2006 National Winner, Kitui, Kenya
Winners:
Nyumbani Children's Home, Kitui, Kenya
2006
Publication:
Mashariki Innovations in Local Governance Awards Programme
Sponsored By:
Mashariki Innovations in Local Governance Awards Programme
Jurisdiction:
East African Region
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Nyumbani Children's Home is situated in Kitui District Eastern Province of Kenya. It has a population of about 515,422 (1999 census) and an area of 20,402 sq km.The region is categorized under arid and semi-arid land (ASAL) and receives roughly 710 mm of rainfall with one long (around May) and one short (around September and October) season.

The vast majority of the economy is based on subsistence farming, despite the fact that agriculture is an extremely challenging endeavor given the sporadic rainfall. The project is located on a 1000-hectare piece of land. It stands out head and shoulders above the conventional institutions for orphaned children by embarking on a project to cater for AIDS orphans and their grandparents. The concept to start Nyumbani village originated from the need to provide a family atmosphere for orphaned children who were already being taken care of by elders, grandmothers, and grandfathers in the area.

Impassioned about making a difference in the lives of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS and left in the hands of caregivers who are already vulnerable and helpless, in most cases, grandmothers, Nyumbani stands out from the usual idea of a children's home. As has been the case over the years, children have been confined in an institution with a centralized authority to watch over them. A unique concept makes the Village stand out in relation to the traditional trend of taking care of vulnerable children. In the Village, children live together with their guardians as if in a real family, set up to provide them with basic necessities.

The families at Nyumbani live in their own houses, till their own parcels of land, and prepare their own meals. The Nyumbani community hosts seven grandparents and 42 children. Each of the seven households consist of mainly a grandmother and the orphaned grandchildren. There is only one grandfather in the entire Nyumbani Village, who takes care of his grandchildren single-handedly. Their immediate neighbours interact with the village daily with many of them working as volunteers on a regular basis.

Nyumbani draws its genesis as a village meant to cater for the mostly HIV- positive orphans and their caregivers. About 90 percent of those who work in Nyumbani village are locals, most of whom have been able to learn various farming skills using locally available resources. In Kitui, which is known for prolonged drought because of it being semi-arid, the local residents normally rely on relief supplies to augment the severe food shortages that plague them during the long drought periods. However, relief supplies are often unreliable and inadequate -- thereby compounding an already tenuous situation.

However, Nyumbani village boasts of introducing water conservation and storage technology by creating sand dams tapped from a seasonal river. The concept of sand dams is relatively new in Kenya but has enormous advantages. Not only are locals assured of adequate water supply throughout the year, but it also serves as a water soil conservation technique. The water tapped is treated and utilized for domestic use as well as for drip irrigation purposes. Nyumbani has also made it a point to educate beneficiaries, in this case the elderly grandparents, to understand the idea of a self-reliant community before they make a decision to relocate to Nyumbani. They have to be made to understand that Nyumbani will only provide up to 50 per cent support while the rest is upon them. Some of the technologies the residents have adopted are appropriate technology to make stabilized bricks for construction. They've also learned to tap the available natural resources and turn them into economic benefits.

Nyumbani is currently establishing a biodiesel plant which will make use of jatropha plants to extract oil. Jatropha plants have an advantage since the oil can be combusted into fuel without being refined; it is also environmentally friendly. Nyumbani Village aims to establish one of the biggest self-sustaining communities to cater for orphans and their caregivers in the world. It projects 1000 children and 250 grandparents in five years.