Category Archives: Design Development & Construction

Partnerships

Good Partners Make the Difference ! 

MOU Signing

Maji Masafi Initiative and The Magadi Soda Foundation sign a Memorandum of Understanding

A year of planning – When I was there in January 2013 we signed a MOU agreement with Magadi Soda Foundation. Tata Chemicals, the parent company of The Magadi Soda Foundation, will partner with MajiMasafi on the Nasaru Water Project by supplying fresh water once a week from the water boozer truck. MMI will supply the training, materials and project management. The community will supply security and local labor. This was the culmination of a year’s worth of community organization, planning and preparation and signaled the official start of the project.

About Tata – Tata Chemicals has been mining soda ash in Magadi since the early 1900′s. They have forged an unusual relationship with the Masai and have done an incredible amount of community service. They have invested in all aspects of community life such as: building schools, a hospital, providing scholarships, transportation, water projects and much more. We attended some of their community stakeholder meetings and were impressed. Their integrated management style  includes all levels of the Masai community to address and solve problems. They have been very gracious hosts and a great partner in the development and planning of the Nasaru Water Project.

 

A Baraza – A Great Opportunity

Baraza is a community meeting where all the elders and chiefs get together and discuss community matters.  They usually last all day and cover everything from the water crises to weddings to whose goats got run over on the road.

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A great opportunity - Meeting with all the Masai leaders in one place does not happen often because of transportation challenges, so this was a great opportunity. We were first up on the agenda. To be honest I was a little nervous.Typically women do not attend these meetings, but they were present at this one. This was something new for the community. I never know when we go to these meetings who will show up or whether it will be 4 or forty people. So I stay prepared. I told them everyone from Chicago says to say Hey! That brought smiles to everyone’s face and we were off and running.

Difficult and funny - The language barrier makes things difficult. You have to find other ways to get your message across with eye contact, body language and the tone of your voice. These people live in nature so they are very attuned to these things. Once I relaxed I could see and feel them and knew what to say and how to say it. I am passionate about this project and they could see that. They could also see that I believe in the women. I made it clear that if they honored their commitment that I would honor mine. It was a great experience and really helped solidify their support and trust in us.

We are all laughing in the picture because at one point I decided to start speaking Swahili; however what came out was mostly gibberish. LOL – The Masai are quick to laugh once they feel comfortable with you. We all had a good laugh together. Trust me, I’m the subject of much humor which is one of the things I enjoy most.

 

Nasaru Water Project Summary

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       Sustainability                                    Community                                       Partners

Summary – I traveled to Kenya several times from 2011 to 2013. We visited many communities and decided to work first with the Masai community in the Magadi region. They have been hard hit by the 2009/2011 droughts.

Through a series of community meetings we were able to lay out a plan. We designed the program to both promote women’s empowerment and provide clean water to some of the villages hardest hit by the drought.

It became clear early on though that the project needed to happen in stages. The first and short term strategy is the Nasaru Water Tank Project,  laying the groundwork for a more permanent solution.

Sustainability - We believe Women are Key to a sustainable solution.

Community – Talking to the Masai provided a Great Opportunity.

Partnership – Great People to work with.

Personal  story – Why am I doing this?

Background  - The Magadi area has been hit hard by drought. The per-capita yearly income has decreased by as much as 80%. They do get rain a couple times a year but it comes all at once, floods everything and runs off quickly. The infrastructure, if any exists at all, retains only a very small portion of what is needed.

Many have initiated water projects in Oldonyo-Nyokie but they have not provided lasting relief. After the first trip in  2011/12 we realized that a fresh approach was needed. We re-examined all the previous water projects and aspects of life in the Masai Community. As a result we came up with a collective plan that is working.

Our approach with his project is different because we are starting from scratch, building involvement within each village through the training of the women, giving them the support and the resources to be successful and committed for the long haul. Change does not happen with one tank, one well, but over time and through persistence.

Phase I - We are installing 10,000 liter water tanks in five villages, delivering clean water at least once a week and training a group of women in each village to manage the project.