UoN Graduate Uses School Project to Transform Village [PHOTOS ]

  • The dam along River Kathaani in Machakos county
    The dam along River Kathaani in Machakos county
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  • Just after completing his Civil Engineering degree at the University of Nairobi in 2015, Festus Kavita Ndolo got a challenge from his supervisor - to implement the recommendations of his project.

    Ndolo embarked on a long journey of making his village in Misuuni, Machakos county, water-secure and prove to his lecturer Dr. Simeon Dulo that his school project was practical.

    Speaking to Kenyans.co.ke, the young engineer explained that the project was a feasibility study for a community water project in Misuuni.

    The main suggestions were rainwater harvesting for primary schools, borehole repairs for high school, dams across rivers, borehole with water filtration then distribution by gravity,” he explained.

    Festus Kavita in his village in Machakos county.
    Festus Kavita in his village in Machakos county.
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    It wasn’t until 2018 that the works began and he began with a sustainable dam across the local seasonal water body - River Kathaana.

    He relied mostly on community contributions and international organisations such as the Africa Sand Dam Foundation and The Charitable Fund (AUS) to complete the works.

    “I initially worked with a local group known as the Misuuni Development Self-Help Group. They helped with the digging and the setting up of the barrier that would be used to slow the water down,” he explained.

    The process took approximately four months to complete.

    Fast forward to two years and the village which was once served by a seasonal river has a full-time dam that holds back enough water throughout the year for irrigation.

    A dam along the River Kathaani
    A dam along the River Kathaani in Machakos County
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    The water has enabled the community to engage in more income-generating activities such as year-round farming and has helped improve their overall yields in the farms.

    He further collaborated with the Engineers Without Borders - New York City Professional Chapter for rainwater harvesting projects in two local primary schools.

    “The rainwater harvesting systems have enough storage to last the whole school term,” he explained, “These have been especially useful during the Covid-19 pandemic.

    The water tanks set up in a school in Machakos County.
    The water tanks set up in a school in Machakos County.
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    He also established a borehole project with a Spanish organization Manos Unidas.

    “All these projects not only solved old problems (water-borne diseases, access to water) but also created new opportunities (farming, employment) for the local community,” he observed.

    In March 2020, Kavita decided to upgrade the family farm for commercial purposes and named it Kithekani farms referencing farming in the bushlands.

    “We have set up two greenhouses where we grow a variety of vegetables and we also rare goats, pigs and chicken,” he noted proudly.

    The greenhouse in Kithekani farms in Machakos County.
    The greenhouse in Kithekani farms in Machakos County.
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    His farm boasts of a variety of vegetables including red and yellow pepper, capsicum, onions as well as fruits (bananas, oranges and mangoes).

    The young engineer got support from the Embassy of Japan, the US Embassy and from the Kenya Climate Innovation Centre (KCIC) for farming activities.

    He has adopted social media in marketing his produce, using Twitter and Facebook groups as well as referrals from the local community to sell his produce.

    Workers at Kithekani Farms in Machakos county
    Workers at Kithekani Farms in Machakos county
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    His recent project involves setting up an irrigation pond. The initial plan was to excavate for 500,000 litres but ended up with 720,000 litres which translated to only a 10 percent increase in the cost of the dam liner.

    Like any entrepreneur, Kavita has a  vision for the farm which includes expanding to more locations in Machakos and Kitui.

    Capsicum harvest from Kithekani farms
    Capsicum harvest from Kithekani farms
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    “I also aim to create local employment especially for youth and women and mentor new farmers to scale up their production,” he states.

    He also plans to set up weekend getaway houses for short stays to host people at the farm for hiking, BBQs, and biking trails with fresh food from the farm.

    Kavita also has his sights set on the international markets where he can export products.

    A tractor excavating for a damin Machakos county.
    A tractor excavating for a damin Machakos county.
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