AISRED African Institute for Scientific Research and Development
AGRICULTURE, HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT
In rural Africa agriculture, health and the environment are like three sides of a triangle. As the sides define and determine the triangle, so do agriculture, health and the environment both define and determine rural development. For socio-economic development to occur attention must be paid to all the three aspects.
The Maasai Rural Development Centre offers excellent opportunities for such an integrated approach to development. The centre is located on 450 acres of land at a place called Olooscos, which is about 45 kilometers southwest of Nairobi, Kenya. AISRED, in conjunction with the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, who own the centre, has programmes in livestock development, crop improvement, community based healthcare and environmental conservation. There is also a programme that deals with problems of socioeconomic development. These programmes are described briefly below.
The mission of AISRED is to use science to find effective solutions to the widespread problems of poverty and underdevelopment in Africa as an expression of Christ's love. AISRED seeks to direct the talents and scientific expertise of Christians towards goal-oriented research and public education in the needy areas of agriculture, health, the environmental and socioeconomic development. AISRED serves all the people of Africa regardless of their faith, sex or ethnic origin. The Institute, which is an East African organization, is registered in Kenya as a non-profit company.
The aim of the agricultural project, which was initiated in 1997, is to help raise agricultural production with a view to improving food availability, enhancing nutrition and increasing family incomes in semi-arid environments.
Livestock Project. The immediate objectives of this project is to improve meat and milk production in the Maasai community served by the centre. The project is attempting to improve the meat and milk productivity of the indigenous cattle by producing and making available to the farmers high quality bulls for cross-breeding with indigenous cows. Sahiwal bulls and bulls from a cross of Sahiwal and an exotic dairy breed will meet a felt need of the farmers. Similarly, good quality rams of the Dorper breed of sheep, which the Maasai farmers value highly, will be made available for crossbreeding with the native sheep.
Crop project. The aim of this project is to under- take adaptive research and then make available good quality seed to farmers. Initial field trials have involved varieties of beans and maize.
Training and demonstration. When adequately developed, the farm will serve as a "textbook" from which farmers can learn new technologies and farm management techniques. It will also provide hands-on training for church youth, interns and farmers.
Despite national and international efforts to improve health for all, many communities in East Africa are still plagued with communicable and other preventable diseases such as tuberculosis, immunisable childhood diseases, nutritional disorders, maternal deaths, eye infections, injuries, and problems related to alcohol and narcotic drug abuse.
Common infections such as acute respiratory tract infections, diarrhoea, malaria and sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV/AIDS) are responsible for most of the morbidity and mortality in rural communities. The incidence of many of these diseases can be drastically reduced through community based health education, immunization, improved mother and child health care and enhanced nutrition.
In collaboration with MAP (Medical Assistance Program) International, AISRED is in the process of developing community based healthcare. The programme aims at both providing healthcare and serving as a model for other areas. Based on an existing health facility at the Centre, the healthcare programme has the following components:
1. Curative service provided by qualified nurses, with weekly visits by a physician; difficult cases to be referred to specialists or hospitals.
2. Community based healthcare system using Community Health Workers who, after training, will reach out to households to give informed advice, and offer treatment for simple illnesses.
3. Community based mother and child healthcare, including maternity and family planning services.
4. Health education based at the Centre and reaching out to the community through Community Health Workers.
5 Laboratory equipped with simple yet modern tools for accurate diagnosis.
This programme has four components.
Soil Conservation. Soil conservation methods, particularly those using agroforestry, are being integrated with agriculture. A multipurpose tree nursery has been started for this purpose as for the afforestation and creation of a biodiversity centre.
Afforestation. The community development centre is located in an open grassland area. Afforestation and tree planting in selected sites are being undertaken both for demonstration and to improve the environment, particularly through wind control.
Biodiversity and conservation programme. A 30 acre site including a dam, has been selected and fenced in to conserve and increase biodiversity. Seven acres will be planted with useful indigenous and other trees and shrubs, including medicinal plants. The site will be used for the demonstration of biodiversity and for conservation education.
Environmental education. With its strong grassroots strength and unrivaled moral authority, the church has a crucial role to play in environmental conservation in East Africa. However, it is at present unable to play that role effectively partly because of inadequate knowledge of the issues involved and partly, because of inadequate capacity for reflection, education and advocacy. A recent AISRED survey found that a number of church-related educational institutions offered courses on the environment but the teachers were often poorly equipped and lacked essential resources. AISRED proposes to provide training for such teachers as well as for secondary schools teachers of environment-related courses. The proposed training will include practical or field work based at Olooseos and will be backed by an environmental resource centre. Environmental health will be emphasized in the community based healthcare programme.
This programme deals with problems of socioeconomic development in Africa. To conscientize people about the problems of poverty and underdevelopment. AISRED has published two well-received books, "Hope for Africa and What the Christian Can Do" and "Vision for a Bright Africa", in addition to conducting many seminars on economic, social and political issues related to poverty.
Professor George Kinoti, PhD. Executive Director
AISRED P. 0. Box 14663, Nairobi, Kenya.