October 29, 2016

Building a new vocational training centre

In November 2015, Mugo invited members of the larger community to rallye support for our idea to build a vocational institute of appropriate technologies and renewable energies. Our plans were welcomed by all participants of the meetings because the new centre will provide chances for school leavers in the area to get practical technical training and enhance their chances to find employment.

 At the end of the month, the County Governor officially launched the project in a public ceremony.

The County Governor addresses the community.

Before we could start construction, an engineer had to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment and send a report to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) for approval. It was a very detailed document and we were quite impressed about all to factors that were examined and taken into account. What a difference in the requirements of building our small Kiini workshop as compared to a public institute!
But in December we started building the new workshop.

Deep trenches for the foundation were necessary because the soil on the slope was rather loose.
Members of the community have been employed for the work.
hard work

February 2016 - The workshop is growing.

March 2016 - almost ready
End of April 2016

Hans-Georg Klaphake´s project visit

In April Hans-Georg Klaphake went to Kenya for another project visit. Mugo had found trainees for H-Georg who taught them how to build gasifier cookers. At the end of the training, two of the young men were employed as trainers for metallwork courses at the Kiini workshop. They also act as supervisors during the construction of the new training centre.

Hans-Georg and the trainees are planning to build gasifier stoves.

practical training at the Kiini workshop

The gasifier stove has passed the cooking test.

Hans-Georg Klaphake shows Mugo´s daughters how to use the gasifier stove.

The County Governor has come for a visit and hands over a cheque in support of our project.

Before Hans-Georg Klaphake arrived in Kenya, he had ordered and collected machines, tools, equipment for building solar systems (photovoltaic and thermal) and other useful items. They were loaded into a container which was shipped to Mombasa. The county government then assisted in getting the container to Karinga ga Nkoru.
Unfortunately H-G could not stay long enough to receive the container himself. It arrived at the end of May after he had already left. Nevertheless, Mugo and everybody around him were very excited to receive such high-quality equipment for the workshop.

arrival of the container

My project visit in August 2016

The county government contributed to the progress of construction by making heavy machinery available. A bulldozer was sent to level the ground. And when I arrived in August they had started building the tuition block. 

so much easier and faster than working with hoes and shovels

the foundation of the tuition block

 At the beginning of my stay, Mugo had invited the stakeholders of the project for a meeting. Besides the MKICDO board members, there were chiefs, community representatives, retired headmasters, university lecturers, an appropriate technology consultant, a home economics teacher, a specialist in herbal medicine and a wildlife conservancy officer. We were 28 in total - there were lively discussions and everybody agreed on the importance of building a training institute in the area. They made it their project!

the stakeholders meeting

a strong support group

It is growing: the tuition block with two classrooms and one office.

a device for bending metal rods

The steel beams are made by hand.

The compound has been fenced. The gate was welded at the Kiini workshop.

Classroom chairs were also made at Kiini - in the first course conducted by our new trainers.

 In the course of my stay we won another supporter: The Minister of Education visited the new project site and Kiini. He was very impressed to see the well equipped workshops. We convinced him of the important role the institute is going to play in providing practical training and in creating employment opportunities for young people and he promised to assist us.

Mugo is showing the building plans to the Minister of Education and newspaper reporters.

MKICDO board members and visitors

Other visits


The women´s group "12 Sisters" of our board member Ivonne received a grant to buy materials for making fireless basket cookers. They sell them at a very fair price and don´t get much profit. But marketing is not easy because the women who live in the area are so poor that they can hardly afford to buy one. The group would like to start a catering and baking project.

Using fireless basket cookers saves a lot of firewood.

I had always promised the women of the Gaketha group to come and visit their homes. This year I found enough time to see some of them. Most of them live in humble conditions on small pieces of land. They don´t get enough income from farming or from their vegetable gardens and have to work as casual labourers picking tea. Only a few of them are slightly better off, particularly if a family member is employed.
I had been meeting these women for years and thought I knew them. But these visits opened my eyes to their true living conditions and I realized that their lives are a never-ending struggle. 

Joyce has a small shop in Gaketha where she sells vegetables and basic food stuff. Her shop is connected to the grid and she charges cellphones to pay the electricity bill. Joyce has three children. Her husband cuts trees with a power saw.

On her 0,2 acres land she grows kale and bananas and keeps a few chicken.

When Joyce got sick she had to sell her cow to pay the medical bill.


Wanja, 48 years, with one of her five children, neighbours and her mother who stays with her. She lives on 0.05 acres land, has two chicken and runs a small kiosk. Her husband is a pastor. Wanja used to pick tea until she had to stop for health reasons.

The kitchen: Wanja used to cook on a fuel-efficient clay liner stove. When the liner broke she went back to cooking on two stones.


Murugi (left), 45 years, lives across the valley from Gaketha at the edge of the Mount Kenya forest on a one acre piece of land where she grows coffee, tea and bananas.She has four children. Her husband cuts trees, she picks tea for a living.

Murugi has bought a good calf with a credit from her savings club. She also has four chicken.


Rose (60) and her husband (63) have 6 children and 10 grandchildren. They live on three acres land and have two cows, three goats, ten chicken and two gheese. They sell coffee, tea and milk.


Karimi (38) lives in a small house on the edge of her 0.45 acre farm. She has 4 children. On the steep slopes of her land she grows coffee, tea, bananas and fruits. From the goats project of the Gaketha group Karimi has bought a goat that has produced two offspring. She and her husband (49) go picking tea.

Karimi´s children have to walk down this very steep slope and up again on the other side to go to school.

My friend Margaret Owino came to visit us at Gaketha for the first time. She has a wealth of experience in managing developmental projects and working with women´s groups. After seeing our projects she participated in our discussions and gave us valuable ideas and advice.

Sightseeing with Mugo, Margaret and Micheni. On this side of the Mount Kenya forest you have a spectacular view across a very deep valley.
  During may stay in Kenya I visited many more people. I made new friends and met old friends again. We discussed new ideas, inspired one another and - most important to me - shared our hopes and dreams of a better future for the people in this beautiful country.

October 31, 2015

August 2015 - New projects and developments

What happened since my last visit


 The Gaketha Group was selected to be part of an agricultural training program financed by the government. They were shown how to grow soy and climbing beans under a variety of conditions: with and without compost or with fertilizer. The experiment and the results were recorded and later evaluated and compared with the records of other goups. The group members were encouraged to apply their new skills in their own shambas.

the women with the agricultural trainer
planting beans and keeping records

The Kiini workshop is well equipped but rather underutilized. Reverend Nkanya has been trying to get orders from institutions and individuals but there is stiff competition. He found a talented young man who comes to build furniture when the workshop gets orders. 

This year, the MKICDO board members discovered that there is demand for high-quality upholstery. A bank manager from Chuka came to visit the workshop and asked for a special sofa set. She had seen one in Nairobi but did not want to have it transported all the way to her home. Instead, arrangements were made to have the Nairobi specialists build a sofa set at our workshop. First, one man came and built the wooden skeletons. Next, two women came and sewed the fabrics on rented sewing machines. An upholsterer cut the foam rubber pieces and gave the final touches to the furniture. The results were rather impressive: a beautiful modern sofa set.

a sofa skeleton
The fabrics were provided by the customer.
almost done

Planning a new vocational training institute

The MKICDO board members in Kenya and H-G Klaphake and I in Germany have been discussing and evaluating the slow progress at our Kiini workshop. We decided to take a new approach to establish an institute where vocational training is provided to the youths of the area and where training of trainers and promotors takes place.
We asked the Tharaka-Nithi County Government to assist us. They were in favour of our plans and signalized that they were ready to support us. 
H-Georg wrote a project proposal for an Institute of Advanced Vocational Training in Appropriate Energy-efficient Technologies and Renewable Energies and sent it to the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

frequent board meetings and long hours of work and discussions

When I visited Mugo in August we went to Karinga ga nkoru, a small market about 1.2 km from our Kiini workshop. The County Government had allocated several pieces of land for us to choose from. We agreed that a plot on the edge of the market would be suitable to build training workshops, a school and offices. A dining/social hall, kitchen and accomodation would be built on a plot in the center of Karinga. These two plots were given to MKICDO by the County Government and the transaction was confirmed in a document. The government is also going to employ the staff of the training institute and give additional financial assistance.

view from the main road - left: the plot for the training institute; right: the road to Karinga ga nkoru
downhill view: the plot borders the main road
Karinga market - Here we want to build the dining hall
During my stay, Mugo, the county economic advisor, Munene Mputhia, and I were very busy running up and down to get the land evaluated and official documents written and signed. These documents were crucial for our project proposal to be approved by the German BMZ. 
In addition, we visted influential people to inform them about our project plans and lobby for support. Their reactions were positive and they promised to assist us. An elderly farmer who practiced permaculture and had built and run a coffee wet mill in his haydays offered us the use of his land for agricultural demonstrations.

The briquet-making project


Our German organisation Lernen-Helfen-Leben e.V. has focused on the construction of gasifier/pyrolysis stoves during the past 3 years. These stoves perform very well when pellets or briquets made from plant waste are used. In my discussions with MKICDO board members we came to the conclusion that making briquets for sale could be a viable income-generating project for the Kiini workshop. It would also be in line with our plans to build gasifier stoves at the new institute and train promotors to market them.
Mugo found a young entrepreneur who already had some experiences in setting up such projects. We met and came up with a basic outline for a medium-scale business. The briquets will be made of sawdust and coffee husks. Sawdust is readily available from carpentry workshops. The husks are a waste product at coffee dry mills and are sold very cheaply. We went to a nearby coffee cooperative and made arrangements to be given priority once we need these raw materials.

Talking about gasifier stoves with Levis Bundi. This giz book has a wealth of information on stove types and pellet and briquet presses.

The dry coffee beans are dehusked and graded.

Coffee grown in the Mount Kenya region is delicious!

A visit to Kedovo e.V. in Nyeri

In May I met a young Kenyan woman who lives in Germany and has founded an organisation to help coffee farmers in her home area Nyeri on the western slopes of Mount Kenya. Muthoni, together with her brothers at home, imports coffee and sells it to roasters in Germany, at a supermarket in her town Kaltenkirchen and in her online shop (http://www.chaniacoffee.de/). As a result, the farmers get higher prices for their coffee. Part of Muthoni´s profit is used to assist her home community.
Our coffee-growing board members and a representative of the Kiini Coffee Growers Co-op were interested in joining Muthoni´s activities. So we visited her family to get first-hand information about their projects. We got a very friendly reception and our coffee farmers got some eye-opening information about fair trade.

in the coffee shamba
Our hosts show us their canvas bag biogas system.

visitors and hosts

Other activities and impressions - a potpourri

Some of the Gaketha goup women are happily displaying their donated rain jackets. - Thank you to all those who donated!
An employee of the County Ministry for Youths and Sports receives some of the donated footballs.
The kids test one of the balls.
Gorgeous! - The two improved dairy goats both got kids while I was there.
Our stately billy goat is back after a successful mission in another project.
Mugo is getting a new grain store built.
Mugo´s son Murangiri is now living in the compound with his wife and son. He is working as a teacher like his dad but also very interested in farming. - He shows me a banana circle.
They planted a variety of vegetables in their kitchen garden.
Mugo´s daughter Nkatha (left) applies the skills she learned during a two-year course at a beauty college. She will graduate in November and is hoping to be self-employed.
Gakii tests the Lightoven III panel cooker that I brought from Germany. Unfortunately it was a bit too cloudy and her birthday cake did not get done.
We visit the bank manager who got the new sofa set for her home.
Very comfortable! - She is impressed with the good job done at our workshop and promises to advertise our services. She is also the head of the local Women´s Guild and ready to work together with us.
One day off - Munene takes us through the Mt. Kenya forest up to the park.
At the Forest Lodge you can rent self-contained cottages. I spent one night here after climbing Mt.Kenya -    in 1986 !!!

The view is fantastic but Mt.Kenya hides in the clouds most of the day.

The latest news


The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has accepted our proposal. Within a project period of 3 years, they will assist us with a grant to build and develop the new training institute. However, we still have to contribute a large share ourselves. This is a heavy burden for us.
Therefore we would appreciate any kind of support and be grateful for your donation.

You may send your donation to the Kenya account of our German organisation

 “Lernen-Helfen-Leben e.V.”, Volksbank Vechta,

IBAN: DE48 2806 4179 0135 875811,   BIC: GENO DE F1 VEC

or you can donate on

Thank you in the name of all MKICDO officials and members!