Historians and history books illustrate how Rusinga Island was home to the early man, proconsul africanus, a fossil of an ape which lived 23 to 14 million years ago. This creature was mainly a fruit eater.
Reading this historical fact as a child during my school days gave me hope, but as the clock ticks a lot is happening and changing. And now as a grown up i realize the hope fast fading and the future prospects of the island turning grim and dwindling.
Before his demise a few years ago, my dad used to narrate to me how beautiful the island was. Full of hope, food, deferent flora and fauna, fish and abundant fish species. Being a United Nations Environmental Program global award winner for outstanding environmental work and achievements, my dad explained with zeal and enthusiasm how bushy the island was, and as a whole how the island was full of glaring hopes.
But as the populations grew, ecological footprints of the islanders also grew plunging the island into deep socio economic and ecological abyss.
Food insecurity is becoming the order of the day, plant species are fast becoming threatened, fish stocks declining with others becoming critically endangered and as a whole the island is rapidly turning from an island of hope to an island of despair.
Mitigating these impacts of climate change is difficult and calling for sustained concerted collective efforts geared towards mitigation of the climate change impacts.
Following his footsteps, Evans ODULA, Kenyan decent got struck by these sad stories and the emerging desertification catching up with the islanders. He mobilized communities through Badilisha organization, a community based project he helped found nearly ten years ago to undertake permaculture and environmentally related projects. Evans led a big efforts to create awareness to and sensitize people on the magnitude of the catastrophe befalling the islanders.
As usual communities take time to understand and internalize these kind development work, but as someone wisely said, consistency conquers resistance, people began to understand the severity of the problem and quit number has joined the conservation bandwagon.
It was not a walk in the park since the small indigenous forest in the hilltops was a source of livelihoods to many women and young men who depended on the forest products to earn their livelihoods. Charcoal and dry firewood business was booming and thriving well in the local fishing community’s settlements commonly referred locally as beaches and this same forest was also a major grazing zone for cattle .It provided good grass for people who do animal husbandry, and practice the dominant free range grazing systems.
So conserving this forest affected the local communities in so many ways. But all in all we had to weather these storms and restore order and try by all means to apply assisted natural regeneration principles and practices to bring back the islands past glory.
Women had to stop cutting down trees, grazing had to be restricted at the foot of the hills to void overgrazing and soil erosion, and as a whole it was going to be business unusual. And the whole community had to adapt and change with changes with all our eyes focused on the ultimate price.
At the core of it all is fuel and livelihoods. We have to look for an alternative source of livelihood and fuel. And that is how this word briquettes came to our minds. Briquette is a charcoal fuel made from combustible Biomass. We have varieties of briquettes depending on the raw material used, shape and the process and stages of production.
Rusinga Island urgently needs a briquette making machine, a machine which is going to try and introduce a deferent source of fuel from locally and abundant waste materials, maize stocks and general combustible Biomas.This will release the pressure on the forest products and also create women to community members who depended on the forest products for their livelihoods.
Briquettes apart from being an income generating activity is also having health and economic benefits. They burn for a long time hence reducing costs and also the less smoke they produce is essential in reducing lung and breathing problems which has affected most women in the island.
This green technology project is going to give a new dawn and apocalypse to the old and new generations to be able to embrace and adapt to climate change impacts. A seed fund of about 1800 Euros given for this project will not go to waste as it will create employment, create income, protect trees and also save the women from health problems.