Archive for November 6th, 2008

International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict

Posted on 6 November 2008. Filed under: Environment, MDGs |

Today is 6th November officially recognised by the United Nations each year as the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.

On 5 November 2001, the General Assembly declared 6 November of each year as the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict (resolution 56/4). In taking this action, it considered that damage to the environment in times of armed conflict impairs ecosystems and natural resources long after the period of conflict, often extending beyond the limits of national territories and the present generation. The Assembly also recalled the United Nations Millennium Declaration, which emphasized the necessity of working to protect our common environment.

The UN Secretary-General’s Message on the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict

6 November 2008 – The natural environment enjoys protection under Protocol 1 of the Geneva Conventions. But this protection is often violated during war and armed conflict. Water wells are polluted, crops torched, forests cut down, soils poisoned, and animals killed, all in order to gain military advantage. The draining of the marshlands of the Euphrates-Tigris Delta during the 1990s deliberately targeted the ecosystem for political and military goals.

From the Balkans to Afghanistan, from Lebanon to Sudan, the United Nations is studying the environmental impacts of conflict across the world. We have seen how environmental damage and the collapse of institutions are threatening human health, livelihoods and security.

These risks can also jeopardize fragile peace and development in post-conflict societies. In Afghanistan, warfare and institutional disintegration have combined to take a major toll. In a clear case of environmentally induced displacement, tens of thousands of people have been forced from rural to urban areas in search of food and employment.

The environment and natural resources are crucial in consolidating peace within and between war-torn societies. Several countries in the Great Lakes Region of Africa established trans-boundary cooperation to manage their shared natural resources. Lasting peace in Darfur will depend in part on resolving the underlying competition for water and fertile land. And there can be no durable peace in Afghanistan if the natural resources that sustain livelihoods and ecosystems are destroyed.

The United Nations attaches great importance to ensuring that action on the environment is part of our approach to peace. Protecting the environment can help countries create employment opportunities, promote development and avoid a relapse into armed conflict. On this International Day, let us renew our commitment to preventing the exploitation of the environment in times of conflict, and to protecting the environment as a pillar of our work for peace.

Related: Destroying the Environment is also a WAR CRIME

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Profile : Catherine Mwango’s Success Story at KWAHO

Posted on 6 November 2008. Filed under: Environment, Food Security, Governance |

Maji na Usafi Voices! newsletter had an incisive chat with Mrs. Catherine Mwango, executive director, Kenya Water and Health Organization (KWAHO). We bring you the rich excerpts of the far-reaching achievements of one of the founder members of KEWASNET.

Q. What is KWAHO’s establishment and mandate?

KWAHO is a national Non-governmental Organization(NGO) founded in 1976 as project of the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK) which was registered as an NGO in 1983 with a mission to improve the health status and livelihoods of disadvantaged communities by facilitating access to safe drinking and adequate water, improved sanitation and promotion of hygiene education, management of sustainable environment and promotion of income generating initiatives, especially for women as prioritized by the Kenya Women delegation to the International Women Conference in Mexico in 1975.

Q. What is the rate of achievement on the core objectives KWAHO’s founders?

Over the period KWAHO has significantly achieved what were the core objectives of the eminent women of Kenya and in whom in close collaboration with the Government of Kenya, founded KWAHO as the gender focused WATSAN organization.

Factors contributing to this success among others have been KWAHO’s committed core staff drawn from various professions in the fields of geology, Water engineering/technicians, Sociologists/Community Capacity builders, Environmental/Public Health officers, Water quality technicians, and drillers working under focused executive direction of her board of management.

Q. What are the thematic focus areas for KWAHO on water and sanitation?

Water supply facilitation to disadvantaged communities both in the rural areas and informal settlements through collaboration with the target communities or schools install water points with the following technological options; borehole/Shallow well drilling, rainwater harvesting, spring protection, and gravity system where appropriate, etc. These are largely in the rural areas. Water facilities availed to the urban communities being storage tanks.

Access to Water Quality through the promotion of Solar Water Disinfection (SODIS) at the Point of Use (POU). This is one of the most effective and low cost Household Water Treatment technologies (HWTS).

Ensuring quality testing of water from all installed water points.

Sanitation – Construction of sanitation facilities using conventional technologies such as Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) latrines and Ecological Sanitation (Ecosan) or adoption of appropriate sanitation facility models i.e. the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) training.

Intensive Capacity building of communities and schools in the areas of project initiation, implementation, and Operation and Maintenance (O&M) and sustainability issues.

Helping communities to form water and sanitation committees and Health Clubs at schools to manage the facilities.

Hygiene Education and promotion and related to water and sanitation.

Environmental of water resources management and conservation

Income generating activities for economic empowerment that becomes necessary for Water Rights Users after the communities have increased access to water and improved their health.

In all its activities, KWAHO endeavors to mainstream gender as one of the surest ways of increasing participation by all in water and sanitation issues at all levels.

Q. What is the geographical scope of current KWAHO projects?

Over her period of existence, KWAHO has had projects in all the provinces of Kenya with some spectacular projects that won her international recognition such as the Kwale Water and Sanitation project, the Wongonyi piped scheme, the Ndakaini and OlKalao projects in Central province, the Tharaka Nithi and Wamunyu projects in Eastern province, Baringo and Nakuru districts in Rift Valley, Lower Tana Delta district, Butere-Mumias WatSan, etc.

However, KWAHO’s scope of current project coverage are as below with considerable success rating.Coast Province – Lower Tana Delta Water and Sanitation project funded by the Austrian Development Agency (ADC/ADA) for over 20 years. Nyanza Province : Kombewa and Maseno divisions WatSan funded by ADA for the last 17 years. Siaya district – East Gem WATSAN funded by WaterCan EauVive, Canada. Sustaining and Scaling School Water and Sanitation Hygiene Plus Community Impact (SWASH+) in 105 schools and its environ in Rachuonyo and Suba districts assisted by Bill and Melinda Gates through WPI and others. Nyalenda SODIS project funded by Eawag/Sandec,

Western Province – Butere Mumias district EU/GTZ/ KWAHO EcoSan Promotion project in Mumias district; Rift Valley – Samburu district Ndoto Njema water and Sanitation project funded by LIECHTENSTEIN (L.E.D) Development Service of Germany. North-Eastern Province – Wajir project SODIS funded by UNICEF. Nairobi Province – Kibera and Mukuru WATSAN funded by WaterCan Eavive Canada. Solar Water Disinfection (SODIS) at households and in schools in Makina, Kisumu Ndogo, Mashimoni, Kianda and Gatweikera villages in Kibera and in Mukuru Kwa Njenga in informal settlements. Projects funded by Solaqua Foundation, Rotary Clubs and Lions Club through Department of and SANDEC in Switzerland.

Q. What are KWAHO’s upcoming projects?

  • Enhancing Water Governance through a Human Rights Based approach a pilot project for Bondo and Siaya districts to be funded by UNDP
  • SUFA – Clean Water for Schools project in Eastern province, Makueni district
  • EU/GTZ EcoSan Promotion project in Siaya and Rarieda districts

Q. What are KWAHO’s successes so far?

Since its inception over 33 years ago, KWAHO has reached over 2.5 million people in Kenya as direct beneficiaries in her core activities in the area of Water and Sanitation. Several water facilities have been installed jointly with communities and schools around Kenya. Some of the projects referred to above are just among the many projects whose scope covered all the provinces of Kenya.

Apart from communities, KWAHO has impacted greatly in a number of schools and public institutions such as health centers etc. Through these programmes KWAHO ensures that the benefiting communities have attained;

(a)  Increased awareness in the communities on the necessity of accessing safe drinking water is evident

(b)  Better access to safe water within reasonable distances for domestic and livestock use

(c)  Behavioral change achieved due to appropriate personal hygiene practices acquired after intensive hygiene education and promotion through PHAST, PHASE, CHASE etc. KWAHO has through institutional capacity building of groups put in place various committees that are able to collect and utilize funds collected from the water and sanitation facilities appropriately in terms of O&M.

(d)  Through technical training of the communities for Operation and Maintenance (O&M) of the facilities for sustainability, the communities have acquired the capacity (relevant skills) to manage, operate, maintain, sustain facilities and replicate them.

(e)  Human capacity building through training of artisans within the project areas.

(e)    Water resources in the respective areas of operation are well protected because of the resultant training on environmental management training that go with WATSAN provision by KWAHO

(f)    Incidences of water borne diseases such as diarrhea have declined due to availability of water and sanitation facilities and the related hygiene training for behavioral change through improved hygiene.

(g)    Has mobilized various communities and linked them with other Stake holders i.e. government for better WATSAN services.

(h)   KWAHO has capacity build communities to engage positively in income generating activities to improve their livelihoods under the theme ‘After Water What’. As women get more time saved from fetching water from long distances, the extra time is spent on carrying out income generating activities that for income.

(i)     Improved income levels for economic empowerment.

(j)     At school level reduced absenteeism by the pupils especially girls

(k)   Has mobilized various communities and linked them with key Stake holders i.e. government for better WATSAN services.

Special areas of mention are as follows:

Capacity building: KWAHO uses her vast experience gained over the years in the sector in community mobilization, training for capacity building and project sustainability. The skills imparted on the community enables them to plan, implement and monitor their own water and environmental initiatives. KWAHO invests sufficient efforts in preparing modules and toolkits for training programmes designed for community resource persons. A substantive part of the project’s skills enhancement component is devoted to facilitating training workshops and exchange visits with community representatives.

Community Participation: KWAHO’s community participation approach is premised on the principle that the project’s primary stakeholders are better placed to challenge, question and make choices from the development initiatives and the menu of technologies that are available to them. The development process is locally driven to incorporate the principles and concepts of sustainable livelihoods, partnership, inclusiveness, and participation. This helps to promote a sense of ownership among the target beneficiaries, which is very vital for the sustainability of the development process.

Gender mainstreamed into projects – Equity achieved : KWAHO is sensitive to the needs of both men and women by ensuring gender equity in the allocation of resources and representation in the decision making process and implementation in WATSAN projects. Emphasis is however laid on women and children because they are the most vulnerable and marginalized in the communities. The intervention strategies selected aim at addressing factors i.e. cultural or religious that normally constraint sufficient access by women and children to better livelihoods and education opportunities in the target areas.

KWAHO’s joy is what the communities we work have to say about what they get from our projects. Giving the example below:

Extra Time Saved: When water is a provided to a community, many women are able to use the extra time saved as a result of reduced distances to the water point to do household chores effectively. Others engage into Income Generating Activities (IGAs) such as selling farm produce e.g. vegetables, fruits, cereals, while others run small home based shops. This is what one woman from Nyapora Tusaidiane group had to say when the above borehole was installed in their community with the help of KWAHO

Nowadays I earn more money from “Muraba” (which means offering farm labour in another person’s farm for payment) because I am able to work longer hours given that water is close by to my home. I don’t get worried even when my children come home from school for lunch in my absence as there is water for them—‘

At a school level school, Mr. Omutiti, the principal of Lubinu secondary school had to say this after a 40,000 litre water tank was installed in his school:

Thank you very much for remembering us, this water tank is going to serve generations and generations to come in this school. The training on hygiene that you have offered is what my boys needed most. Many of them have been missing lessons while going to seek treatment from hospital particularly for diarrheal cases but from what they have learnt from the training   it has helped reduce trips made to hospitals”.

Q. What challenges have you encountered at KWAHO?

i)         Funding reliability – like most civil societies, reliability of funding for the project activities is not ensured. Funds are normally project based and short term i.e. on a yearly basis. This is in essence becomes a threat to the stability and sustainability of project activities.

ii)        Poor infrastructure – With the goal to work in any part of Kenya, KWAHO sometimes is faced with challenges of working in areas whose infrastructure is deplorable i.e. impassable roads to some remote parts of the country where there are project sites. Poor infrastructure consequently cause expensive implementation of the project

iii)       Expensive soft ware components – Projects need sufficient time allocated for training of communities to ensure sustainability of the projects

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    A blog created to cover environmental and political information in Kenya with a view to promoting POVERTY ALLEVIATION through creating awareness of the Millennium Development Goals

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