Nguzo Africa; Creating and Transforming Communities for Sustainability

In this discussion with Nguzo Africa, Philanthropy Circuit explores the principles of community fundraising and the creativity of local-led initiatives for sustainable development.

Nguzo Africa is an innovative community foundation committed to just, resilient and prosperous communities. The mission of the organization is to empower people,  create economic opportunities and transform communities for the prosperity of current and future generations.

Nguzo Africa began as a community organization in 2011, with activities coordinated from regional offices in Narok and Kisii, where they undertake program activities in Kenya’s Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) and Lake Basin Region.

According to Elizaphan Ogechi, the Founder and Executive Director, “Nguzo” is Swahili for “Pillar.” Consequently, Nguzo Africa started with three main pillars namely

  • Environmental conservation and climate change, 
  • Agriculture and food security 
  • The Issues of Governance and Democracy. 

This translates to the innovative community-led strategies employed by the organization to advance social justice, participatory governance, sustainable agriculture, and tackling the climate change crisis for the betterment of coming generations.

The intriguing aspect of Nguzo Africa is that it arose from a desire to address issues at the grassroots level. Consider the recently concluded green energy project supported by the Kenyan Community for Development (KCDF).

The wider Narok County in Kenya has experienced drought and famine as a result of changes in the area’s climate patterns, resulting in significant deforestation and environmental degradation of the Mau Forest. Narok, once considered a water tower with a forest cover of more than 76 percent 20 years ago, currently has a forest cover of less than 33 percent due to a number of factors with the major ones being charcoal burning, large-scale wheat planting as well as an upsurge in settlement schemes in the Mau Forest.

In an effort to address the challenges brought about by climate change, Nguzo Africa developed a biogas project aimed primarily at pastoral households. The project’s goal was to provide households with an alternative to wood fuel for lighting while also reducing the distances that women and girls had to travel to get firewood because most forests were devoid of trees.

Nguzo Africa approached KCDF with a green energy project that included developing biogas plant projects for eight households, providing solar lanterns for lighting to 300 households, and planting 5000 trees to promote environmental conservation. The KCDF provided Nguzo Africa with a matching grant of KES 1 million to carry out the project.

The group was tasked to raise KES 500,000 and KCDF would match shilling for a shilling raised locally among its community.  Nguzo Africa was able to raise Ksh. 1 million locally via income generating activities for the green energy project through KCDF’s “Pamoja for Change” initiative and KCDF matched that sum, giving the pastoral households the advantages that come with using green energy.

When asked about his perspectives on building a strong development sector in Africa, Elizaphan states that effective systems are needed to enable African Philanthropy and ensure accountability.

“…the community has the power, resources, skills, and people to take charge of their own development.”

Elizaphan Ogechi, Founder and Executive Director Nguzo Africa

Recently, Nguzo Africa began the “Skills to Jobs” initiative on May 1, 2022, giving well-intentioned Kenyans the chance to donate work kits and provide 100 youths with jobs in 100 days. This tailored campaign provides diverse Jobs Kits to participating youth, along with business skills and mentorship, to help them turn their skills into jobs and take control of their future.

We are in tandem with Nguzo Africa’s belief that “the community has the power, resources, skills, and people to take charge of their own development.” When communities are informed and equipped with relevant knowledge, they become empowered, organized, and connected to provide long-term community-led solutions to pressing issues affecting them. 

Find out more on the amazing community-driven work at Nguzo Africa here

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