Interview with a FACT Challenge Winner: Macheru Karuku from the E-Peace Building Project

Claire Sale's picture

We recently announced the 5 Winners for the FACT Social Justice Challenge and we are thrilled at the caliber and impact of all the Projects. As such, we want to give you a closer look at these collaborative technology Projects and the people behind them. Each Monday in the month of November, we'll be posting an interview from one of the Winning Projects using the fact interviews tag - we hope you'll follow along!

This week, we're featuring Macheru Karuku from the E-Peace Building Project. This project seeks to benefit students, teachers, and women in farming and pastoral areas of Kenya’s Ewaso Ng'iro River Basin by facilitating shared learning about water. They will do this by teaching innovative water harvesting tactics in schools including water sharing, metering, and conservation, as well as by creating an online community around shared knowledge on these topics. 

Learn more about the E-Peace Building Project in the interview below!

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Q. What was the inspiration of your project?

I got Interested in Electronic Peace building idea for several reasons:

Firstly I had watched water conflicts in the Ewaso Ngiro River Basin and elsewhere for decades. These conflicts are now increasing at an alarming rate. The responses have always been the same, those top down legal methods that usually do not address the real causes. Rains come and go. Water is always wasted in water schemes. Droughts then follow. Conflicts resume and the cycle is repeated. Only this time there is more violence than before.

In October 2009 Seanet had posted an E-agriculture idea to the Africa Rural Connect (ARC) program of the America’s National Peace Corps Association, to participate in online competition. We won USD 3,000 seed money and immediately implemented the project in Gakawa Secondary School and we were quickly honored by a visit by two top officials of ARC.

Since that time and very many visitors later, to this project, One Dollar for Life (ODFL) and Slovakia’s People in Peril Association officials have paid huge dividends. Not only shall we receive computers from ODFL for up to 100 schools that would implement E-agriculture project but SlovakAid will fund huge E-agriculture projects for 11 schools for two years starting January 2011. This is very motivating!

There are also very many causes for water conflicts in the Ewaso Ng’iro River Basin that cannot be easily discerned. I had a chance to unearth some while doing a problem/objective tree analysis for a different peace building project. These include over abstraction of water from rivers through large intakes, wastage of this water in water schemes, unfair sharing, deforestation, inefficient irrigation methods etc. Very little was being done about this and few could link these causes to poverty, hunger and violence in the basin.

I am also alive to the fact that to bring these causes to the fore and bringing this situation to sanity is not easy. This is because the established forces of self interest and status quo are so strong that they cannot easily let go.

And then the FACT Social Justice Challenge came up with this competition, for anybody from anywhere to participate. The social change/ICT question became too attractive to ignore. I believed this would add the ICT/international dimension to SEANET’s ideas about the plight of the poor and the powerless who resiliently survive within a dry and hostile environment of hunger, poverty and water conflicts. The E-Peace Building was born!

I am very passionate about the E-peace building idea because I believe it addresses the root cause of poverty and violence in the river basin. It also prescribes simple, cheap and tangible projects where target groups participate in their projects’ identification, implementation and celebration.

This is unlike the now fashionable and controversial ‘capacity-building-only’ development model employed by many development organizations. Ours emphasizes tangible projects and capacity building, in that order. This is the model that many poor and deprived approve of and it is the one that the E-Peace Building project has adapted.

Q. What else are you working on right now?

We do have a programme where we construct high quality classrooms for poor secondary schools. Our partner for this is One Dollar for Life (ODFL), a San Francisco student non-profit that has been named ‘Outstanding Philanthropic Youth Organization’ by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Silicon Valley Chapter 2009. Every year these students come to Kenya to participate in our projects, hosted by their Kenyan counterparts in their humble dwellings. They then visit Kenya’s tourism sites before heading back to America.

We also have just completed construction of a water tank for Kaga Water Scheme and installation of water meters.

Thirdly we have a continuing programme, the Wheels of Wonder Bicycling club that promotes bicycling. We organize various competitions e.g. Racing for Peace and the Environment.

Seanet is also the strategic partner for Mt. Kenya’s Gathiuru Community Forest Association, an organization that is in the process of getting the mandate from the Kenya Forest Service to manage the Gathiuru part of the Mt. Kenya forest.

Lastly we are preparing to launch another poor schools project; the Electronic Agriculture for Kenya’s arid and semi-arid areas Schools. This 2 year project will be launched next month and will be implemented in eleven schools starting January 2011. The project is being funded by SlovakAid for Euro 132,802 and those to be involved in its implementation will be Kenyan officials and volunteers and Slovak interns.

This project will also benefit from laptops from ODFL who have promised to supply computers for up to 100 schools that will implement E-agriculture project. We have received 20 laptops so far.

All the projects that we are implementing are interrelated. They subscribe to Seanet mission of empowering the poor and pro-poor organizations to participate in their development.

Q. Where do you see your project in 5 years? What about 20 years?

We are very optimistic about the growth of E-Peace Building. After the initial inauguration for our USD 5,000 project, we expect to have exponential growth that will be more rapid than that of E-agriculture that we have just quoted. We however have a 5 year strategic plan and a 20 year vision.

5 year plan

  • First year - Prototype stage.
    Testing of components, learning and seeking of partnerships.
  • Second year – Validation stage.
    The goal here is to show that E-Peace Building is reasonable and can be expanded.
  • Third year – Control release stage.
    Here the goal is to validate the scalability to other basins in Kenya.
  • Fourth and Fifth year – Final release stage.
    E-Peace Building idea will be released widely.

Vision 2030

We have a vision 2030. In 20 years time, we can see thousands of relevant projects and programmes in all river basins in Kenya and most of Africa that will sustainably underpin enduring peace and harmony in the river basins where they will be implemented. The above will be realized through unequaled partnerships within and between countries that will be powered by an even more developed ICT and more understood diplomatic methods of conflict prevention, management and resolutions.

Background to Seanet Vision

Our vision is well grounded and informed by the book, Rural Development: Putting the First Last, by Robert Chambers (1983). This book is dedicated to those who are last and those who put them first. I am an acolyte of this book and have read my copy so many times that it has developed dog ears.

Q. What help do you need to get your project off the ground?

This is a humble appeal to all members of the NetSquared community that you accept to own and adapt the E-Peace Building project as your own. If you do this and I believe you will, we shall together celebrate as we inch slowly towards a Better World.

Secondly I wish to salute you, for your unequaled support in the recent voting exercise. Your efforts have been rewarded with the seed money. Like all the viable seeds of high germination percentage, you will soon see the photos of well tended plants (water tanks) in Laikipia gardens.

You could also offer your time and even fundraise for this noble cause. Other methods of support could involve more concept/web development, enduring partnerships and even volunteering at the project level. I am also thinking loudly about how the complex web of multiple causes of water conflicts and possible solutions could be unraveled. I believe there are multi-displinary operational researchers out there who could study this maze and come up with a simple way forward.

I also wish to take this opportunity to invite those NetSquared community members who could be visiting Kenya anytime, to pay a visit to our Nanyuki office to evaluate what we shall have done with your funds, and then be our E-Peace Building ambassador.

Track Record

We are backed by a history of efficiently and effectively executed projects. Our main donor partner is ODFL. We have grown together with this organization and Seanet has implemented many of the projects that you see in their website.

Integrity

This is our strongest attribute. The bulk of our funds go to Tangible Projects and only just a little to Capacity Building that is relevant to a specific project. We also keep our up-to-date financial records that are annually audited and available from ODFL upon request.

Q. How can people best follow your progress?

We shall be updating you regularly on the E-Peace Building project in the NetSquared blog and the Seanet website. We will soon subscribe to the social networks for this purpose.

Lastly I wish to again thank you most sincerely for sacrificing your time in order to read our comments. Your moral contribution in this matter is highly appreciated.

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Thanks again to Macheru Karuku for sharing his story with us! We really appreciate your hard work and kind invitations and we look forward to seeing all of your Projects flourish.