Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Building Alternative Livelihoods

Sitting under the African stars, squeezing the last bit of power from a computer, I ponder what makes the construction project we have spent the past week working on any different from other construction projects in Africa which I so often criticize. I regularly criticize construction projects in Africa because they have failed to fully take into account what the local community would like to see happen in their village, or because they have not used local knowledge when building the project, or because the project is unsustainable.So what makes the restaurant that we have just built for a community run eco-tourism project any different? A group of ex-poachers in Kidong have been endeavouring to substitute poaching with sustainable alternative livelihoods generated via an eco-tourism project for over three years. The land the eco-tourism project is located on was purchased by the community out of their own pockets which were already empty.

Marlo and Joseph building the walls of the restaurant

The community has already built a number of mud huts and an information centre using their own labor and skills. And, they have spent a number of years attending lessons given by GVI on how to run an eco-tourism project. And then, their money was completely finished. In July of last year, the community of Kidong approached GVI with request for assistance in constructing a restaurant – the last essential element for their eco-tourism project.

Volunteers and Miriam sawing wood for the restaurant

One week ago, I came out to Kidong with a team of volunteers and funding for the construction of restaurant. In conjunction with a local builder, the community members of Kidong, and, GVI staff and volunteers have managed to build the last part of the Kidong Eco-tourism Project – an open-air restaurant! In between, I have blown my budget because I followed the advice of the local builders, I have ridden around the Taveta region on a tractor to procure the materials we needed, I have waited days for wood which according to the suppliers will be there ‘today’ and have blistered and bruised my body using blunt Kenyan tools and shovelling tonnes of sand and gravel by hand. However, at the end of the day when a group of men from Kidong came up to me and said ‘thank-you for helping us to build our restaurant’, I realized that we had successfully built a project which the community felt complete ownership over.

The restaurant in the final stages of construction

The project is sustainable, locally implemented and was undertake at the request of the local community – that’s why YOU ARE THE DIFFERENCE!