Earth, water and fire: The true power of integral projects in Maasai communities

Take a moment to look around. Are you reading this article at your own home or your office? If that’s so, you’re likely to be surrounded by artifacts specially designed to give you comfort: air conditioning or heating devices, hard and sturdy walls, kitchens and stoves, water taps, and many others. These things we often take for granted are actually a huge privilege that not everybody can access to.

A healthy and clean home is vital for a good quality of life, and while we may have that ground covered, there are a lot of settlements and places around the world where those basic needs are yet to be fulfilled. The Maasai community, an ethnic group inhabiting Kenya and Tanzania, is working very hard to overcome said issues, but in order to do so, it needs everybody’s help.

Now that you’ve looked around -and hopefully, acknowledge how lucky and privileged you are-, do you know that with a donation, as small as it may be, you can help the Maasai to live as comfortably as we do?

 

A win-win situation

International Collaborative for Science, Education and the Environment (ICSEE) is a non-profit organization working with the Maasai community –specially women- to empower them to co-create sustainable technology in order to tackle three issues: lack of proper heating systems, lack of electrical network and lack of water. Together, they created an amazing project called Maasai Stoves & Solar Project that isn’t just giving things away and wishing that troubles eventually fade out, but reorganizing the way the Maasai work and thrives.

The most important aspect of this project is this co-creation side: working together ensures that all improvements will be cherished, looked after and spread out to improve more people’s lives over time, and all in a highly sustainable way. Women are trained on a daily basis to become community leaders and members of the team, and as such, they lead the installment of these sustainable technologies.

Their hard work as paid off: as of now, there are more than 4500 clean burning and efficient stoves and chimneys installed, and not a single one of them has been abandoned. The importance of these artifacts can’t be overstated: not only they run on clean energy and reduce gas emissions, but they’re safer overall, since the stove’s body isn’t made of metal and therefore, doesn’t burn who touches them. Besides, since the smoke won’t go indoors, it helps prevent pulmonary diseases and saves children lives.

To put it bluntly: every stove that comes to life reduces the amount of carbon dioxide by 3.6 tons per year, which means three tons of wood are not removed from local area. On top of that, it saves women up to 12 hours per week which they can use to do literally anything else, instead of loading wood on her backs.

We know that switching to sustainable stoves may not be the best way for you to help reduce greenhouse emissions, but there’s A LOT you can do. Download this guide to find out the best tips and tricks, and start helping the planet today!

The electrical network is essential on every community, and it seems to be little to no chance that the national grid will eventually cover rural communities. That’s the importance of microelectric grids, such as the ones promoted by ICSEE. Instead of burning kerosene, which is highly dangerous as well as detrimental to the environment, the Maasai communities are now building a system that provides integrated electrification on a home-by-home basis, using solar power and micro-grids with enough capacity to sustain the homes and corrals of Maasai settlements.

The project installs communal solar panels and it connects to every house through buried cables. While ICSEE provides hardware parts that can’t be built on local communities, the Maasai (women, men and children alike) work all together in order to dig trenches, build posts, and everything required for the installment. This is highly unusual in Maasai culture, which also shows an important side of this project.

While smoke reduction and electrification are basic needs, there’s also another one that could seem even more basic: access to clean water. Currently, Maasai women have to collect 40 to 80 liters of water every day from rain filled surface ponds, given the absence of wells. The dangers are obvious: without a proper cleaning system, every pathogen and bacteria enters the human organism with no control. Every testing site has shown with a brutal clarity how importance this is, since every one revealed high presence of arsenic, Escherichia Coli, and a high number of dangerous components. This explains the high incidence of diarrhea in local children.

This is where ICSEE comes through: they cover a part of the sanitation system costs, which comprises calcium hypoclorite and alum (a tried and true chemical solution), as well as pipes, tanks, facets and pumps.  The first pilot programs were highly successful: families working together with ICSEE specialists built systems that can produce up to 2000 liters per day of clean water, which is enough for 40 families. These systems, when paired, showed even better results: up to this day, there are four systems installed that provide 20,000 liters a day, for a total of 500 families. And if this isn’t enough, there’s also the potential to integrate small vegetable farms alongside the chlorination system, taking advantage of installed pipes.

 

What can I do?

Integral projects as this are extremely successful: when scientists, developers and local communities work together, everybody wins. And they need as much help as they can get. You can be a part of this, in many ways: not just with donations, but also doing your part in helping reduce carbon emissions. There are many things you can do at your own home, and [in this guide] we can help you do so with little effort.

If even small African communities can do their part to help the planet heal, what’s stopping you? Everybody can contribute to this huge task. So if you want to help but you don’t know how, look no further: make a donation to projects like this, and start minimizing the climate change with small things you can do now.

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