, I will take some time out of my week to volunteer, support, or do anything else that I can. It is the least I can do to follow the example that has been set by the people I have met here.

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Posted on: November 16, 2010 | Categories: Environment, Kenya, Uncategorized, Water, Well for HIV+ Village- Kenya


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