I finally visited Got Osimbo, the village where we want to start the new project. We have secured ten acres there (partly seen in the photo below), on which we want to establish a training and community center on that land in the next couple months and years.
I was invited to stay at the home of the chief of the area, Victor Opondo, in a village near by. They were very welcoming and I had a great time getting to know the whole family a bit. It was also an opportunity to experience the rural african lifestyle first hand: no fluent water, no electricity. It is interesting, that coming from the West one is often under the impression, that these things are so essential to life and that if someone doesn't have fluent water and electricity he must be really poor. However it is a bit different here. Most villages are simply not connected to the water or electricity grit, even though that is changing slowly. Therefore it is completely normal not to have electricity or fluent water and since most people have grown up without these luxuries anyways, they don't even think this is anything special. I met many people who are very well educated and have a bachelor or even masters degree, they have good jobs as teachers or doctors or in the administration and have spend time in the city, but now they live without fluent water or electricity.
Apart from the external differences life is not so different in the villages after all. People work, have meetings, spend time with their families, drink chai, cook and eat, go to school and meet friends. The fact that life might not be so comfortable and people have less material possessions doesn't really change a lot and people don't feel that poor either. I think it might be the strong contrast of lifestyles and the fact that wealth seems so easily reachable in our society that makes people so unhappy with what they have most strongly fueled with the strong stigma that is attached to being poor in our society. There is a lot more to learn from life in the villages here and I am looking forward to experiencing some more of it in the future.
Even though life might often be much better in the villages than in the slums it is not without problems. There are some cultural problems like alcoholism, criminality and gender inequality, there is lack of education for some children and lack of knowledge about farming more sustainable and effectively and there are ecological problems. Of course many of these problems are related to each other and can ultimately just be solved by the people themselves. We hope to be able to facilitate people to face some of those problems and try to find solutions together with them. It is our vision that our ten acres in the village will become a community and learning center of the people in the village. Where bible studies can take place in the shade of trees, where people will work and harvest good crops and where the benefit and value of caring for the environment will be visible.
One of the biggest environmental problems in the villages is the cutting down of trees for firewood production. Most people rely on Firewood and charcoal for cooking and many just use three stones for cooking. I talked with chief Victors wife about their cooking practices and we went to buy firewood and charcoal from their neighbor - a very old lady who get's her only income from selling some firewood that she collects from the remaining trees on her compound. Cooking with wood is actually not cheap. If you would cook with wood on three stones you will have to buy around 20-30 pounds of wood per day for more than a dollar. If you cook with charcoal you end up spending mostly the same amount of money. Because many people can't afford that, they go and illegally collect wood. Sometimes they walk many kilometers for that and their children have to help them. On top of that cooking on open fire produces a lot of smoke and the kitchens usually don't even have windows, so it is very bad for your health. However even with a self build cooker you can save half the wood and avoid the smoke, that is a huge improvement.
Another possibility would of course be cooking with gas. But the main obstacle here is the cultural change, because cooking with gas is a very different experience than cooking with wood and you have to invest into a new cooker and buy a gas bottle. From there on you will safe some money though since gas is not that expensive. Even better than just buying gas is of course producing you own gas. Even if you just have two cows you can already produce enough biogas for your cooking. Patrick, a friend from the village actually knew someone in the area who is just building a bio digester. We are also in the process of implementing a bio digester at the Omondi farm right now and we are partnering with a company who also promotes bio digesters which can even produce enough gas for cooking from 2 pounds of kitchen waste per day. I believe bio digesters are a great energy solution for some farmers and we hope to be able to promote them in various regions.
All in all my initial trip to the village was very fruitful and I made many great connections, to the school, some people from the church, the chief and other people in the administration and some people in the area. I am very much looking forward to seeing our project there getting started and returning to the area. For more photos from Got Osimbo go here.
Some Days at Lake Victoria
After my time in Got Osimbo I spent a couple days in Kisumu together with the Albitz family (the missionaries I met in the beginning of my time here). They have settled into their new home in Kisumu and we had a lot of fun together: going to an Independence day party, worshipping together on sunday, sharing lunch with a family from church in the country side, visiting a museum, making connections to people from other NGOs, hanging around at the shore of lake Victoria, eating some pizza and Asian food, playing with the kids and having many good conversations. For more photos from Kisumu go here.