In Kenya’s semi-arid regions, low rainfall, recurring drought, and shallow barren soil devastates traditional crops. Because families cannot earn enough from their farms, they must extract wealth from the environment to survive. Driven by poverty, families cut down indigenous trees to sell as firewood and cooking charcoal, bringing their land and livelihood closer to the brink of disaster. Today, Kenya faces one of the highest levels of deforestation in the world.
Catapult spent one week in Kilifi, Kenya at the headquarters of KOMAZA, a social enterprise using micro-forestry as a vehicle for poverty alleviation, in September 2009. We trailed their staff to Ganze, their pilot community, toured shambas, the KOMAZA x-farm, and met some of their farmers. Despite its proximity to the coast, Ganze is arid and receives sporadic rainfall during the wet season, making agriculture difficult. During our time in Ganze, we visited a ferro-cement rainwater harvesting (RWH) prototype built by KOMAZA to explore drought alleviation. However, what they really wanted was a portable, individual-use water storage solution to distribute to their farmers, allowing them to escape their direct dependence on the weather for regular water delivery.
We kicked off a short-term research program with KOMAZA to appraise existing solutions for small-scale RWH. We looked at other semi-arid parts of the world for inspiration; we looked at past as well as new technologies; we looked at organizations in East Africa supporting RWH. Our findings concluded that no existing solutions are readily available in Kenya that meets KOMAZA’s cost targets and that if they desire an RWH product, they will need to develop it themselves. Developing and manufacturing a new technology is a large undertaking, so as a final step, we put together an overview of prototype development steps for KOMAZA to undertake.
“Our farmers have been born into lives with almost no opportunities. Where we work, $300 a year must be stretched to support a family of eight; children cannot afford to complete their schooling; women walk for miles to fetch water; healthcare is inaccessible. Their dry, degraded land fails to sustain them. Out of options, families deforest their land for money.
For years, families have been locked into a vicious cycle. As poverty drives them to cut down trees, their land becomes even worse and they fall deeper into poverty. To break the cycle of extreme poverty, families must find a way to transform their only asset – their land – into a sustainable source of income.”
Client: KOMAZA, Kenya
KOMAZA is a non-profit social enterprise that creates sustainable economic opportunities for smallholder farmers living in Africa’s semi-arid regions. Working through a village-based network of field staff, KOMAZA partners with rural farmers living on less than one dollar a day to help them plant and maintain small-scale, income-generating tree farms.