Lake Victoria Wetland Villages experience multiple problems. These problems include many water-borne diseases as locals depend on rivers, lakes, springs and wells with water that is contaminated with human fecal matter and other contaminants for household consumption. Additionally, wetlands are experiencing degradation, and biodiversity is decreasing through anthropogenic activities such as reclamation for farming and settlement, burning, and over-harvesting of wetlands vegetation. These practices lead to the impairment of crucial ecosystem goods and services. Thus the overarching goal of the project is to mobilize wetland village communities towards improvement of their wetland’s integrity, water, and sanitation improvement for sound health and livelihood security. The importance of project goal to the community has been captured through Ecofinder Kenya, historical work and interactions with the wetland village communities, and information derived through Participatory Rural Appraisal.
This project is a local initiative toward the conservation and improvement of Lake Victoria wetlands with the intension of linking wetlands communities’ livelihoods, water and sanitation, and the locals’ health situation. This project includes the mutual benefit of wetland conservation to preserve the critical ecosystem’s goods and services as well as grass-root poverty alleviation through productive ecological sanitation, wetland habitat restoration, wetland eco-cultural tourism promotion, and capacity building and training. The initiative revolves around productive ecological sanitation for its multiple benefits and co-benefits. This involves the promotion of simple ecological sanitation technology. The Ecosan toilets are constructed on a cost-sharing basis to selected households. The Ecosan toilet separates human feces and urine and enables recycling without contamination of springs or well, river, and lake water. The prevention of such water contamination prevents water-borne and related diseases. The human feces or night soil is sanitized with ash and after six months used as organic manure for farming. Urine is also diluted with water in the ratio of 1:5, exposed to sunlight and used for crops top dressing. Through the use of this technology, wetland households may move back to their original farms, away from wetlands which they deserted due to loss of fertility, and practice organic farming. This is linked to the provision of small-scale irrigation technology (tube wells and money-maker pumps sourced from Kick-Start in Kisumu, Kenya, which capitalize on low-water table characteristics of wetland villages. In this way wetlands are restored to provide critical ecosystem goods and services. Moreover, sanitation entrepreneurs who are mostly youths are trained in construction and repair of the Ecosan toilets and enabled to create sanitation-based employment in their respective wetland villages.
Ecofinder Kenya and its local partners are grass-root based organizations, hence are situated and operate in the wetland villages. This has made conceptualization of what mattered to the community possible through observation, immersion, and intense dialogue or stakeholders’ communication. Participatory methodologies such as Participatory Rural Appraisal, Interactive Radio, Applied Drama and Puppetry, and Baseline Surveys has enabled discovery of what mattered to Lake Victoria Wetland Villages Community and additional local needs. These approaches have enabled identification of internal and external resources to address the identified concerns and inform stakeholders for resource mobilization purposes.
The involvement of the community was ensured through a participatory planning approach. The project is run by one Project Manager and several Project Officers based in wetland villages on daily basis. Project Advisory Committee (PAC) and Project Implementation Committee (PIC) incorporate project beneficiaries, and other stakeholders facilitate participatory planning and proactive involvement through representation. Village Barazas, or meetings, allow target community members, community interest groups, and volunteers to contribute to project planning.
The major activities included productive ecological sanitation that involved the construction of Ecosan toilets on a cost-sharing basis; these toilets allowed for organic farming away from wetlands and curbed human-wildlife conflicts, improving water and sanitation. This is linked to provision of small-scale irrigation technology (tube wells and money maker pumps sourced from Kick-Start in Kisumu, Kenya). Another major activity was capacity building and training, which involved wetland conservation awareness and education along with training local institutions such as Village Environmental Committees, Beach Management Units, Site Conservation Groups, and Common Interests Groups and Schools on wetlands management, entrepreneurship, and organizational leadership. Promotion of eco-cultural tourism was also utilized. This activity focused on marketing tourism products such as avitourism, material culture, and water sports or cruises. Habitat restoration involved replanting the landscape with native plants, particularly targeting wetlands. Wetland survey and monitoring was undertaken bi-annually and involved the collection of biophysical and socio-economic indicators through community volunteers to map the wetland ecosystem trends and impacts of conservation efforts. The community mobilization was undertaken through various social networks (schools, community groups, churches, provincial administration) and media such as local FM radio, applied drama and puppetry, a stakeholders’ forum, and village barazas or meetings.
The project is evaluated through a participatory monitoring and evaluation (PME) approach. This consists of the establishment of PME committees that involve project beneficiaries in monitoring and evaluating the project in terms of targeted outcome indicators. Periodic monitoring throughout project implementation, by means of collecting information on specific indicators and following a detailed work plan and budget, allow for constant evaluation. This evaluation information can be shared and presented in monthly progress and annual reports. The adaptive management approach that was employed allows for learning and remedial action through strategic flexibility. Monitoring and evaluation revealed issues such as weak local institutions, poor community incentives, cultural prejudice against human manure, which enabled us to emphasize our approach on enabling local institutions, promotion of income-generation activities linked to conservation and awareness, and education for change in attitudes and behavior towards human manure.
This project aims to achieve sustainability through participatory planning and the establishment of grass-roots structures. The empowerment of grass-roots institutions such as site conservation groups, village environment committees, and beach management units and their proactive involvement in planning and decision-making has guaranteed long-term presence and leadership of the project past its originally planned lifespan and eliminated the dependence on a single individual or group. Similarly, Ecofinder Kenya is a grass-roots initiative with sustainable volunteer recruitment and training mechanisms that will guarantee continued presence and delivery of the herein stated activities post-project life. Financial sustainability of the project is guaranteed by inbuilt income-generating enterprises linked to the wetlands ecosystem and hence provides incentives for their conservation with a certain percentage ploughed back directly into Lake Victoria Wetlands conservation endeavors. Equally, grass-root institutions will be trained on resource mobilization from both internal and external sources. Financial mechanisms such as bio rights and saving for change will be promoted among women and youth groups for sustainability.
The wetland village community awareness, participation, and self-organization on environmental management and livelihood-improvement issues have gotten better. The results include an increase in the number of wetland farmers and households adopting productive ecological sanitation and reduction of cultural prejudices linked to the utilization of night soil human manure. This has reduced human fecal contamination of water bodies and consequent water-borne diseases; improved food supplies and incomes of involved households through organic farming; reduced the prevalence of human-wildlife conflicts and linked loss of crops, property, and lives; and enhanced wetlands ecosystem integrity for crucial ecosystem goods and services. Further, increased numbers of self-help groups and collective actions for wetlands conservation and livelihood improvement have been recorded. For example, this case will illustrate the benefits of productive ecological sanitation. Mr. Rangoro is both a farmer and businessman in Dunga. Before Ecosan, he used to produce a crate of tomatoes in three months. He never cultivated other crops because he didn’t have enough money to purchase manure. However, through the manure provided by his Ecosan toilet, in the same three-month time period Paul now produces three crates of tomatoes, three sacks of cowpeas, three sacks of kale, and 500 onions.
Ecofinder Kenya Website: www.ecofinderkenya.org