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Sustainable Schools Kenya

Posted by on Nov 17, 2014 in Kenya, Regions | Comments Off on Sustainable Schools Kenya

Our Sustainable Schools Initiative in Kenya provides education and infrastructure to schools, allowing students and communities to become working models for sustainability. By implementing experiential learning, students become aware of the role they play in relation to their food, water, energy and ultimately, the ecology of their region. We piloted this program at Daraja Academy and are excited to continue this project at two more schools during our next trip.

Those of you who are familiar with origin story of The Hummingbird Project know that Daraja Academy in Kenya is the fertile ground from which THP grew. Volunteering there in 2010 led to projects in Uganda, Thailand and India, and changed our lives from the inside out, beginning the journey that finally led us back to Daraja in early 2014.

The Daraja Academy of Kenya takes brilliant girls from all over the country who would otherwise not have the resources to pay for a high school education and provides them with a full 4-year scholarship. The girls live and learn on the 60-acre campus located in central Kenya.

 

Daraja Overview

 

Our work at Daraja centered on completing and implementing a permaculture plan which we began in 2010, designed to help the school store more water, grow more nutritious food for the 150+ students, faculty & staff and serve as a role model of sustainability for the surrounding villages.

As part of this, we taught a permaculture short course to the graduating senior class and taught and demonstrated the meaning of living soil to the entire school.

 

living soil demo

 

During this time, the girls helped plant several greywater systems to recycle wastewater, growing bananas, papayas, arrowroot & passion fruit in the process! Previously, the water from the showers was piped to a stagnant leach field. By diverting the greywater into banana pits, filled with compost and dry material to act as a living filter, the water now is recycled and used to grow food.

 

Greywater

 

One of the major concerns we had when designing the greywater systems was the toxicity of the soaps being used. This prompted us to research recipes for making biodegradable soaps out of local materials which would be compatible with our greywater system. Sure enough, the 2 main ingredients we needed- wood ash and lard- were readily available waste products on campus! The science teachers, butcher and students were eager to get involved in the soap making process.

 

soap making science

 

The project we were most eager to return to was the biogas digester.  As a non-profit, THP sprung from the intention to reduce the amount of charcoal and wood being burned for cooking at the school. During the end of our first trip to Daraja, we realized that we could build compost, swales and implement all the soil-building strategies we knew, but if we didn’t address the root of deforestation, we were not really making a big difference.

In March of this year, we installed a biogas digester to help the kitchen cook with a clean, renewable source of fuel instead of charcoal and wood, which has been the cause of so much deforestation in the region.

 

Biogas Photo

 

We also started an indigenous tree nursery to propagate local trees to be planted on campus and in the community. As always, the bright, curious girls of Daraja were keenly involved in everything we were doing. We organized a school-wide ‘Amazing Race’ contest, which involved tasks such as finding the most varieties of tree seeds, filling tree nursery bags with compost and planting papayas around the greywater pits. Many hands make the work light, especially when it is part of a game! Our trip also happened to coincide with the National Science Fair competition and it was no surprise that the girls wanted to do projects on biogas, greywater, soap making and soil microorganisms.

We also worked very closely with Maina, the lead farmer, to redesign the shamba (school farm), develop a crop calendar, build raised mulched garden beds on contour and start a seed bank to preserve the local varieties of vegetables which are quickly being replaced by ‘modern’ hybrids.

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We are so excited to be expanding the Sustainable Schools Initiative to work with 2 new schools and community partners in 2015! The devastating effects of illegal logging and deforestation in the area can be counter-acted by implementation of sustainable land management practices. By following nature, we can implement practices that are resilient, low cost, and empower communities to take responsibility for their own health and livelihood while regenerating ecosystems in the process. As these schools develop self-reliance at the community level, they create models for sustainable community development in Kenya and other developing countries. Working with the girls from Daraja Academy is continuously inspiring as we witness what is possible when we work together. The next generation becomes equipped with skills necessary for long-term regenerative transformations and the effort is rewarded many times over as the Earth flourishes with generous abundance.

 

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