Creating a Village

Tuinuane, Kenya

“We have lived together harmoniously since we met, because we were all victims [and] ejected from where we lived. When we found ourselves in that state, it made a lot of sense to just form a brotherhood and, so far, the bonds are still very strong.”

Monicah  Busore
Resident of Tuinuane

Background

Kenya has struggled with interethnic conflict for some 20 years and there are reportedly over 70 different ethnic groups in the country. Tensions are particularly high between the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin, arising from President Moi’s efforts to stem political opposition in the early 1990s. More recently, post-election violence in early 2008 took the lives of over 1,000 people. And, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, some 350,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) were sent to over 100 camps. Although the government has set aside resources to resettle the IDPs, there have been charges of embezzlement and progress in acquiring land for resettlement has often been slow.  As new elections approach in late 2012, there is concern that meaningful resolution has not taken place between the communities.

 

Vision

A group of IDP’s had been residing (some for over two years) at a place called Molo Sawmill Camp in western Kenya. The camp was created by the Red Cross as a place to bring many people together and individuals from different ethnic communities resided there. In 2008, the government offered 10,000 shillings/per family (about $120) as a support fund, with the aim to encourage the IDPs to go back to their land.  This wasn’t an option for many, however, because they couldn’t go back to places from which they had been evicted. A group, led by a certain Martin Mwaniki, began to examine their options. The group members realized that they had a common problem. Namely, they didn’t have a place to call home. “The idea of coming together was floated while we were still in the Molo Sawmill Camp because every family that didn’t have land to go back to was becoming anxious and concerned because we were being threatened with removal from the camp,” said Cynthia Kabaso.

 

Practical Action

Despite the sacrifices involved in doing so, the group of IDPs agreed to pull the majority of their resettlement monies together to buy their own land for a new village. With an initial contribution of 7,000 shillings/family, the group was able to make a down payment on some land and purchase a few acres. But it wasn’t enough. They subsequently petitioned the government for an additional 25,000 shillings/family and the majority of that was used to purchase 19 more acres.  Hence, by early 2009, Tuinuane Village—comprising 93 families—was born. The land was subdivided into plots. Each member was given 1/8 of an acre for residence and two acres for cultivation. As there was not enough land in Tuinuane to accommodate all of those who wanted to participate, another 76 members were given land in a place called Kuresoi.  The communities in both locations are ethnically diverse and, although residents are primarily Kikuyu and Kisii, they also represent the Luo, Luhya, Pokot, Turkana, and Kalenjin tribes.

 

Samuel Muhunyu with NECOFA on the left and Chairman Martin Mwaniki on the right.

Developing Communities

In early 2008, the Kalenjins were considered the group that drove out Kikuyus (to favor the former in elections), but many Kalenjins also became displaced in this process. There are five Kalenjin families in Tuinuane Village, for example. “No one [has] ever pointed a finger at me saying that I was an aggressor, said Cynthia who is Kalenjin. “All of us live harmoniously together.” A working governance system helps. The community has been divided into blocks, with each block having a chairperson and its own committee. If disagreements cannot be resolved at this very local level, the matter is referred to the higher committee that runs the village. And, if there are ideas that certain members of the community want to implement, it is shared with the Chairman Mwaniki, deliberated on by the village committee, and, if needed, discussed at an all-community meeting. “When the community is together, we’ll go through the different challenges facing the community, try to come up with alternative solutions and, finally, we’ll vote on the more appealing solution to this challenge,” says resident Dismas Makeni. Chairman Mwaniki notes that there haven’t been any serious conflicts in the village, in part because the different tribes are involved in the village’s management.

 

Outcomes

As a result of this initiative, over 800 people from different ethnic backgrounds are living cooperatively together and now have homes and land to grow crops in two communities. In Tuinuane, the amount of food wasn’t sufficient when the village started, but residents are now using their own plots to grow food and the situation is more sustainable. Some outside funding and donations—from groups like the Danish Refugee Council and Friends of Kenya Schools and Wildlife—have ensured that building materials and seeds/fertilizers were provided for the village. Although FKSW financially supported the development of a nursery school, the residents themselves constructed 128 homes. And, in terms of building local capacity, residents have learned from each other. As Mary Niatu comments, “One thing I’m so happy about is to live among the different ethnic groups with different backgrounds. Some are very good farming backgrounds like the Kikuyus and the Kisiis. For me, as a Pokot, I didn’t have a farming background and, from coming together, I have learned from the other women … and have been able to learn farming.”

 

Challenges

Many residents in the village note the ongoing problems with water shortages. Residents, particularly women, must travel some distance (~3 km.) to get water from the river and, so far, pumping the water from the river has not been successful.  Trees in the area are basically non-existent and primary and secondary schools are also some distance away, which means fewer educational opportunities for the children. Another challenge, adds Dismas Makeni, is that it has often been difficult to encourage the young men in the village to work on economic projects together—in part because they are hesitant to contribute financially to such projects, or they prefer to spend their limited money at the local bar.

 

Lessons Learned

Despite a lot of well-meaning people and organizations supporting the process, Chairman Mwaniki admits that, now that people have land of their own, it has not always been easy to get people to contribute to a common vision and to meet and reach specific goals related to improving the community. Getting the bloc leaders on board to contribute money for specific projects, for example, requires a fair amount of negotiation. He notes how important it is to get people to think in a “bigger dimension,” i.e. not just as an IDP, but as a community. Mwaniki’s leadership has clearly been critical.  Samuel Muhunyu from the Network for Ecofarming in Africa (NECOFA) has also played an instrumental role in Tuinuane’s development, including advising villagers on how to be their own advocates and how to access support from the government and other international partners.

 

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