Power of Hope permaculture practicum at Magarini Children’s Center in Kenya
By Elke Cole
Magarini Children’s Center and demonstration Farm is located an hour inland from Malindi, Kenya. The location is quite remote, away from any village center.
Jescar Mbuche and Emmanuel Karisa Baya started this center with bold action and vision to create a place where children in need will get an education and also learn core skills of farming.
Both have been receiving permaculture and organic farming training in Japan and Canada, as well as peace and leadership development.
Imagine a large fire circle- maybe 30 feet across. Benches and chairs set up and a large fire burning. People gathered: the older students of Magarini, the teachers, three North Americans and Jescar and Emmanuel who run the center.
It’s dark, and it’s warm. Nobody knew what to expect. Emmanuel began by welcoming everyone in English and quickly changed to the local language. He addressed the crowd and response came back – back and forth it went , shouting out shouting back, and laughter.
The energy was palpable, this was something very much of the place, deeply rooted.
Emmanuel would run in circles and shout, then dance and draw others into the action. Riddles were given and solved. Some of the teachers shared something. Language didn’t matter.
I just sat in amazement, goosebumps even now as I tell the story. I asked Emmanuel later how often they do this and he replied ‘it was the first time’. As a young boy he had spent time with the elders, sitting by the fire. This is where he learned, and this is what he was able to evoke.
This was the last evening that I spent at Magarini Center , completing part 1 of the Power of Hope program. We had spent 4 weeks at the site, setting up camp, planning and building the foundation of a new kitchen, and building rocket cook stoves: one for Jescar’s home, one in the existing cook shelter and two on a platform in the space of the new kitchen, all the while sharing with locals how to do this.
We had one participant from abroad- AJ was just the right guy for a situation where everything was a ‘ first time’: first time with campers on site, first time feeding foreigners, first time supporting a program under funding. Big thanks goes to LUSH for their support.
The program was conceived while Jascar Mbuche visited OUR Ecovillage as an assistant teacher for the PDC and EDE in 2017. Over time the program developed into two main parts: a natural building segment facilitated by me and a food forest and water management segment facilitated by Brandon Bauer. Each piece was 3 weeks long with a few days in between for exploration of the area.
August is school break and there were few children around, and only a few teachers. Instead we met builders and farmers who were ready to engage. The fields were standing tall with Maize, vegetables growing and new crops to be planted.
There are many needs: the girls dormitory needs finishing work. A more solid kitchen with dishwashing, preparation and serving areas. More classrooms for the ever growing number of students.
For us the priority was designing the kitchen and building stoves. A filmmaker team came to produce a video about building Jescars stove, soon to be published. A dining hall is also in the planning- this will be a large Natural building , to be built in a program in August 2021. Please contact me if you wish to receive information once available.
Brandon arrived shortly after we left. The outcome of his time there is impressive: 250 m of swales for the farm, planted 1000 trees including papayas, bananas, mango, cashew, avocado, sour sop, and custard apple . Plus tamarind and giant timber bamboo. 7000 seeds to start a nursery.
Aside from farm work, the water system was expanded so that the new kitchen as well as bathrooms and dormitories are now connected to pipes and solar pumps, saving many hours of carrying buckets of water every day!
Today life carries on at the farm and school, meals are being cooked in the same shelter, but on a rocket cook stove. Preparations are made for a chicken house.
There’s a gofundme campaign running for the holidays: click on this link and you will experience Emmanuel’s storytelling and perhaps make a contribution to this cause.
Testimonial – AJ Bryant
I’m thankful to have ended this decade with 3 amazing months in Kenya. Reflecting back, it was an absolutely incredible experience, but not without its difficult times. Places that were overwhelming at first, but became comfortable in time. Places that I was unsure of when I arrived, but came to love by the time I left. A place with indescribable beauty in culture and nature. A place that will make you think about yourself and the world. Like who has what and what they deserve it. People who are just as smart, hard working, and kind, but have so little (materialistically). But though life seemed harder, it was also happier. Most people were so hospitable and giving, even having so little. So community oriented and full of joy. And while many felt inferior just because of lack of access to money, technology, and education, and a lot of people in the West feel superior just because of this. But there is just as much we can learn from them as they can from us.
I left exhausted and looking forward to comfort and familiarity, but desperately wanting more. 2 quotes stuck with me there: “Why is it you can never hope to describe the emotion Africa creates?” – Francisco Marciano. And “The only person I envy is the person who has not yet been to Africa, because they have so much to look forward to.” – Richard Mullin. I met many people working and traveling around East Africa that said again and again, there’s just something inexplicably magical about this place. ….