Monday, December 19, 2011

Analysis of the Koins/SRA Projects in Mnyenzeni

Analysis of the Koins for Kenya
and Self Reliant Agriculture Projects in Mnyenzeni

By Lonny J. Ward, M.S., M.B.A.
Endowed Prosperity International

Eddison, Patrick and Lonny
From October 28th to November 10th I had the opportunity to work in the village of Mnyenzeni with Koins for Kenya (Koins) and The Institute for Self Reliant Agriculture (SRA). My purpose in going there was to evaluate the program and to assist in designing and implementing a goat milking project. The following is a report of my visit and an evaluation of the SRA program and the Koins project in general.

The Koins for Kenya project is very impressive. The key to the success of the project lies with Bret Van Leeuwen and his love for the Kenyan people. Bret has surrounded himself with some good people to help carry the work forward but the project still rests heavily on his shoulders. There are great synergies between the local Kenyan people and the American staff. This cooperation has led to a very efficient use of the funds raised by the Koins staff.

Bret inspiring the school children

The focus of Koins for Kenya is to improve the education of children by building and furnishing schools. There have been 5000 to 6000 children taught in these new and improved school facilities. Thousands of other people have been positively influenced by Koins’ presence in the Mnyenzeni area as the Koins’ projects have gone forward.

By combining Koins’ efforts with SRA it is hoped that their influence will reach broader and deeper into the lives of the Kenyan people. Families will be educated and assisted in developing their own gardens and small farms that will greatly improve their diets and eventually provide them a significant source of income. The focus of this project is to improve their diets so that the people will be healthier and the children will grow and learn better. There have been instances where improvements in the student’s diets have already had dramatic positive effects on their ability to learn. SRA and Koins together make a good team.

The Institute for Self Reliant Agriculture (SRA)
The focus and goals of the SRA are to help the villagers become self reliant by growing their own food. This goal is reached through a program where the SRA staff teach and train the local population how to raise their own food. Most of these villagers have access to land where they can plant gardens and raise animals but the land is not used efficiently. The SRA model is very appropriate for this situation where the resources are available but not well used. The program’s success depends a great deal on the ability of the staff to inspire and teach the villagers and the willingness of the villages to make the plan work.

Koins provides a fertile location for the SRA to implement its program. The structure is such that the SRA staff can set up their demonstration plots on the Koins’ land. The trust that the Koins staff has earned among the villages is critical to their acceptance of the program. This trust and respect can be leveraged by SRA as they start to teach the people. As the SRA program succeeds, the people can better feed themselves. As a result the students will do better in school. There will be more money produced and retained in the village. The combined Koins and SRA projects give the people the tools to lift themselves out of poverty and starvation.

SRA Staff
Tom Rasmussen is the vice president of The Institute for Self Reliant Agriculture (SRA) and has been the face of the SRA in Kenya. He has limited experience with agriculture but has a passion about the program that is key to its success. Tom hired two well qualified Kenyans, Patrick and Eddison, as the animal and garden experts. They are both well qualified for those positions and are aggressively pushing the project forward. SRA is able to leverage the Koins’ Kenyan staff so they can run very efficiently. As the project expands it will be necessary to hire additional staff to coordinate the project.

Tom, Patrick and a worker at the Rotational Garden and Hen House

Rotational Garden
The rotational garden is set up to produce all year round. Each garden is divided into four sections that are planted several weeks apart in a rotational system. At least one of the garden sections is producing and ready to harvest at all times. Each of the four garden sections contains similar crops which are customized to the nutritional needs of the family and the availability of water.

Eddison has four plots set up and two of them planted. These gardens are well on their way to producing food. In addition to the traditional gardens they have a nursery for starting the plants. The seeds start out planted closely together, then once they have grown a couple of inches tall they are transplanted to the regular gardens. This is a way of jump starting the program for those who are planting their first garden.

Another innovative idea that they are working on is the “feed sack” garden. The feed sack is filled with soil and has seeds planted both on the top and in small holes on the side of the sack. Because of its compactness and vertical positioning it is very efficient in its use of water. Villagers can wash their hands and face above the sack and the water that falls onto the sack can provide enough water for the plants to grow.

The principle purpose of the rotational gardens is to provide a balanced diet to the family first. Once the needs of the family are met, surplus produce could be sold providing some income to the family. The family would be better off because they have a balanced diet and some additional income. The community would be better off because there would be more food for consumption. This would result in a net increase in the economic prosperity of the village. Less money would be going out of the village for food, and more money would come into the village as food was sold to the surrounding areas. For example, the tomatoes sold in the Mnyenzeni store and purchased in Mombasa but are grown near Nairobi. Mnyenzeni could easily grow their own tomatoes and sell their surplus to markets in Mombasa.

Animal Projects

The chicken project was created to teach families how to raise chickens in a small enclosure near their home. The eggs are collected and stored by the family in a cooling chamber. This is done so that the laying hens will continue laying eggs instead of just nesting. One or more hens will be selected to nest on a dozen eggs at a time for the 21 day incubation period.

As chicks hatch out of the eggs, they are separated into a nursery and new eggs are introduced to be incubated. Using this method, Mwayele, a neighboring farmer, has raised close to 2000 chickens from an original flock of 12 hens in only two years. The sale of these chickens paid his children’s school tuition and gave him seed money to start a goat project.
Eddison and Patrick with a trainee in front of the hen house

Patrick has set up a hen house next to the garden area on the Koins compound. The structure has layer hen boxes on one side, a roosting area in the middle and a nesting area on the other side. The structure is built up off the ground so that the manure and urine will fall through the floor onto the ground below. This model keeps the pen clean, breaks the cycle of internal parasites and makes it easy to gather the manure to use as fertilizer on garden plots.

The hen house was made from locally available materials by a local builder and will be used as a model to build smaller hen houses for village families. It will also be used in the training program for the villagers. Families will be given training and a few chickens with the expectation that they will return the chickens once they have offspring.

An important part of this project is to require the villagers to purchase or earn everything that they receive so that they will feel ownership of their project. Patrick’s goal is for each family to be able to eat one chicken weekly as part of their diet. They will also have enough eggs that each person in the family can eat one egg weekly. The rest of the eggs will be used for growing the flock. Even though this may seem like a small amount, the nutritional benefits will be enormous compared to the low-protein diet that the majority of villagers normally eat.

With proper training and ongoing support from the SRA, each family could be successful at raising chickens. These chickens would provide food for the family, a source of income and fertilizer for their rotational gardens. It would be an achievable step for them and make a significant positive impact for the community.

The purpose of the goat project is to raise goats that will provide both milk and meat for the local schools and eventually for families. SRA and Koins will develop a goat herd that will be used for training. This herd will also produce goats for sale to the schools and families that have been trained. The schools will use the goats to provide milk for their lunch program. The villagers and the school children will learn firsthand how to care for the goats properly.

The milk from the Koins herd will also be made available to the local dispensary to be used for babies that cannot receive milk from their mothers due to AIDS, other illnesses or death. Goats that are not used for milking or breeding will be slaughtered for meat.

The greatest immediate effect of this project will be the milk for babies and young children. In some cases this milk will be life-saving, either immediately or in the long run. The milk will provide critical nutrients that will help with their general health and their physical and mental development. There will likely be an increase in the test scores of the children who receive milk at school.

Mwayele is a nearby farmer that has participated in Patrick and Eddison’s animal program and currently has 90 goats. Among his herd are Gala goats that are faster growing and produce more milk than the local breeds. They are doing well on his farm and would be a good choice for the Mnyenzeni area.

Mwayele showing his goats and chickens to the Koins and SRA group

In two years, Mwayele has gone from a poor farmer with 12 chickens to a successful farmer with 300 chickens and 90 goats. He has been able to feed and care for his wife, four children and his two nephews after their parents died. He has now opened a small store and has purchased a solar panel that provides electricity to the store and home.

Mwayele purchased his goats at Eicheha Farm in Taveta so Patrick and Lonny went there to identify the best goats to use for the training herd. They selected 3 males and 21 females from among the best goats on the farm. The goats had been recently vaccinated and were ready for transport to Mnyenzeni at the end of November.

Using local materials and laborers, a goat house was built to be used for the Gala goat herd. Bret and the Koins staff worked out an agreement with the neighboring school to harvest their grass. The grass will be dried and stored to be fed during the dry season.

Lonny, Patrick, Tom and Eddison with school children taking a short break from the construction of the new goat house

The goat project will be more complicated than the other projects and require more training and follow up by the SRA staff. However, if managed correctly, this project has the most potential for dramatically changing the community. This is because the goats will provide enough income for a father to provide for his family without having to procure outside work. Currently many of the men leave home and travel to Mombasa to work a week at a time, leaving their families without a father for long periods of time. This social situation causes many problems which can be resolved if the fathers are able to work in their own village and be with their families. Overall, the goat project can and will have a major positive effect on the community.

A critical component in the lives of these people and a major focus for Koins and the SRA is providing them with clean water. There are two rainy seasons where water is plentiful, but these seasons are separated by months of very dry conditions where water becomes scarce. There is one small water line that runs past the village and provides a little water to some of the people. However, most of the people obtain their water from puddles in the roads, the river bottoms or man-made storage ponds.

The water storage tank that collects the water from the KCC roof

Koins has implemented several water storage projects and is currently implementing several other new ideas. Large water tanks have been constructed to collect rain water from the tin roofs of the community center, the church, the hospital and the dispensary. This water is much cleaner than what is collected from the rivers and puddles. A significant amount of water is collected this way but is not enough for the needs of the compound and new ideas for obtaining, cleaning and storing water are needed. As the garden and animal projects expand, it will be critical to have more water available for these projects.

Koins partnered with engineers Kevin Nielsen and Shad Roundy from CH2MHill to build a retention dam in a river bed that is near the village. This dam will provide a significant amount of water to be used for the garden and animal projects. It will also serve as a model for building additional dams in the future on this river and on others in the surrounding area.

Kevin and Shad surveying damage after a sudden downpour
Kevin, Buffalo and Lonny as dam construction continues

In order to provide more clean drinking water for the village, Koins is also working with which has a hand-operated well drilling machine called the “village drill”. It is hoped that the Ben Taylor Workshop on the Koins compound can serve as a manufacturing site for these village drills. It is hoped that they will be able to drill wells in all of the surrounding villages at very reasonable rates. Because of their simplicity and their manual component they can be used with a limited amount of training and skill. The villagers drill their own wells which gives them pride and ownership of the wells.

Obtaining, cleaning and storing water is critical to improving the lives of the Kenyan people and is central to the success of any projects. Koins has developed successful ways of retaining the water and is continuing to look for and develop additional water resources. The lives of these villagers will be forever improved as they learn to better use the resources that are available to them.

Summary and Analysis
Overall I am very impressed and excited about the cooperative project between Koins for Kenya and The Institute for Self Reliant Agriculture in the Mnyenzeni area. The land has incredible resources that will provide food and income for the people as they learn how to develop and utilize them. Koins has the confidence of the villagers and provides a location for training. The SRA provides the model for success and the staff to implement the training.

The SRA model of teaching basic self reliance to alleviate poverty and death has been well researched and proven successful in other areas. Because it takes time to gain the respect and confidence of the villagers in a new area, partnering with an existing organization that has already developed this confidence means that more lives are saved faster.

This same type of cooperative effort should be used in many other villages to hasten the work of teaching people how to lift themselves out of poverty and into a successful, flourishing condition. Positively changing the lives of these wonderful people is exciting and fulfilling.

Patrick, Lonny, Eddison and Jones in front of completed goat house

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Village Well

During 2011, Koins for Kenya partnered with, an organization that has developed a human powered drill for more affordable water well drilling.

This Village Drill is very suitable for rural villages that are off the beaten path, with limited or no accessibility to the traditional large drilling rigs needed to drill a well.  This is new technology that has the potential to change the face of rural third world poverty and water related issues. 

With the BTW workshop already in place in the Koins service area, we are preparing to work with to manufacture and distribute these hand operated drills throughout Africa in 2012.  We are excited about the possibilities.  Clean and accessible water has always been a problem in the Koins service area, and in many third world countries around the world. 

Here are a few water related facts:

• 884 million people lack access to safe water supplies; approximately one in eight people.
• 3.75 million People die each year from water-related disease, 84% are children.
• Diarrhea causes 1.4 million children’s deaths every year.  More than AIDS, malaria and measles
• The ability to bring clean safe drinking water to impoverished nations is the number one concern of governments and NGO's, yet the problem still remains wholly unsolved. 

Here is a short video about the Village Drill:

With the help of LDS Humanitarian, Koins has established 3 wells within our service area in the past.  Each well cost over $10,000 to provide.  The Village Drill will allow a perpetual water source to be provided, at a cost of approximately $3,500 per well.  In addition to the gift of fresh water, the Village Drill project will also provides jobs to Kenyans, both on the manufacturing side, and in the labor of the actual well drilling. 

Your donations are needed now more than ever.  We have a real chance of creating a new world at a cost of about $2 per person.  A $3,500 donation will bring clean, fresh, accessible water to an entire village.  Join us today and be a part of history.  Donate here.  Choose Water Projects as your donation destination.

Asante Sana!


Monday, December 5, 2011

How Would You Save Africa's Children?

Bret will be a guest on VoiceAmerica Talk Radio tomorrow, December 6, at 11:00 a.m. MST.  The link to the radio program is

This is in conjunction with our partnership with Self-Reliant Agriculture. 

The discussion will be the food crisis in Africa, and what Koins for Kenya and Self Reliant Agriculture see as a small scale solution to the problem.

Listen in and see how you can be part of the solution.