By Philip Munyasia and Siri Gunnarson
OTEPIC Peace Project is a grassroots food sovereignty community project in Kitale, in North Western Kenya. Since 2012 we have been serving the community with permaculture education & training, open community gardens in four locations, a childrens’ home and clean drinking water for 3,000 people… and so much more.
Born from the slums our project is manifest through a lot of support and grace as we respond to the daily basic needs of our community as well as the frequent challenging conditions of our place in Subsaharan Africa at these times of quickening change. Through these challenging conditions we hold a vision for a comprehensive way forward, we are building a Permaculture Education Center to serve as an incubator and model for regenerative solutions for our region and beyond.
In 2020 we are responding to many crises in the region including a Locust infestation, floods and now the Covid-19 situation. As we respond to the crises as they arrive we face predictions that the situation is likely to worsen for us here in the North Western region of Kenya.
At this time our main concerns and response efforts are focused on:
Locusts, the most destructive migratory pest in the world, are wiping out crops, damaging farms, and eating animal feed. Extended heavy rains, along with wetter and hotter weather conditions due to climate change, is providing an ideal condition for the locust eggs to hatch and grow. With the arrival of a locust swarm, gaining size and strength, during this planting season farmers are facing big losses.
Heavy rains in Kenya have intensified over the past months causing deaths, displacement, flooding and landslides. This exceptionally long rainy season began in March and has affected over 233,000 people across Kenya. Roads are cut, bridges have been destroyed, access to health facilities is becoming increasingly challenging. 8,000 acres of crops on farmlands have been lost. Projections by the Kenya Meteorological Department show that the rains will continue within most parts of the country until June.
COVID-19 has created a crisis within a crisis, creating risky conditions for food security and livelihood for millions of people. Many regions are struggling to respond to COVID-19 while they are recovering from recent shocks . Traditional coping capacities are stretched beyond capacity across many communities.
OTEPIC has been working with communities to develop long term sustainable solutions through encouraging indigenous ways of farming. We encourage communities to live in harmony with nature by growing diversity of crops, plants, lots of indigenous trees and value addition farm produce and good food storage systems to enhance food security.
OTEPIC is responding to the current crises while continuing to work on a comprehensive response to the bigger systemic issues. The impacts of colonization, development and harmful land management are now amplified through climate change. The large amounts of rain trigger dangerous floods while the dry seasons become extended droughts. According to permaculture principles we are working to rehabilitate the land and slow down the water. At our farm we have built several manmade lakes to collect rainwater to recharge the earth`s body and provide water during the dry season.
Our area of operation, like many places in Sub-Saharan Africa, has a lack of clean water access. Even in ideal conditions communities struggle to find sufficient water for themselves and their livestock, widespread poverty and food insecurity are the norm. The area is semi-arid and the major water sources are seasonal rivers, sand and Pam Dams. These sources are often contaminated or have long dry spells. Deforestation, monoculture and use of chemical fertilizers are major threats.
OTEPIC’s Solution for flooding: WATER RETENTION LANDSCAPE
Despite COVID-19 we managed to come together as a community and work together on our water retention landscape this rainy season. Community groups are coming together to create lakes to harvest rainwater and recharge the aquifer. We are becoming a model for natural and decentralized water management, reforestation, horticulture and agriculture. It is part of a comprehensive model for sustainability on that includes water, food, energy and community building.
We wish to make more water retention landscapes and welcome any support that may be available.
We are seeking $50,000, $40,000 for labor and $10,000 for equipment to complete the construction of the water retention landscape at Upendo Farm, the site of our future Permaculture Education Center.
COVID-19 pandemic has hit hard in Mitume slums in Kitale Kenya, slum residents are already grossly affected by chronic poverty and are highly vulnerable. These areas are densely populated with inadequate water and sanitation, little or no waste management, overcrowded public transport and limited access to formal health care facilities. In addition, they suffer from a lack of basic services, secure tenure and adequate housing. Urgent preparations are needed now to enable residents to stay safe and healthy.
We are deeply concerned by the practicality of the health measures put in place in this densely populated informal settlements, most people are unable to observe the government’s guidelines due to the structural challenges in the slums. Not all Kenyans can access water and soap.
Most Kenyans are feeling anxious and stressed about the situation as it unfolds. People are worried about contracting living with the disease unknowingly, the government’s lack of resources, livelihood, food security, and so much more…
In addition to the physical risks of this situation we need to be aware of the Infodemic we are facing. Infodemics are an excessive amount of information about a problem, which makes it difficult to identify a solution. There is so much misinformation, disinformation and rumors here in the slums of Mitume. This has hampered an effective public health response and creates confusion and distrust among people. There is a need to create more awareness about COVID-19.
We have been responding with emergency measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
OTEPIC wishes to continue the response with an awareness campaign including:
– Hand Washing stations and information
– Face mask, soap and sanitizer distribution
– Production and distribution of educational materials about Covid-19
During this global pandemic, one of the cheapest, easiest, and most important ways to prevent the spread of a virus is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
We are raising $20,000 to continue to set up hand washing, information and distribution centers in Mitume Slum in Kitale, Kenya.
In addition we are encouraging people to stay calm – stay informed – stay safe – and help those around them when possible.
The combined effect of all these crises has had an impact on food availability, especially for elderly and immunocompromised who are now home-bound due to their weakened immune systems. Supplies in Mitume slums have also been impacted by strict rules imposed to contain the spread of the Coronavirus.
We are targeting 400 vulnerable (primarily elderly and immunocompromised) households who would benefit from our food assistance program and are currently fundraising to support them for the next 3 months.
Everyone in the community is struggling for food. Most work hand to mouth, with most workplaces closed people are worried about feeding their families.
OTEPIC wishes to offer a $50 monthly food packet to support 400 vulnerable households.
For 400 households for three months we are seeking $60,000.
We are very glad to be part of the Walking water community, Walking Water has been a big inspiration for OTEPIC in taking action on both a physical and in spiritual level. OTEPIC Founder Philip Munyasia participated in the 2017 Walking Water Pilgrimage in Los Angeles and continues to be grateful for the friendships and relations to people and organizations now connected to our work in Kenya.
To be in contact with OTEPIC and donate:
Name of Bank—– Equity bank: Bank Branch——- Kitale branch: Physical address………KENYATTA STREET:PO address of bank—– P.O box 801 Kitale Kenya: Swift code/IBAN EQBLKENA: Account #0330192107279
Name on account—– Organic technology extension and promotion of initiative centre PO address of name on account—— P.O BOX 1684(30200)
Organic Technology Extension and Promotion of Initiative Centre (OTEPIC)
Phone: +254 725429179: Email: [email protected]: Website: www.otepic.org: Mailing Address: PO Box 4627-30200, Kitale, Kenya.