ARI Name: Onyango
at ARI: 2003
Position: Part time Staff, Trainer
Work area: Thika, Kiambu County
Other activities: Activist for Men for Gender Equality Now (MEGEN)
“I know how slums look like. They don’t have a garden. Your door is another person’s door. There is no walking space; things like that.”
For over 16 years Andrew worked for the Dagoretti Children’s Center, a project in Nairobi run by Feed the Children. The center cares for orphaned and destitute children as well as those who are physically and mentally challenged and Andrew was brought in to teach both children and young adults about theories and practices in agriculture. Since his departure from Dagoretti some four years ago he has been engaged in a number of short term work, volunteer, and activist assignments. This included spending two years in Saudi Arabia as a farm technician where he got into desert farming and helped set up new irrigation and pollination systems for date plants. Though that job brought in good income, he saw upon his return that his long absence had been hard on the family and thus decided not to go back.
Since that time he has become an activist in Men for Gender Equality Now (MEGEN). This society is involved in community sensitization, education advocacy, and campaigning to challenge the unequal power relations that exist between men and women, working to transform harmful masculinities into positive ones to put an end to gender based violence. The group reaches out to men to get them involved in stopping gender based violence and has worked with thousands of men and women throughout the country to promote gender equality in order to create healthy and loving relationships within families and communities as a whole.
Recently he was called to assist with a program to teach about “bag” or “doorstep gardening” in the Kiandutu slums of Thika, a rapidly growing industrial town on the outskirts of Nairobi. The project provides gunny sacks, soil, seeds, and organic fertilizers. Andrew teaches members, the majority of whom are women, how to make their own bags, organic liquid fertilizers and pesticides, and how to use these materials to grow vegetables within their extremely limited living spaces. The vegetables serve as an important source of nutrition that these mothers would likely be unable to provide to their children otherwise. Over 600 bags have been made to date and a total of 500 families have benefited from the program, meaning almost a thousand children have been rescued from malnutrition related deaths.
Additionally Andrew assists with the installation of “Mabati Water Lights,” which are simple lights made of plastic bottles, filled with distilled water and inserted into a watertight hole in the ceiling. The outside sunlight is refracted through the bottle and, at almost zero cost, an otherwise dark and windowless room is lit up. In addition to the convenience of being able to see inside one’s own home, the light cuts down on the spread of tuberculosis bacteria, which thrive in dark quarters.
Andrew very much enjoys keeping in touch with other ARI graduates in Kenya and in 2010 he orchestrated a gathering in the town of Limuru to bring them together to share their experiences, their knowledge, and, of course their memories of ARI.