By Robert Rapando

In the rural Mosocho village, Kisii County, Rigoma translated as “by the river” Community Based Organisation – a conglomerate of 18 self-help groups is working to sustain water and soil conservation and improving people’s living conditions through sustainable agriculture.

Together they are committed to bringing safe water to community; conserve soil in the hilly village and support the community’s to practice organic farming.

For years, Mr. Victor Mochere the secretary Rigoma CBO says, the steep and hilly village has relied on spring water yet soil erosion continues untamed. “Many families also plant eucalyptus trees along the river banks thus posing a threat to water sustainability in the streams. Increased population pressure in the community has also led to massive tree felling while others opt for charcoal burning business which is a boom in the nearby Kisii town. This situation has continually deteriorated.” He adds.

“Water is getting scarce here,” says Mr. Mochere. “We had about four water springs in this community but today, only one has water year-round.”

But in 2011, the USAID funded Yes Youth Can project came to Rigoma Village and has changed the situation dramatically.

“The Yes Youth Can project helped us form and join various self-help groups that today constitute Rigoma Community Based Organisation. When we heard about the Tahidi grants that were aimed at supporting support community projects, we held a leaders meeting of all the self-help groups in the community.” says Mr. Mochere. When the leaders met, access to clean water, soil conservation, economic empowerment and infrastructure improvement among other issues came out strongly as the community’s priority areas.

Rigoma Community Based Organisation is in Nyagisai sub-location with a cover area of 2.68 Sq. Km, a population of 2,132 and 477 households. Poor soils and steep-slopes are major obstacles to agricultural productivity but the community is relentless.

In early 2012, 18 self-help groups, with the help of the Ministry of Agriculture developed 12 proposals on varied priority issues and submitted to World Bank through the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI). Out of the 12 proposals submitted, three managed to go through and were funded each to a tune of shs. 3 million bringing the total grant to 9 million. The three project areas that were funded are enhancing access to clean water, infrastructure improvement and soil conservation.

In April 2012, Rigoma CBO signed the contractual agreement that paved way for intensive member training to prepare them for implementation. Under the leadership of Mr. Jared Roi, Rigoma Community Based Organisation has already started implementing the various projects after the grant was disbursed to the CBO account.

Perhaps the most impressive change that the project has brought about is the new perception that community members, particularly the men and women, have of their own natural environment.

“Before, we used to rely on manufactured fertilizer which is very expensive and would be washed off daily since our land is steep,” says Mr. Francis Ooga. “Today we have organic manure and we see our land as full of potential. We are happy to see that it is worth using organic manure that is readily available here. We do not need to purchase manufactured fertilizers anymore.”

Ms. Joyce Nyabayo has been using the traditional three-stones for cooking but this grant has helped her mold a ‘jiko kisasa’ which she says uses less firewood, reducing her stress of searching for firewood on daily basis. She was able to mold the ‘jiko kisasa’ on her own after being taken through training. Joyce is no longer a woman in despair; she is full of confidence, enthusiasm and hope, having traveled a long journey from despondency to optimism.

The community youth component of the project has been one of the most successful. One of the nine Yes Youth Can groups in the CBO received the Tahidi grant while others expect to receive it in the second phase.

Finally, says Mr. Mochere, the community feels proud and sees hope for the future.

“Now we know that we will not go back to where we were before,” he says. “We will be able to leave a better community for our children, with access to the things that our parents never had. We are very grateful to the World Bank, World Vision and USAID for these initiatives.” Mr. Mochere says.