Addressing climate change issues through right holders’ capacity building

"The changes we are witnessing today are not just momentary shifts but sustainable transformations."

In Kenya’s devolved system of governance, there has been increased funding to counties who in turn identify priorities in their locations and fund projects according to what citizens need the most. There has always been a gap between the duty bearers such as the county governments and the right-holders – who are the target populations of these projects. For projects to be executed in a way that answers the problem suffered by them, citizens must be empowered to monitor and audit project implementation.

Social Audit

DanChurchAid, working together with our partner National Churches Council of Kenya (NCCK), under Uwajibikaji na Maendeleo (Accountability for Development) project, is bridging this gap by introducing social audit. This is a process through which all details of public projects are scrutinized by its target populations. It seeks to evaluate how well public resources are used to meet the targets aspired by the end users. It examines all aspects of a public project i.e., management of finances, officers responsible, bookkeeping, access to information, accountability, and levels of public involvement.

Social audit is an important tool to enable local communities to influence their development outcomes. Climate change is one of the focus areas of our partner NCCK, therefore we supported the social audit of 20 water projects in 20 wards of Elgeyo Marakwet County (EMC). NCCK in collaboration with the County Government, trained three social auditors in each ward. They were trained on important aspects to consider while auditing a project. After the trainings, the auditors commenced with the auditing exercise – always involving the public during public meetings convened by Chiefs.

A water tank.

I visited one of the water projects audited, Kapkarin water tank project in Kapsowar ward, Elgeyo Marakwet County. The villagers have had water problems for a long time. They used to travel very long distances to fetch water from a river deep in the Kerio Valley escarpment. They would lose more than five hours a day – just to fetch water. There were also other challenges like human wildlife conflict as they scramble for this very rare yet very important commodity. The county government allocated 1 million Kenya Shilling to construct a water tank which will act a reservoir to store water and supply to the villagers.

© Ferguson Olemarampa

The social auditors worked with a nine-member Project Management Committee (PMC) who were already set up by EMC’s Equitable Development Act. They apprised the community project progress. From the findings, the duty bearers recommended that the water tank should be fenced and painted and purchase and lay pipes for distribution to households.  

The project commenced in July 2023 and completed in December 2023. The water tank will supply water to 150 households, schools, and churches. By employing this community-led process of project auditing, the project implementors will follow all contract guidelines and ensure that projects are implemented on time. In this way, the right-holders will get timely service delivery.

Community awakened to conserve the environment.

In the past, Kapyemit was akin to a green land with a large forest cover. The towering cedar trees were plenty and swayed powerfully to the strong winds blowing across the Kerio Valley escarpment. However, now the springs, which were the arteries supplying the whole forest, have dried up thanks to the destruction of their sources.

Despite all this, there is hope! DCA together with NCCK are training church leaders to preach climate conservation messages in their sermons. Reverend Jeremiah Chebii once contributed to this destruction of forest by operating a timber yard in his shopping centre of Nyaru, Elgeyo Marakwet, thereby contributing to deforestation. As his timber business flourished, so did the trees wither and the forest significantly reduce.

Environment conservation gospel

Rev. Jeremiah, a church minister of the Pentecostal Evangelistic Fellowship of Africa (PEFA), was onboarded under the project as a social auditor in 2023. Through the trainings, he, together with other social auditors identified what was exacerbating climate change. They pointed at factors like deforestation, destroying of catchment areas by both livestock and humans, and cutting of indigenous trees. They were trained om the importance of environment conservation and how they can be agents of change in their locality. This was a game changer – for good.

Rev, Jeremiah took it upon himself to preach the climate conservation gospel to all in his village. He teaches people to set up tree nurseries in their homes, to plant napier grass and use terraces in their farms to control soil erosion. At every Sunday service, Rev Jeremiah would talk about climate change and share the recordings on social media to reach a wider audience. His own tree nursery was doing well and had already sold over 1000 tree seedlings to institutions such as schools, in doing so earning him an income. Climate change gospel has benefitted residents of Kapyemit, as now almost each church member is devoted to climate change.

“The changes we are witnessing today are not just momentary shifts but sustainable transformations. Through the project, we have not only learned to heal our environment but have sown seeds for a resilient and accountable community that will endure for generations to come.”
Reverend Jeremiah Chebii

Accountability and Advocacy

NCCK is leading eight structured advocacy forums and engagements between right holders and duty bearers at county and national levels on climate change, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), and emerging community felt needs and priorities. Additionally, NCCK is implementing Core Humanitarian Standards (CHS) during its programming. CHS is a voluntary code describing essential elements of humanitarian action. It sets out nine commitments that organisations and individuals involved in humanitarian response can use to improve the quality and effectiveness of the assistance they provide.

Reverend Samuel Kiptanui, a pastor at Reformed Church of East Africa Iten, underwent CHS training offered by NCCK and became interested with commitment number five: Access to safe and responsive mechanisms to handle complaints. Rev. Kiptanui noted a need for a safe avenue where church members would raise their concerns. In December 2023, he installed a suggestion box in the church. Members used that rare opportunity and voiced their concerns. In February 2024, Samuel opened the suggestion and was elated that the response mechanism set was working.

“When we opened the box in February, we were happy that members felt comfortable to raise their issues. One was that youth wanted mentorship beyond the spiritual nourishment, they wanted to be guided on other stages of life, like marriage. We also found out that some members were not happy about what they feel is ‘wasting time’ and services taking too long.”
Reverend Samuel Kiptanui.

Samuel feels that it is important to learn their feedback which when incorporated, will make the church united, and members will have a stronger sense of belonging, knowing that their voices matter.

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