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Tharaka, about 6 hours drive north east of Nairobi, is hot, dry and dusty. It is one of the least developed areas with 70% unemployment.

41% of the population are severely malnourished, and 25% are living with HIV. A startling 23% of babies die before their first birthday. There is one doctor per 100,000 people. A child growing up in Tharaka will be particularly disadvantaged, having one parent or guardian, with a life expectancy of 51 years.

Since designation as a separate district and hardship area, some funds have begun to flow to Tharaka from central government. Infrastructure such as roads and water supply is improving slowly.

To address the social and economic inequalities holistically – poverty, food insecurity, health, and hygiene – the Tharaka Children and Women Welfare Programme (TCWWP) was formed in 2005. TCWWP focuses on improving the wellbeing of vulnerable children by empowering and training the women who act as the children’s guardians. Karibuni Children has supported TCWWP since its inception.

Some 140 households, most multigenerational and female-led, are enrolled with TCWWP. Activity currently centres around a demonstration farm. The women are shown how to grow and nurture crops enabling them to become self-sufficient. Excess production is sold to provide an income. When the mothers are gathered – up to 60 at a time – training on childcare, hygiene, nutrition, family planning, water management, and animal husbandry is delivered.

Initially, the programme was housed at Kamatungu Primary School, but in 2016 a stone-built project office was built on land provided by the school. The office was built entirely from materials and labour donated by the local community. Erick, a graduate of the educational sponsorship programme and now a qualified mason, led construction. The cost based on experience elsewhere would have been some £10,000.

Since then with our help, the following steps have been taken towards sustainability and self-sufficiency:

  • A toilet block has been built close to the office.

  • A 31,000-litre capacity water tank together with an irrigation system to move water around the farm has been installed.

  • A Community Resource Centre at a cost of £40,000 raised from grant making trusts, and supplemented by materials and labour donated locally, was built in 2020 and brought into use in 2021.

  • The Community Resource Centre was further developed in 2021 through the construction of artisan and garment workshops which are let to a number of programme graduates fortailoring, carpentry and welding businesses. These provide a rental income to the programme , while also providing secure tenure and an income for the artisans selling their products. The garment and materials workshop focuses on the production of school uniforms and other items. This enterprise provides employment for 6 artisans and provides an income for the project.

  • With support from fellow NGO Just Be a Child, the Community Resource Centre now houses a library to support learning in both the local adult and child populations.

  • 24,000 trees – mango, papaya etc. – will be sown and grown on to provide “food forests” for the community. The grant for this project was secured by the Programme Manager, on his own initiative, from another UK NGO, The International Tree Foundation; Karibuni has provided funding for additional labour.

Karibuni also supports Kamatungu Primary School with teaching aids and materials for craft activities for the 20 children in the special educational needs class.

There has been significant capital investment into this programme. We have invested because there is a strong vision to effect real change. George is a capable and energetic Programme Manager supported by a first-class board.

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