Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mutomo farmer’s experience at Sokopepe launch

By Rhoda Musili
When 64 year old Flora Nzambuli was informed that she will be attending a Sokopepe market portal launch at Ng’arua Maarifa Centre she saw this as an opportunity to learn new things to boost her farming initiatives.

Flora interacts with members of the public who visited her
exhibition stand during the launch( Photo: ALIN)
The travelling journey was a learning experience in itself for the Mutomo farmer. Mutomo District where she hails from is an arid and semi-arid area and seeing maize plantations laden with produce as well fruit orchards were a wonder to behold for the farmer who describes the experience and launch an eye opener.

“The launch was very colorful. The displays attracted a lot of farmers, community members and stakeholders. Community members were curious to know how they could benefit from the initiative. They felt having a bargaining power was crucial in market linkages,” says Flora.

The farmer adds that the launch also gave her an opportunity to interact with fellow farmers from different communities where ALIN’s Maarifa Centres are established. Through interaction with fellow farmers, they deduced it was important to support one another as well as embracing team work and supporting each other in market opportunities as well as sharing and exchanging ideas

Flora (holding a water melon) poses for a photo with 
fellow farmers and community members(Photo:ALIN)
Flora adds that she gained lots of knowledge on the Sokopepe platform and how to navigate the site. Back home the farmer plans to market the initiative churches, group networks and local administration. She feels that this platform could not have been launched at a better time

“Mutomo residents are constantly exploited by the middle man especially when selling green grams produce,” says Flora who adds that it will be ideal for Sokopepe to be localized through local vernacular stations to reach a wider number of audience as well as sensitization on how to do mobile e- agriculture

Mrs. Nzambuli is a small scale farmer who practices smart farming at her farm in Mutomo District of Kitui County in Eastern Kenya. She has implemented water harvesting on her farm through construction of water harvesting earth pans as well as digging retention dams on her farm for water and soil conservation. She uses the water harvested for domestic use and fruit farming whereby her biggest fruit growing venture is water melon farming which fetches her Kshs.40, 000 annual profit.

Sokopepe( Swahili for virtual market)  is an agricultural commodity trading platform portal spear headed by ALIN that links small scale producers to final retailers or bulk purchasers.Services  provided include; commodity prices, farm inputs,linkage with other service producers,farming and livestock tips as well as secure mobile payment systems.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Computer skills earn banking institution employee a job promotion

By Samuel Gitonga Makanya

Erick Mwangangi is currently working with Mutomo teachers SACCO as an Appraisal Officer, a position he has held onto since August of 2012. Previously, the 39 year old worked as an enquiry officer with the same institution, a job which entailed enlightening clients on the right channels to follow to benefit from the various services offered by the institution as well as shedding light on issues or queries that clients forwarded. However, gaining computer skills propelled him to the new position he now holds. “The two positions are word apart!!” insists Erick helping us draw the parallel between them by telling us that with the new position, computer skills are mandatory.

Learning experience at the Centre.

It all started when one of the ICT training facilitators at Mutomo Maarifa Centre whom Mwangangi terms as a close friend, encouraged him to join. Erick didn’t have second thoughts at giving it a try since it was absolutely free. Though his conscience questioned the free service, he was proven wrong. “The training was exceptional with skilled trainers that made sure we understood what we covered” added Mwangangi.

He was among the trainees enrolled for the May-July 2012 intake. According to Erick, apart from the ample skills gained, the learning process was full of fun making it exciting. After a class was over he highly anticipated the following class. Erick preferably picked the afternoon session that runs from 2.00pm -4.00 pm stating it was the one that suited his daily schedule.

Outcome of the training.

Upon graduation and after he was awarded a certificate of Participation from the Maarifa Centre, Erick’s employer promoted him from the enquiry office to an Appraisal Clerk position, a move which he says changed his life tremendously. Now he has rented an apartment around Mutomo, making it easier to get to his work place in time. With the salary increase that came with the promotion, Erick can also apply for a loan to supplement some of his projects.

His new job description entails briefing clients on the deductions and interest rates administered on their salaries. This task has been made easier by the Ms.Excel Computer package that was part of the five basic computer packages that he was trained on. The other packages included; Introduction to computers, Ms. Word, Internet and E-mail and Ms. PowerPoint.

“The complex calculations surrounding my work have been made easier,” Says Erick

Challenges faced.

During the 2 month training, Erick says he faced a few obstacles here and there. For instance, he would cycle an outstanding 44 KM from his Ndatani home to Mutomo town, but he is happy that his overwhelming determination has paid off.

Message to ALIN.

Mr.Mwangangi is thankful to ALIN for the opportunity they are giving to the local youths an opportunity to improve their livelihood. He however feels that the training computers were few as compared to the large number of trainees and urges the organization to expand the training rooms.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Extension officer applauds Maarifa Centre library resources

By Rhoda Musili & Samuel Gitonga Makanya.

As an international NGO that facilitates information and knowledge exchange to and between extension workers or infomediaries and arid lands communities in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, ALIN’s information exchange activities focus on small-scale sustainable agriculture, climate change adaptation, natural resources management and other livelihood issues.

To increase its reach and effectiveness, ALIN targets infomediaries who work for governments, NGOs, CBOs and faith-based organizations because these are the people who act as a source of information and knowledge for the rest of the community out of duty or social responsibility.

So it is only understandable that ALIN is therefore always on the lookout to determine how the said extension officers use the information material to impact the communities that they work with.

Exploiting the library resource

Benedict Mathitu is an extension Officer with the Mutomo District Agricultural Office. His job entails training farmers on issues on agriculture, making farm visits and establishing demonstration farms.

An avid user of Mutomo Maarifa Centre’s library resources, Mr. Mathitu has timclip_image002e and again relied on these resources to provide the much needed reference for his job.

One of these instances was when he had to facilitate a farmer training opportunity organized by the Catholic Diocese of Kitui on April this year. The training entailed training over 200 beneficiaries under the Catholic Diocese’s “Food for Asset” project on climate change mitigation and variability.

As always, Mr. Mathitu visited the Maarifa Centre’s library to source for training resources for the training. Here, he borrowed two manuals namely; National Climate Change Response Strategy and Drought impact mitigation and prevention in the Limpopo River Basin.

Specific information accessed

These two books went a long way in equipping Mr. Mathitu with the necessary information he needed for training purposes. For instance from the National Climate Change Response Strategy Government manual, he accessed material such as; history of climate change as a global problem, international efforts and challenges to combating climate change, evidence of climate change in Kenya over the last 50 years (Temperature and rainfall trends ),impacts of climate change on Agriculture, mitigation interventions (Agriculture ),Research and development (Agriculture )

Additionally, from the Drought Mitigation and Prevention in the Limpopo River Basin manual Mr. Mathitu accessed topics such as; managing the impacts of drought (Definitions of drought),Impacts of drought in Southern Africa in the Kenyan context (Macroeconomic impacts )

Outcome of the training

Although this training has no outcome yet, Mr Mathitu has been a consistent user of the Maarifa Centre and from previous training using Maarifa Centre resources a farmer of Kyatune Location of Mutomo district has adopted drought tolerated crops, water harvesting as a mitigation enterprise, crop diversification as a means of mitigation, the farmer is also passing the same message to the community by being the role model.

Message to ALIN

Benedict praises ALIN for the good work they are doing. However, he urges them to avail more resources on climate change as well as equipping the Maarifa Centre with more Government of Kenya reference materials.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

ICT training opportunity jump starts an aspiring secretary to her dream career.

By Samuel Gitonga Makanya

When we walked in at Shekinah Enterprises and Electronic shop in Mutomo town, we found Ann Wanzia busy typing an assignment for a client. The speed, swiftness and coordination of her typing didn’t just come by luck. It was as a result of an exemplary skill she gained after undergoing a free ICT training at Mutomo Maarifa Centre.

It all began when one of her close friend mentioned a particular resource Centre was offering free ICT training. This came as news to Ann; she wasn’t aware of its actual location neither its name.

“ I have always aspired to be a secretary in future, and knowing well that they use computers full time, I had to make myself conversant with the electronic device as early as possible ,“ says the jovial Wanzia.

Filled with curiosity, she took it upon herself to find the Centre and in time came to know the Mutomo Maarifa Centre located at the Mutomo mission Hospital. She first had to confirm that the services were free as heard and to her delight they were. “To me all free services in Kenya faded out with the white man,” joked Ann adding that all that was needed was turning up at the Centre with a pen, a book and a mind ready to learn.

The training pace

With an infectious smile that I would join from time to time, Anne narrated her training experience to me. Out of the 4 sessions offered in a day at the Centre, she went with the morning class (runs from 8am-10 am) claiming that the others were not convenient.

What was even more outstanding to her is the fact that she shared class with people that could qualify for her father`s age. “Men of over 50 years were my classmates, “said the eloquent Ann adding that it did not come as a big surprise as they had been told by one of the facilitators that the Centre was open to everyone despite their level of education and literacy.

For Ann, July to September of 2012 was a period full of learning and acquisition of skills. According to her the trainers never left any stone unturned; everyone was content with the pace. In 2 months’ time, she was through. For her, there is nothing of more significance that she would have done during the period that would substitute the knowledge she got. She supported this by proudly waving a beautiful designed certificate that is safely stored in one of the drawers.

What she does at her job is nothing far from what is entailed in the 5 packages she did; Introduction to Computers, MS Word, MS Excel, MS PowerPoint, and Internet and Email.

Our interview was abruptly brought to a hold when a customer requested Ann to print a certain document from his e-mail address. As if to show us she had the skill, she rose to the occasion and was through in no time. All the customer could afford was a huge satisfactory “THANKYOU”.

Secured employment

After completion of the training session, Ann was awarded with a recommendation letter on top of her Certificate. And so when she heard of a job advertisement which required an electronic shop assistant, she was the first one to avail herself. After one week of strict and close monitoring, her employer was convinced beyond reasonable doubt that she could deliver on her job thus giving her a salaried job. Ann’s duties include typesetting, scanning and printing apart from other accessories like sockets, electricity bulbs and extensions that are on sale.

Improved livelihood

The salary that she gets has enabled her rent an apartment at Mutomo doing away with the 4 km walk to and from her parent’s home. I have to be at work by 7 am hence getting late is no longer a challenge. She does not entirely rely on her mother as it was there before.

As we concluded, she laid her sincere gratitude to ALIN for the opportunity they are giving people in the rural areas and for making them see light at the end of the tunnel.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Young woman’s dream of being computer literate finally comes true

By Samuel Gitonga Makanya

When Patience Mueni cleared high school last year, she had dreams of joining a good college and furthering her studies. But since her parents could not afford to take her to college, this remained just a dream for the 21 year old; she had to stay at home and help out with the daily chores, something she was not happy about as she wanted to do something constructive with her time.

All through her high school education, Ms. Mueni always yearned to gain computer skills and join the world of computer literates but her former high school did not offer computer studies. She however promised herself that she would pursue computer training after high school, but her parents could not raise the training charges required by training institutions based in Mutomo town.

Thus when her friends told her that they had joined a free ICT training opportunity at Mutomo Maarifa Centre, Mueni could not wait to be among the beneficiaries.

“I immediately enrolled. I would walk from home to attend the morning training sessions and go back home to assist with the daily chores,” clip_image002says Patience who aspires to be a nurse in future. She adds that she always made time to go through her notes every evening.

At the end of the training session, Ms. Mueni was awarded with a certificate of participation listing the five computer packages that she had been trained on. For her, this will go a long way in complimenting her future studies as she understands that in today’s higher education learning environment, one has to be computer literate.

The certificate also opened an employment opportunity for her as well. “A friend heard of a job opportunity at Daro Enterprises in Mutomo town and recommended me for the job,” says a happy Mueni. She adds that her job description entails typesetting and printing documents for clients.

Patience attributes her new job to Mutomo Maarifa Centre and applauds them for a job well done.

“Am happy that I have gotten an opportunity to tell a success story and I sincerely thank ALIN for equipping the Mutomo community with ICT skills. I wish people take this rare opportunity to improve their livelihoods,” concludes Patience.

Free ICT training opens a door of opportunity for youth

Free ICT training opens a door of opportunity for youth

By Samuel Gitonga Makanya

Patricia Syombua sat for her Kenya School of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams on 2011. However, the 23 year old has been unable to collect her Secondary School certificate for she hasn’t cleared the school fees balance that she owes her former school.

So when she heard of a free ICT training opportunity being offered at Mutomo Maarifa Centre, Patricia saw this as a God send opportunity. And as each journey starts with a single step, she saw this as a golden chance to gain skills, look for employment and save enough money so that she could finally collect her certificate.

“I got the training information from my friends who work in the Mutomimageo Mission Hospital. I immediately visited the Centre and enrolled for the training “says a lively Patricia, who hails from Kibwea Location of Mutomo District. Here, she got trained on five computer packages which included; Ms Word, Ms excel Internet and e-mail, Ms Power point and introduction to technology.

Patricia adds that after undergoing the training for two months, she was proud to graduate; the first graduation event of her life .Armed with this certificate, Patricia’s prospects of getting a job improved and it wasn’t long before she secured employment at Ngooni Electronics in Mutomo town.

Here, her duties include; typesetting, printing and photocopying. However CDs, cassettes, bulbs and electronics like radios and phone chargers are other things on sale in her employer’s electronic shop.

“The time frame for the course was convenient and the trainers never left any trainee behind. The pace was fast enough for me to understand what we learnt and also finish the course at the expected time. I had ample time to gain practical skills which have been a great help in carrying out my duties,” Says a proud Patricia.

Patricia says that this training opened a door of limitless opportunities for her as she plans to save enough money to enable her pursue a teaching course in the future.She has hope that it’s only a matter of time before she saves enough money to clear her school fees and collect her certificate so that she can pursue her dream career course.

Ms. Syombua closes the interview with a kind word for ALIN. She congratulates them for the opportunity and implores them to expand the opportunity to the interior places in the district.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

ICT compliance propels a young woman to employment

By Samuel Gitonga Makanya.

Mutomo District is known to be sunny and dry almost ¾ of the year. However, one young woman would walk under the scorching sun for two months as she sought to be ICT compliant. For the period of January to May 2012, the 21 year old would walk for 3 hours daily, covering 16KM to and from her Kibwea Location home to Mutomo Maarifa Centre for free ICT training.

For Caroline Katunguu, the scorching sun was nothing compared to the benefits that she would enjoy once she completed the training. And true to her dreams, the young lady who recently sat for her Secondary School exams has something to smile about; she has secured employment, thanks to the opportunity.

“I heard about the training from friends’” says Caroline. “It was a golden chance that I couldn’t let go off since in other training institutions, one has to pay to train and most of us cannot afford the fee charged.” She continues. At the Maarifa Centre, Caroline underwent a two month’s training where she studied 5 packages; Ms Word, Ms Power point, Ms Excel, Internet and introduction to computer. In a week’s time there was a job offer at Zion Technologies in Mutomo town. One of the qualifications needed was to be computer literate and Caroline beat other 15 applicants to clinch the job.

Caroline’s work duties include; typesetting, printing, assisting clients’ access internet as well as monitoring internet usage.“Am always very proud when clients congratulate me for a job well done,” beams Caroline.

Ms. Katunguu is also happy that she doesn’t have to cover the long distance to report to her new place of work since now she can afford to pay a motorbike daily to save time.

clip_image002clip_image004

Left; Caroline at her place of work, Right; she receives her ICT certificate during a graduation ceremony organized by Mutomo Maarifa Centre.

Ms. Katunguu attributes this opportunity to ALIN and thanks them for the fantastic work they are doing to instill the locals with skills that will catapult their standards of living.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Tomato production manual boosts nurse’s farming enterprise

By Samuel Gitonga Makanya.

39 year old Angela Nduku Vincent is a proud mother of two ,a nurse at the Mutomo Mission hospital and above all; a farmer. When we visited her one sunny afternoon, she was busy tending to the tomato crop on her kitchen garden. From a distance, you could see the green, juicy vegetables that were full of life; a sight to behold given that this part of region is very dry. She received us warmly and she was more than willing to show us around her kitchen garden.

Angela says that she got interested in farming when three years ago a Rotary club introduced a program to train the hospital staff on dry land farming and kitchen gardening.

“During this period, a demonstration farm was established so that members could learn and train community members on the initiative,” Says Angela who says that after the project timeframe was over she approached the hospital management and took over the practice.

After being given the mandate to manage the farm by herself, she worked tirelessly and hopes of her efforts bearing fruits remained alive. In recognition to her efforts, the hospital management allocated her greenhouse just footsteps away from her garden where also she has grown vegetables. She uses drip irrigation method with water that comes from a relatively raised tank just outside her greenhouse.

At the moment Angela practices Agro forestry and has grown vegetables like onions, tomatoes, kales, and spinach and also has nurseries for mangoes, trees for timber and trees for providing shade’’ says Angela

Information services

Angela cannot hide her gratitude to Mutomo Maarifa Centre. “The Maarifa Centre has hugely contributed to the success of my garden” she says. She was able to access the books in the library where she got crucial tips for her farming activities. For instance she says she could not bring herself to grow tomatoes since she feared the many diseases associated with them. That was until she came across the book “Cultivation of tomato –production, processing and marketing” that proved her otherwise. She gave it a try and now she boasts of almost market-ready tomatoes in her kitchen garden.

Of much interest to her was a chapter in crop rotation with special emphasis on intercropping. Intercropping is the practice of growing two or more crops  in proximity. She has intercropped tomatoes with kales and spinach. According  to the book, intercropping reduces the incidence of diseases and pests ,improves soil fertility and enhances maximum use of land. The advantage of the practice is In case one type of crop fails, another type of crop is always left.

From left;Angela browses through the library resource; the specific chapter that she referred to;Angela’s tomato plantation.

Being also a beneficiary of the free ICT training at the Maarifa Centre, she would also use the internet to find relevant information on how to manage and maintain her garden.

Angela’s customers include the hospital staff as well as the Mutomo community. She provides vegetables to the hospital kitchen.Furthermore, the area residents come to her kitchen garden and purchase seedlings from her.Angela continues to tell us that it is only a matter of time before she starts supplying the hospital kiosk with vegetables for sale.During good times, she makes up to USD.125  per a month.

Challenges faced

Angela says that the main challenge she faced was getting fresh water for her vegetables as salty impended their growth. However, the hospital management came to her aid through providing fresh water tap for her farm. Another challenge she faces is getting customers for her products.

She feels that it would be great if the Maarifa Centre was able to provide information on a variety of crops. She insists that there are many crops that can do fairly well in these parts of the country but the people are not aware.

“Information accessed has been an eye opener and given me the knowledge to kick start new projects” Angela says. She hopes other people would make an effort of getting to the Maarifa Centre and benefit from the services they are offering.

“The information gained there can be used practically to raise the people’s standard of living,” she concludes.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Visiting medic praises Maarifa Centre as an important resource in the community

By Rhoda Musili

When she saw a community Knowledge Centre at Mutomo Mission Hospital’s compound, Edith Dietz was curious to know what services the Centre offers to the community.

The 34 year old Physician, a pediatrician was impressed with the Maarifa Centre services and immediately become one of the popular users. Among the services that she accessed mostly included internet for emailing  and getting medical resources for patient care;specifically the library resources

“For instance, I downloaded images for a presentation at the hospital on child development.Accessing this information was quite critical for my ability to read about certain medications that are used in Kenya much more than in the US, find conversions for certain lab tests that are run differently in the US. I also emailed medical friends in the US for advice, and found information about a Diabetes association in Nairobi to give a patient,” says Edith

Ms.Edith praises ALIN for the the wonderful resource for the hospital staff and town adding the hospital staff should utilize it maximally to help provide optimal patient care..She is of the opinion that the Maarifa Centre should reach out more to the hospital staff to offer training in medical literature searches and skills to create presentations on medical topics to increase knowledge and skills.

 

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Friday, May 10, 2013

‘Portable’ solar energy improves farmer’s livelihood

By Rhoda Musili

Mutomo District is an arid and semi arid area that oftenly experiences recurrent droughts with high sun intensity levels.As such one would expect that the population here would exploit this natural resource as a source of energy.But this is rarely the case.Majority of households  here still rely on kerosene as a source of energy to provide lighting.

However, one farmer has tapped into this natural resource and is reaping the fruits.Meet Kisilu Musya, a 43 year old father of eight who has realized the potential of solar energy and is enjoying an improved livelihood out of it.

Mr.Musya keeps a knapsack with him all the time.Inside, he carries a portable solar panel which has a USB port.He uses this solar panel to charge his camera and phone on the go.In addition to this,Kisilu has a solar lantern and torch which provides lighting for his family at night.This has had a great impact in reducing his spending costs in buying kerosene and paying for camera and mobile charging services.

“I used to spend a minimum Kshs. 200 every month on kerosene,” says Kisilu who adds he also used to spend another Kshs.300 on mobile phone charging charges every month.

“Whenever my camera or phone has no charge, I just look for a sunny spot and charge both of them and am ready to go,” says a bubbly Kisilu.

SAM_1427

Above; (Left), Mr.Musya charges his digital camera with the portable solar panels,(Right),his children do their homework with the aid of the solar lantern lighting.

Mr.Musya benefitted from a solar charger - a "bag" with 4 solar panels of 3,5 watts each during a recent visit to Norway (see story here;http://mutomomaarifa.blogspot.com/2013/01/mutomo-farmers-norway-visit-changes-his.html). The bag has a USB which is able to charge a computer, a digital camera and a phone.He also benefitted with a solar lantern and a torch which has saved him kerosene costs.

Improved livelihood

He also benefitted with a laptop, a video camera and a digital camera.Armed with this digital camera, Mr.Musya has embarked on community photography initiative which fetches him a monthly income of around Kshs.2,000 thus boosting his income,” says Mr.Musya who adds that he also offers phone charging services to some community members .

Kisilu’s situation is a clear example on how people can use the available natural resources to improve their livelihoods.”Whereas people see the high sun intensity levels as a curse, I see it as a blessing;it has changed my life for the best,” concludes Mr.Musya.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Civil servant secures job promotion after gaining ICT skills

By Rhoda Musili

When Regina Musee visited her bank to withdraw her monthly salary on February this year, she thought that she had received a salary increment.Jubilant, she informed her immediate boss of the good news.However,later she learnt the salary increment was as a result of a job promotion.

The 56 year old who works at the Mutomo District Children's Office, was  among the first beneficiaries of the free ICT training that has been ongoing at Mutomo Maarifa Centre since January 2012.

“I was informed of the training by my boss who sits in Mutomo Maarifa Centre Advisory committee and I enrolled immediately , “ says Regina who praises the ICT trainer for a job well done  as he was open to questions and took time to explain issues to the otherwise mixed aged trainees.

She adds that after graduation, her immediate boss forwarded the ICT certificate to the Ministry Headquarters so that she could be considered for a promotion.This bore fruit on February this year when she finally landed the much awaited job promotion.

regina

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left, Regina Musee at her office;(Right )Regina receives her certificate during a Maarifa Centre ICT graduation ceremony held on July 2012.

Mrs.Musee praises the opportunity and thanks ALIN for a job well done citing that her improved salary status has ensured an improved livelihood status for her and her family.

“Besides the promotion, I can now navigate through Internet comfortably and I am able to download my pay slip without any assistance,” concludes the civil servant.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

ICT skills facilitate Pastor’s acquisition of IT equipment

By Rhoda Musili

At his office in the Centre of Mutomo town, Jeremiah Mbithuka is busy typesetting a report on his desktop computer.A few months ago, the 41 year old pastor could not carry out this task and used to handwrite his reports.But  a free ICT training at Mutomo Maarifa Centre changed his office operations.

“My friend who had benefitted from the training informed me of the opportunity and I enrolled immediately,” says Mr.Mbithuka who adds  that he majorly uses word processing, printing, scanning and browsing skills in his daily work.

Mr.Mbithuka is the Coordinator for Children in Christ Self-Help group which trains school going children and teenagers on moral issues and life skills.The Self-Help Group which was started in 2010  has a membership of 50 community trained volunteers .

Acquiring computer skills played a vital role in Mr.Mbithuka getting office equipment from World Vision, Mutomo whom they are collaborating on a project.

“World Vision management  was interested to know if I am able to operate IT equipment before they allocated the IT equipment to the office.On informing them  that I had enrolled for training, they tried and tested me on completion of the training and issued me with with a desktop computer, a printer and a scanner,” says a proud Jeremiah.

Apart from Mr.Mbithuka, four other group members have also benefitted from the ICT training opportunity.

“We realized that teenagers were not involved in church activities and there was no proper curriculum to teach them issues affecting them,” adds Mr.Mbithuka adding that the group also sensitizes these children on HIV/AIDS.

Mr.Mbithuka who is also a regular Maarifa Centre library user  thanks ALIN for this wonderful  opportunity

Monday, April 8, 2013

Women group embrace soap making as an income generating venture

On  April 5th, group members of Meko Ma Aka Self Help Group had something to smile about as they gathered for training on making liquid soap.For some time now, the group members had been yearning to find an income generating activity that will boost their finances.

So when Mutomo Maarifa Centre Field Officer visited the group for an information gaps mapping activity early last year, group members listed commercial liquid soap making as one of the viable activities that they were interested in engaging in but which they lacked technical skills to jumpstart.Therefore,the Field Officer sourced for a resource person who took the group members through the soap making process.

On this particular day, their faces wreathed in smiles of joy,each group member took a turn to participate in every stage of the whole process.

The group has already identified a market for their product and were all enthusiastic about starting the project.Liquid soap has many uses and can be used in schools, hotels, household levels among other uses.

Procedure
The procedure of making this soap is very easy to learn and master
Ingredients needed are; Ungerol( a kind of fatty acid), industrial salt, caustic soda, formalin,colouring, perfumes and water.
  • Mix Ungerol with industrial salt until the crystals dissolve
  • Add water, colour and perfume to the viscous product.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Mutomo Maarifa Centre holds its second ICT graduation ceremony

Jubilation was written all over 85 ICT training beneficiaries who graduated in a ceremony held at Mutomo Missions Hospital’s compound on February 2013.The 85 are the second group of ICT training beneficiaries to be awarded certificates as part of an ongoing ICT training initiative which kicked off on January 2012.The ceremony  was presided over by Mutomo District Agricultural Officer Mr.Toma Ngovu.

During the event trainee after trainee praised the opportunity.Martina David, a primary school teacher narrated how her colleagues were dubious about free ICT training.”They were asking me who would offer such training free of charge,” she said adding that the training played a major role in her securing the post of a Presiding Officer with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in the just concluded general elections .

Of the same sentiments were Mutomo Location Chief, Mr.Robert Kusinga who  said that he was interested to enroll for the training after presiding over the first graduation ceremony which was held on July last year.

“I felt challenged that I was awarding certificates to ICT trainees, yet I had not benefitted from the training myself,” said Mr.Kusinga who enrolled for training sessions immediately after the graduation ceremony

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Mutomo Location Chief,Mr. Robert Kusinga(Right) is awarded an ICT certificate by Mr.Toma Ngovu, the District Agricultural Officer.Looking on is Mutomo Maarifa Centre Field Officer,Rhoda Musili

Mr.Kusinga says that immediately after completing training sessions, he was awarded with an office computer since he now has the skills to work with one.

“I plan to be utilizing the computer to store my locations’ information data,”Says Kusinga who praises the ICT trainer for his flexibility in the training and understanding the diverse needs and understanding levels of the trainees.

Mutomo Maarifa Centre Field Officer Ms.Rhoda Musili encouraged the trainees to exploit available resources at the Maarifa Centre listing e-government services as some of the emerging services in the ICT world that needed the community to be computer literate.She urged the beneficiaries to exploit the skills gained in engaging in meaningful opportunities like distance learning .

Mr. Ngovu  urged the beneficiaries to exploit the available Maarifa Centre resources to search for Agricultural information as well as business and social networking sites for information sharing and dissemination.He however cautioned them on internet fraud .

“I would like to thank ALIN for initiative of empowering our community,” concluded Mr.Ngovu.

The free community training is part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded to ALIN in August 2011 to implement various community activities. The main goal of the community IT training is to enable communities’ access opportunities and resources available globally and to catalyze youth entrepreneurship for livelihoods improvement

Monday, February 25, 2013

Maarifa Centre information resources have boosted my farming enterprises…says Nurse.

Its early morning in Mutomo District of Eastern Kenya.At Mutomo Mission Hospital,Angela Vincent is busy irrigating her vegetable and tree nursery plantations.After this activity,Mrs.Vincent reports to her work station at  Mutomo Mission Hospital where she is employed as a nurse.

For the past three years, this has been the daily working routine for the 39 year old woman who practices farming on a small piece of land at the hospital compound.

Angela says that she got interested in farming when three years ago a Rotary club introduced a program to train the hospital staff on dry land farming and kitchen gardening.

“During this period, a demonstration farm was established so that members could learn and train community members on the initiative,” Says Angela who says that after the project timeframe was over she approached the hospital management and took over the practice.

At the 1/2 farm, Mrs.Vincent started vegetable, tree nursery  and fruit growing enterprises.This has all been be possible through use of irrigation water from Mutomo Mission Hospital borehole.“ At first, people discouraged me that vegetables could not do well under irrigation with salty water, but my vegetable enterprise has thrived , “Says a proud Angela.

Information needs

Angela understands that information plays a vital role in her projects.By the virtue that Mutomo Maarifa Centre is hosted by Mutomo Mission Hospital, she oftenly visits the Maarifa Centre to access that is relevant to her projects.

Here, she has access to Baobab and Joto Africa publications as well as other library resources that have been a great boost to her as far as information is concerned.

For instance from Baobab issue 62 on Tress and Farming on  ‘All trees need good care to grow well’ , Angela says that she got information on tree spacing which she has put into practice and has witnessed a major difference.

 

“I already have pawpaw seedlings which I am planning to plant during the April rainy season using the technologies learnt, “ Says Angela adding that apart  from reading the publications for new information, she is inspired by reading stories from people who are doing projects under the same climatic conditions as Mutomo.

“I always ask myself, if they have done it, why not me,” quips Mrs.Vincent.

ICT training

Her quest for knowledge has seen her enroll for an ICT training course at Mutomo Maarifa Centre so that she gets the necessary skills to search for online technical  information, funding opportunities as well as marketing opportunities  so that she pushes her enterprises a head.She adds that she plans on buying a laptop for this purpose.

Future plans

Angela says that from the her Agriculture enterprises she has managed to buy a piece of land near a water point where she plans to start practice vegetable and fruit growing for supplying to Mutomo Market vegetable and fruit vendors within the next two years.She adds that from the income boost her children are attending a private school which she could not have afforded otherwise.

Information gaps

Angela says she needs more information on marketing opportunities for her seedlings enterprise , the best pesticides for her vegetable enterprise as well as training on smart farming.She urges other community members to utilize the Maarifa Centre services citing that the agriculture is a viable business as far as its done as a business.

“If all goes well, I will quit my nursing job to concentrate on Agriculture,” concludes Angela.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mutomo farmer’s Norway visit changes his outlook on climate change.

By Rhoda Musili

As a young child, Mr.Kisilu Musya had dreams to study  hard ,join a good university and get a good job.To his young mind, good education was the key to travelling and discovering the world.But as his parents could barely afford his Secondary School fees,this remained a dream for the 43 year old.

So Mr.Musya could not believe his luck when he got news that he had secured an opportunity to visit Norway on November  last year.”What good education did not do for me, farming did,” says the jubilant father of eight from Kyatune Location of Mutomo District.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I fathom that farming could open such great opportunities in life,” says Mr.Musya a small-scale farmer who practices agro-forestry.It was his efforts in climate change mitigation that Mr.Musya was featured in a documentary, Wind of Change which highlighted a young family’s efforts in adapting to unfavorable climate change

This documentary was filmed by Spire, a Norwegian  youth organization through supportkisilu-at-reportseminar with Mutomo Maarifa Centre .Wind of Change featured Mr.Musya’s  family activities on climate change effects, adaptation and mitigation.And on November last year the same organization  funded Mr.Musya to travel  on a 14 day trip to Norway to attend a Globalization conference under a program  called the Norwegian Social Forum (NSF) ,the Norwegian branch of the World Social Forum which organizes a conference called "The Globalization Conference every year where there are debates, workshops,presentations, concerts,movies and thearte.

“During the Globalization conference I gave a speech before a group of more than 600 participants where I presented issues on local community climate change adaptation efforts,community mobilization , information gaps and local community expectations from developed countries,” Says Mr.Kisilu who also adds that he shared issues on local community’s awareness in regards to contributing towards unfavorable climate change.
Mr. Musya adds that during his visit he also met with various other organizations, universities, groups and farmers.” I learnt a lot on poultry keeping, diary cattle farming, bee keeping,apple farming and vegetable growing.” 

Lessons learnt
Prior to his visit Mr.Musya says he always thought that climate change was all about  lack of rainfall and persistent drought.” But I was surprisekisilu 3d to learn that there are some countries which receive heavy rainfall amounts often leading to flooding,” he says.

He adds that through sharing, he learnt different adaptation strategies and measures.”But the biggest lesson was the realization that climate change is universal and needs to be seriously addressed,” he quips adding that its important to be focal on coming up with permanent climate change mitigation solutions stressing that climate change is a cross-cutting issue that affects all aspects of livelihoods.

Mr.Musya says that the opportunity equipped him with a lot of insight and made him realize that everyone had a role to play in climate change mitigation.And as part of playing his role, he now has a mission to spread a different kind of gospel back home.“ I visit a different church every Sunday to sensitize the community on climate change issues,” says Mr.Musya adding that the experience widened his perspective and made his farming efforts go global.

ALIN’s role
Kisilu attributes this opportunity to ALIN. He says that before ALIN established a community resource Centre at Mutomo he used to do farming but lacked knowledge to do smart farming.As ALIN’s Focal Group member, Mr.Musya had opportunities to share and interact with other members on smart farming.

“ALIN gave me a platform to gain and share knowledge  with other communities living in arid and semi arid areas and therefore expanded my knowledge base” admits Mr.Musya who has dreams to feature as an exemplary farmer in ALIN’s Baobab Magazine which highlights sustainable agriculture initiatives in arid and semi arid areas within East Africa.

“If I had not been a ALIN’s  Focal Group and Advisory Committee member,then ALIN wouldn’t have known of my enterprises and linked me with Spire,” he quips.

kisilu 2
Improved livelihood
In addition to funding his trip, Spire also facilitated Mr.Musya with a laptop, video camera and a digital camera for documenting his progress on climate change adaptation and mitigation  efforts.With the digital camera,Mr.Musya has embarked on a community photography initiative which is boosting his income levels.

About Spire
Spire is a youth organization working for a just and sustainable distribution of the world’s resources which aims to examine the big connections that create injustice. Therefore, Spire  focuses on the environment, food safety and international trade. Spire influences politicians in Norway and internationally to create change.They  work with youth in the South and run information campaigns to inspire Norwegian youth to action. Spire is the Development Fund's youth organization(http://www.spireorg.no/english)
For more information on Mr.Musya’s visit please visit his blog

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Internet service boosts e-Government services access

Mutomo Maarifa Centre continues to offer free information services to Mutomo community.The community utilizes the Maarifa Centre in various ways ranging from internet services, library access and ICT trainings.By the virtue that it offers diverse opportunities, internet services remains the most sought after service.These range from online learning, email access to e-Government services.

Recently, the Government of Kenya introduced an online human resource platform known as Government Human Resource Information Service (GHRIS)  under which civil servants access their pay slip and other Human resource services online  upon updating their personal and professional profile.

But this system often poses a challenge to the civil servants who lack computer and internet skills .56 year old Musingila Matuku is one such user.When Mr.Matuku visited his bank to acquire a loan to pay his daughter's school fees, he was informed that among the documents that he was to present were  his current  pay slips.This posed a challenge for him since he had not even updated his profile under this system.

“However,I was advised to visit Mutomo Maarifa Centre to get assistance, “ says Mr. Matuku,a support staff with the Ministry of Water services .Here, he was assisted with updating his profile and downloading four of his pay slips which facilitated the bank loan processing.

“ I was able to secure the much needed loan my daughter’s school fees,” says Mr.Matuku who lauds the Maarifa Centre’s services citing that they are truly uplifting Mutomo Community’s living standards.

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