Daraja Academy is the first free all-girls secondary school in all of East Africa. The Daraja Academy Permaculture Project aims to create a model of sustainability and self-reliance and to instill in every student, a sense of environmental responsibility and stewardship.
Daraja Academy is the first free all-girls secondary school in all of East Africa. The mission of Daraja Academy is to cultivate a community of individuals with a sense of cultural awareness, social conscience, and environmental responsibility, all while instilling talents that will enable them to open doors to a global society. In late February 2009, 26 girls from Kenya were given a chance for a secondary education which would otherwise not be possible, given their current economic situation. Daraja is now in its third year of operation and as of February 25th, 2011 has a total enrollment of 78 exemplary Kenyan girls.
The Daraja Academy Permaculture Project aims to create a model of sustainability and self-reliance and instill in every student, a sense of environmental responsibility and stewardship. The 60 acre (24 hectare) campus is located at the base of Mount Kenya, where the devastating effects of illegal logging and deforestation can be seen firsthand. The desertification in this region has caused changing rainfall patterns and drought, accelerating poverty among subsistence farmers. The region is home to Maasai pastoralists who traditionally graze cattle and live off the land; many have been forced to find other ways of survival.
Daraja harvests water from the Ewaso Ng'iro River, which flows down from the glaciers of Mount Kenya to irrigate the arid landscape below. The rapid removal of indigenous trees in the region has led to siltation in the watershed. Upstream from Daraja, there are several large greenhouses which are a part of Kenya’s unsustainable cut flower industry, the nation’s second largest export. Water levels have fallen as a direct result of flower farmers pumping water from the Ewaso Ng'iro River faster than it can be replenished.
The immediate goals of the project are 1) to improve access to clean water, 2) improve soil fertility and 3) increase the amount of food grown on campus, thereby reducing the monthly food bill and eliminating transportation costs. During the summer of 2010, several hard working volunteers contributed to a permaculture design for the school and laid the groundwork for future permaculture projects. The school’s environmental education initiatives consist of ‘experiential learning’ or learning by doing. Permaculture related courses taught during the summer of 2010 included: how to make sun-dried adobe bricks for natural building, how to plant trees, how to use an A-frame to map out contours for swales, how to improve soil fertility by using chicken tractors and how to make good compost.
Future projects include: seed saving and conservation of indigenous plant and tree species, construction of a tree nursery and greenhouse, planting of drought tolerant fruit and fodder trees, installation of a large-scale biogas digester for cooking, installation of humanure composting toilets, digging a pond for aquaculture, construction of a greywater system for the new dormitory, increasing rain water catchment capacity and digging more swales to slow and spread water during the rainy season. We are also interested in learning more about sustainable land use practices, such as Holistic Management, to improve soil health and mitigate draught.
Engaging both the students and the faculty, the Daraja Permaculture Project has created a dialogue about ecological responsibility and environmental stewardship, not only within the boundaries of the campus, but within the community as well. During the inaugural Earth and Me Festival held in August 2010, each student planted a tree on the degraded land adjacent to the school’s campus and made individual pledges to think and act more sustainably. Plans are underway to develop curriculum to help educate neighboring communities about the importance of environmental stewardship and implementation of sustainable land management practices. Developing self-reliance at the community level will create models for sustainable community development in Kenya and serve as a model for other developing countries as well.
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