cont. from Annular Eclipse Report

Everyone greatly enjoyed the eclipse. Mzee Sempui, who told us that he is of the same age as former President Moi, enjoyed his tea and did not want to part with his solar filtered glasses throughout the whole event. Good that we had three sets and could share the other two sets amongst the others. Mzee Sempui has five wives and many children and grand children. He remembered one solar eclipse some long time ago. In between life went on as usual. Women milked the cows and prepared food.

18 Series 2Photo series 3: Impressions

This story would not be complete without us telling a little bit about the Suswa Maasai Community. Until some decades ago the Maasai were living a nomadic life accompanying their livestock of cows, sheep and goats in the search for green pastures. Mzee Sempui was one of the first Maasai to settle on the Suswa plateau some fifty years ago. At present there are about 50 compound homes, perhaps 1000 people all together. Land is very scarce. Each family knows exactly which part belongs to whom. It is not anymore enough to live from the livestock alone. They have turned a part of their land into agriculture; maize and beans mainly. However, last year because of the severe drought, a lot of the crops did badly or dried up and more than half of all animals died. There is considerable overuse of the plateau consisting of grassland, shrubs and bushes. Nobody likes to reduce the livestock, since it is a sign of wealth and importance and also used to pay the bride price.

Apart from the animals which feed on grasses and bushes, women collect firewood to prepare the meals. Thus, it is not a surprise that also in this remote part of Kenya natural resources are depleting fast and firewood has become a scarce commodity. The Maasai have recognized that they have to shift to a use of their environment that is in harmony between growth and consumption of nature and that trees have to be planted and protected against the Maasais’ animals. They thus requested the agricultural development programme Promotion of Private Sector Development in Agriculture (PSDA) to assist in introducing and popularizing energy saving stoves or jiko kisasa. PSDA is a joint development programme implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) on behalf of the Kenyan and German governments, respectively.

The stoves promoted by PSDA use about 40 percent less firewood compared to the traditional three-stone fire place. What is also very important to the Maasai women; the new jiko produces much less smoke. Smoke is a nuisance and a respiratory health hazard in the small huts that usually have only 2-3 holes instead of windows.

PSDA introduced energy saving stove to the Suswa Maasai Community a few months ago. After some awareness creation in the whole community some jikos were built. Two trainers from Ngong then trained some Maasai men and women artisans in the installation of the jiko. By now more than 60 jikos have been built on the Suwa plateau and around the volcano. About 200 more will follow. This is a grand success.

19 Series 3

Photo series 4: Introducing energy saving stoves, jiko kisasa at the Suswa

By and large the energy saving stoves have been a big success story of PSDA, not only at Suswa but also elsewhere in Kenya.They have been spreading like fire themselves. The technology is fairly simple and leads to employment of male and female youth without or with little land or employment. They are not too expensive and cost between KES 500 and 1000. They are affordable to most households. If these households have to pay for firewood the savings quickly recover the investment costs. In any case there is a lot of time saved to the women otherwise spending a lot of time in collecting firewood. Now they can spend more time in productive activities, household chores or pursuing their own education.

The project has meanwhile trained so many artisans and supported the production and sale of stoves that up to now 723,000 households are proud owners and users of the energy saving stoves in Kenya. The saved firewood is equivalent to an impressive area of 43,500 ha of primary forest that does not need to be cut down. At the same time less energy means also less emissions of the detrimental green house gas carbon dioxide. Without the jikos, nearly 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide would have been emitted into the environment.

It is a very satisfying experience to be engaged in these activities. If then during leisure time other great spectacles of nature –  such as the annular eclipse – can be observed and shared, then this is a wonderful bonus and helps to create lasting bonds, friendship and a joint feeling of responsibility for our beautiful, precious world.

10 Spectators 3558 Group Foto

Photo 5: The group photo of the solar eclipse observers at Suswa

Published by with the kind permission of the lead author, Dr. Eberhard Krain.

The Authors

By Dr. Eberhard Krain (Deptuy Programme Manager, PSDA, and honorary Maasai elder), Anna Ingwe (Programme Officer Energy-saving Stoves, PSDA, and Daniel Sempui, Environmentalist of the Mount Suswa Conservation Trust, Nairobi, January 2010.

The lead author Dr. Eberhard Krain can be contacted through;