As the countdown to the installation of a min-grid plant at the remote Olderkesi location in Narok County draws near, a team from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), and the Narok County Directorate of Co-operatives gathered at Olderkesi to facilitate the final training and the awarding of a Co-operative Certificate of registration to the community members.
Held on Thursday June 24, 2021, the event was a culmination of a months-long process that entailed intensive consultation with the Olderkesi community members, training and capacity building to the community on how to run a co-operative society, and why it is important to the running of the SEED Project.
The Sustainable Energies, Entrepreneurship and Development (S.E.E.D) Project is a 5-year joint initiative of JKUAT (College of Engineering and Technology), Kenya, in partnership with the Technical University of Munich (TUM), Germany. Funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the project is premised on the 7th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of providing access to “affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”.
Geared towards providing sustainable renewable energy to marginalized communities with no access to electricity, the SEED Project in Kenya settled on Olderkesi location, situated in Narok West Constituency, Narok County. At slightly over 20 kilometers from the closest powered small town of Naikarra, Olderkesi shopping Centre is currently completely off the national grid.
As a means to ensuring ultimate self-reliance, the project is focusing from the onset, on building the community’s capacity to plan, finance, and implement solutions to local development challenges, and ensuring there is commitment to see these solutions through effectively, inclusively, and with accountability. The establishment of the Olderkesi SEED Cooperative Society Limited is a crucial tenet in this journey to self-reliance.
“From the word go, we have focused on co-creating with the community and all the relevant stakeholders, to ensure we are sensitive to the nuances of local context, and to involve the community in every stage for easier adoption of the initiative. This project belongs to the community, and it is crucial that they not only feel as much, but also live that reality,” says Eng. Dr. Hiram Ndiritu, the JKUAT SEED Project Lead.
Co-creation with the community, he adds, will guarantee stability, resilience and success of the project, long after the JKUAT team leaves Olderkesi. Through the Cooperative Society, the community will coordinate the operation and maintenance of the Olderkesi mini-grid, the issuance of electricity bills to customers, collection of billing finances from the customers, generation and distribution of electricity, and also engage in the sales and marketing of agricultural products.
During the meeting that also doubled up as the first Annual General Meeting for Olderkesi SEED Cooperative Society Limited, the initial office bearers were officiated and inducted on roles and expectations. While issuing the certificate of registration, County Cooperative Officer, Mr. Wilson Saaya assured the community of continued support from the Narok County government as pertains the running of the Cooperative Society and challenged them to accord the project utmost dedication and cooperation.
His sentiments were echoed by the area chief, Nicholas Kipees, who urged the residents to remember how far they have come, should they ever be tempted to backtrack.
“This is evidence that we are making good progress, and as a community we must embrace and collaborate fully with the project. As local leaders we have been involved in every stage, and that is why as a community we donated two acres of land to this project. We shall continue to work and walk with this team every step of the way,” he said.
In its operation and execution, the SEED Project has, and continue to involve multiple partners and stakeholders, including the Rural Electrification and Renewable Energies Corporation (REREC), Energy & Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA), Ministry of Energy and Petroleum (MOEP), the Narok County Government, Local Area Administration, Community Interest Groups and Members of the Community. Present at the Thursday meeting was Mr. Anthony Makau, an Environmental, Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) expert, and Eng. Arthur Mathew, who is developing a technical report of the project to facilitate licensing by EPRA.
While expressing his optimism with the progress of the project, Dr. Ndiritu opines that the initiative will not only contribute to United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 7, but also achieve much more as a result of its positive ripple effects.
“With a reliable source of power in this place, the economic reality will change. And that is why entrepreneurship is a crucial part of this project. With access to pumped water, agriculture and agri-business will become a reality here, and that means food security and social empowerment,” says Eng. Ndiritu.
Through the SEED Centre, the University will be living true to its mandate of conducting research, coming up with innovations that are impacting communities, enhancing capacity building, and spearheading technology transfer.
Read more about the project here.