The Regenerating Rusinga project started in 2012, the result of a Permaculture Design course run on the island by PRI-Kenya and the tireless work of Dennis Siroh, native to Rusinga. The course led to the birth of Rusinga Island Organic Farmers Association (RIOFA) as a group of farmers came together to address the challenges of food security, environmental degradation and lack of sustainable livelihoods. In 2013 the project received the support of the SLUSH fund to continue its work with the farmers on local food security and environmental regeneration whilst also developing a value chain for LUSH Cosmetics.
Rusinga Island has suffered a population explosion and severe environmental degradation as a result. Traditionally fishermen, the islanders turned to charcoal burning to support themselves as fish stocks started to decline. The result has been severe deforestation, contributing to soil erosion, the creation of gullies and the drying up of the natural springs which used to cover the hill-sides, providing the communities with fresh water. The aim of RIOFA is to find sustainable ways to provide food and nutrition security and sustainable livelihoods whilst regenerating the island.
PRI-Kenya works in partnership with RIOFA and LUSH to help them reach their aim. We provide permaculture training and have started the farmers on the path of organic certification through the Particpatory Guarantee Scheme (PGS). Group development in leadership skills, gender and group dynamics have helped create a really strong group. Each farm is developing its own agroforestry system growing nutritious food crops as well nitrogen fixing trees and Moringa Oleifeira for moringa oil production for LUSH Cosmetics. RIOFA have already developed good local markets for their organic produce and the majority of members have significantly improved their income jsut from local sales and we hope to expand on this as their new Education, Demonstration and Processing site develops also into an organic market centre. We hope to see this centre developing into a central hub for farmers at Rusinga as a whole, supporting them to improve their income and their productivity according to permaculture principles.
We also support RIOFA with staff capacity building, Project Manager Dennis Siroh has been through a PDC and also trained as a Permaculture Teacher through PRI-Kenya.