Tapping Renewable Energy

Kenya Pastoralist Journalist Network, a non-profit media organisation based in arid and remote northern Kenya region held one day training and distribution of solar lamps to pastoralist students from far flung Atheley Primary school in Garissa district of North Eastern Province. The training targeted 100 students from drought ravaged and disaster prone village of Atheley that hosts hundreds of climate and conflict displaced families.

Atheley village is located in remote arid region of northern Kenya that borders war-torn Somalia and Ethiopia and the area has no communication or transport infrastructure. Recurrent conflicts and prolonged droughts, high illiteracy level, disasters and humanitarian crisis affect general development of the village.

The village hosts hundreds of families displaced by climatic shocks like prolonged drought, famine, armed conflicts as result of resource competition, flash floods during rainy season, drying water wells and diminishing pastures for livestock, armed cattle rustling necessitated by forced pastoralist restocking, hostile weather in grazing areas that contributes to community displacements, disruption of livelihoods and local traditional barter trade system and closure of traditional markets.

Atheley village has population of 20,000 pastoralist community and they rely on one unreliable water borehole for both human and livestocks while sanitation situation is bad with community members relieving themselves outside the village with women walking some kilometres away from the village to avoid sharing same open sanitation field with pastoralist men.

Atheley primary school offer education to 100 pastoralist students and the school has two semi-permanent structures sheltering 40 students while remaining 60 students attend their class under acacia trees situated within the school compound.

The students are from poor background and they are forced to abandon their evening homework session or home revision due to lack of light as their families cannot afford lamps and kerosene. Most students take advantage of evening cooking sessions at home and they revise using lights from cooking fire coming from burning firewood and they stop revision after end of the cooking session. Availability of firewood is another challenge and recurrent drought has cleared vegetation around the village with villagers trekking 50 kilometres in search of firewood for cooking. Families uses few available firewood sparingly and careful and the same applies to students planning to use cooking fire for revision or doing home-work.

Few families can afford kerosene lamps but they don’t allow their children to use it for revision or doing home-work due rising kerosene prices and its transportation from Garissa town to the far flung village.

The one day training and distribution of solar lamps targeted all school children in Atheley and their teachers. Trainers from KPJN took the group through various Renewable projects in neighbouring villages that targeted Traditional Birth Attendants and Pastoralist women groups and how such skills and tapping of abundant solar energy has transformed the activities and work of TBAs and women groups in Sankuri, Dadajibula, Raya, Balich, Dololo and Shimbirey villages in remote Garissa region.

The trainers informed the Atheley teachers and students on how they received report from women beneficiaries of the renewable project on how the school lacks infrastructure, equipment, classrooms, toilets and watering point thus necessitating Kenya Pastoralist Journalist Network to move very fast and offering training to the students and teachers and empowering them in tapping solar energy and using it for student school revision and home working thus saving them doing revision using cooking fire and kerosene lamps which both poses serious health risks to the school going children.

The students were first asked various questions by the trainers on how they face daily challenges like using firewood and kerosene lamps for study and what motivate them to face the challenges and soldiering on.

Most students acknowledged their poor setting and other narrating to the trainers how they escaped conflict field with their families, while others narrated how they trekked hundreds of kilometres to Atheley village after they were displaced by flash floods that decimated their livestock and reduced them to pauper. The students said that they have learnt the hard way from disasters, conflicts, famine, starvation and constant armed raids.

Before the training and distribution, Atheley school teachers and the students could not believe a small lamp can tap solar and the same providing bright lights that lasts several hours and they just heard that women from neighbouring villages were given solar kits and it has changed their lives. The headmaster told the trainer that he thought women groups from neighbouring villages were given large solar panels that transmit light from solar but he was surprised to hear a small wonderful lamp that lights villages, brightens women groups meetings, aiding traditional birth attendants in offering safe deliveries and also reducing respiratory illness in neighbouring villages caused by kerosene lamps.

Atheley teachers and student were trained on how to use the solar lamps and also charging and maintaining while in use by group of students doing night revision or night preps.

After the training 100 students went into 10 groups of 10 students and they came up with timetable on how to use the solar lamps and maintaining it. Each group appointed a solar lamp prefect who keeps the lamp on behalf of the group and report to the school head teacher on how the solar lamp is used on weekly basis.


Report from Abjata Khalif, Kenya Pastoralist Journalist Network

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