The Taita Environmental Initiative has developed into a major community support organisation in Wundanyi and district, with an eye on the environment, vulnerable groups and building a stronger local economy. It has more than 50 active members, a full time Coordinator and two other staff. It links with other local groups, local politicians and other NGOs and has a high profile in the area.
Since 2008 up till a couple of years ago, most of the annual grant given by Education Exchange went to the TEI loan scheme. Over 40 TEI members accessed loans to build their business or pay education and health charges. TEI members do not have the financial security to access bank loans- so what our donors raised has been a lifeline to them. From 2016 however, Education Exchange has no longer needed to fund the TEI loan scheme: members have now set up their own table bank, which is self-funding: table banking is an increasingly common feature of Kenyan communities.
TEI has a major focus on improving the local environment. In 2014 they secured a grant of 1.5 million Kenyan Shillings (approx. £11,000) from Kenya Coastal Development Project to carry out environmental improvements in and around Wundanyi: cleaning the river, making new ponds, fencing off areas, and planting trees. This grant enabled some members to be employed in these activities: there were also tree seedlings left over which TEI sold or planted.
As with the fish breeding activity seen in the photo above, TEI is always finding new ways to bring in extra income. Next to the TEI office in Wundanyi is a workshop used by a welder who makes furniture and other metal goods which are sold to raise funds for TEI.
TEI works with vulnerable groups too. They champion the role of disabled people in the area, being formally linked with Wundanyi Disabled Persons’ Group. Most of the disabled TEI members have successfully applied for grants (funded by Education Exchange) to improve their chances of building a business- Crispin (below) is a good example:
Now Education Exchange supports TEI by paying the annual salary of all three workers (Coordinator, Secretary and Night Watchman) This is about £2200 per year. This gives staff the freedom to use all their time to develop new projects, find new sources of funding and maximise income to the central TEI pot. We also give another £400 per year to support grants and the table bank. TEI deserves our long-term support and will continue to get it!
In December 2019 Education Exchange were given a grant which enabled us to buy TEI an eco-friendly briquette making machine. This will develop a new source of income. It will also make a significant contribution to the environment.
Most people in Taita use charcoal stoves (jikos) for cooking. There is a big trade in cheap charcoal made from illegally felled trees. Our new machine makes briquettes from waste plant materials at half the price. So both the environment and peoples’ pockets will benefit. And TEI have a potentially lucrative new business. Here’s the new machine being tested:
Also in 2020, TEI is developing new apprenticeship training opportunities, initially in the electrical trade.