CHASE Africa, the charity run by Henry Pomeroy and Robin Witt, provides practical help with contraception and tree planting in Kenya.
CHASE Africa is a very practical organisation that provides very practical help to communities in Africa, focusing on the link between human population and its effect on the environment.
To give you some idea, in 2013 CHASE Africa:
- planted 39,200 trees
- provided 300 fuel-efficient stoves
- built 68 latrines
- mobilised 22,663 with family planning messages
- provided 5,912 women with contraception
Originally set up as Rift Valley Tree Trust (RVTT) in 2000, the charity was run by the founder Robin Witt on a voluntary and part-time basis
In September 2012 when it changed its name to Community Health and Sustainable Environment (CHASE) Africa.
This reflected a shift in the organisation’s activities, including a new focus on tackling the problem of rapid population growth and poverty in rural Kenya.
At the same time, Henry Pomeroy, with 20 years of experience of working in the NGO (non-governmental organisations) sector in Africa, was appointed Director.
CHASE Africa is based in Nunney. Since the charity has no staff in Kenya itself, it works through local partner organisations to deliver an integrated healthcare and family planning service, alongside tree planting and environmental education in schools and rural communities.
It is increasingly being recognised that population growth and environmental degradation are inextricably linked. As more people rely on the environment’s natural resources, it becomes more difficult to manage those resources in a sustainable way.
This has become the case with devastating consequences in rural Kenya, where communities who rely on wood for fuel and construction purposes have sourced their timber from the indigenous forests rather than sustainable forestry.
Deforestation has reduced forest cover by over 80% since the 1960s, leading to decreased rainfall and erratic water flow. This presents huge problems for communities who rely on streams and rivers for their water supply, as well as farmers who cannot cultivate their crops during the droughts.
Flooding and soil erosion are becoming increasingly common when it does rain, due to the lack of vegetation cover, and the impact on wildlife and bio-diversity has been disastrous.
Finding wood and water is becoming increasingly difficult as forests recede and streams dry up. Journeys to collect wood and water are backbreaking and becoming more time-consuming.
Trees for schools
Schools in Kenya are often situated on sizable plots of land, many of which are larger than the average family farm.
Working with our local partners FOMAWA (Friends of the Mau Watershed) and COFEG (Community Food and Environment Group) CHASE Africa has funded the planting of trees on unused ground at 63 schools in Nakuru District.
This planting includes both wood lots (trees to be harvested for fuel and timber) and indigenous trees which will remain to maturity. The children are taught how to look after the trees, a skill they can take home.
One of the largest expenses of every school is the cost of timber with which to cook the school lunch. In Kenya, the school lunch is the most nutritious meal a child will get during the day, and often the only meal.
By using timber grown at the school to cook these meals, the school can save a significant sum of money.
In addition, as bought timber usually comes from the dwindling forest, growing trees on school grounds takes pressure off the remaining indigenous forest.
Some schools are also beginning to be able to raise funds by selling their excess timber for construction purposes.
Fuel-efficient stoves and rainwater tanks
With rapid population growth, the average size of ‘shamba’(farm) has decreased, leaving little space for growing trees for firewood. Finding wood and water is increasingly difficult as forests recede and streams dry up.
Journeys to collect wood and water are time-consuming, backbreaking and often dangerous. Wood smoke causes numerous health problems including respiratory diseases, cancer and eye infections.
The majority of the rural population do all their cooking on a traditional three stone fire. This is a highly inefficient method of cooking, as only about 15% of the available energy is utilised. A fuel efficient stove can reduce the amount of timber burnt by 50%.
Families who purchase wood for fuel spend upwards of 20% of their income on it, so halving their use of firewood makes a significant saving. We distribute fuel-efficient stoves through our prtners.
As well as walking miles to collect firewood, women and children often walk great distances to collect water. The provision of guttering and water tanks can provide clean drinking water.
CHASE has provided funds for individual households and schools to install guttering and water tanks. Nearly every school we have planted trees at asks us to help them to harvest rainwater.
Reducing the amount of time spent in collecting wood and water has a huge impact on the quality of life, particularly for women and children. Women are able to devote more time to other activities, children don’t miss school so much, and everyone’s health improves.
The increase in the Kenyan population is putting natural resources under enormous pressure. The population has increased from 20 million in 1988 to 44 million in 2014. The UN median forecasts show that by 2050 the population will more than double again to 96 million.
The average Kenyan woman gives birth to 5 children in her lifetime, although many poor rural women have more than this number. Across Kenya 26% of married women are unable to access contraception.
In remote rural areas access to family planning is virtually non-existent and therefore women have no control over the number and spacing of their children.
There were over 400,000 abortions in Kenya in 2012, with 120,000 women seeking treatment for complications brought on by the abortion. Teenage and older mothers and their babies have higher than average mortality rates.
CHASE’s main focus is to try and meet the unmet demand for basic healthcare and family planning services and we achieve this by working with three local partners.
In hard to reach areas camels can be the best way to move the clinic. The camel team generally go out for four weeks on a well planned route which allows for resupply from a vehicle at certain points. Taking a solar powered fridge allows medicines and vaccines to be kept at the correct temperature.
When road conditions allow the clinic can travel in a four wheeled drive vehicle, and sometimes the clinic nurse will take all the necessary supplies in a back pack, travelling by foot, bicycle, motorbike or minibus to the desired location.
Support CHASE Africa
To find out more about CHASE Africa and the practical solutions it provides for family planning and the environment in Kenya, visit www.chaseafrica.org.uk or contact Henry Pomeroy.