Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Kitui county representatives visit the Maarifa Centre

By Rhoda Musili
Early this morning, Mutomo Maarifa Centre was privileged to host Kitui county officials who were on a tour to familiarize themselves on Maarifa Centre operations with a bias on ICT provision services.

Ms. Emma Ngute listens keenly to a point(Photo: Rhoda
Among the visitors was Ms. Emma Ngute, the assistant director in charge of ICT and Kamunda John, the assistant director, Trade. The two officials were accompanied by Mr. Antony Mugo, Deputy Director, ALIN.

During the meeting, the Field Officer, Ms. Rhoda Musili outlined Maarifa Centre services focusing on the impact of ICT training especially to the youth.
The county officials interact with ALIN's Deputy Director
Antony Mugo (Right) and Maarifa Centre beneficiaries

(Photo: Rhoda Musili/ALIN)

She elaborated that 419 community members had benefited from ICT training that ran for the period January 2012-July 2013 pointing out that 79% youth benefited while 21% of the trainees were adults.
The visitors also heard that apart from ICT training, community members also benefited from e-government services, library services as well as capacity building opportunities.

Mr. Mugo informed the visitors that ALIN, through Sokopepe was providing market linkages between producers and buyers.

The Maarifa Centre’s Advisory committee chairman Mr. Benson Nyamai expanded on the committee’s role of providing linkages between the local community to the Maarifa Centre emphasizing the committee was comprised of community group leaders, local government representatives and other organizations working within the locality.

Trainees who had benefited from the training also elaborated how they are now able to use the gained skills to engage in income generating activities and also to secure jobs which have led to an improved livelihood.

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.

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