Shifting the Power Project
Essay By: Lucy Espila

As a communications specialist, in development and humanitarian Aid, I have learnt to appreciate the importance of on the Job training. As John Canfield aptly said it “some of the most important things can only be learned in the process of doing them.” For example, four years ago I transitioned from a banker based in Nairobi to a project officer in the marginalized county of Samburu. The transition process taught me that my passion lies in the service to the communities that we serve.  Evidently, most of life is on the job training, and this is one of the things that I have picked from the core skills development course. Throughout my coursework from August 2016 to January 2017, I greatly sharpened my skills in humanitarian programming, leadership in humanitarian response and good working practices.

My self-assessment during the inception stage of the course, revealed gaps in my understanding of humanitarian context and application of humanitarian principles.  The first step that I took to improve this competency was to watch video clips on a variety of humanitarian crises and steps taken to respond to the emergencies. I then completed online course on the Sphere handbook. As a result, I interacted with a number of humanitarian guidelines and principles such as: The Humanitarian Charter, NGO Code of Conduct, The Core Humanitarian Standards, and Protection Principles, amongst others. The first face to face workshop was an eye opener for me. It gave me an opportunity to interact with different actors in this discourse from Kenya and Ethiopia. I also learnt on the importance of application of these principles in project design, Implementation, Monitoring and phase out.

As part of action learning, I shared resource materials from the course with my colleagues. As a result, 4 staff enrolled for the sphere online course and one staff enrolled for and completed the different needs equal opportunities course. I also placed the NGO and Red Cross code of conduct on the Caritas Maralal notice board.

One other gap that I noted during my self-assessment was a weakness in managing myself in a pressured and changing environment.  During the second workshop, we were taken through a session on Managing stress. I realized that implementers also get affected by the pressured and changing environment. Some of the ways that we get affected include: Facing the demands of work –life balance while addressing the needs of the affected population, the element of friction between programme staff and programme support staff, application of procurement guidelines and standards in emergencies, amongst others. Some of these situations can cause trauma. In recognition of this, management in Caritas Maralal organized for a trauma awareness training for all caritas staff on 12th and 14th December 2016. This contributed to the improvement of this competency.

Based lessons learnt from the core skills programme, I achieved a three key results; one of my actions plans was to roll out the construction of a resource center in caritas Maralal. Through partnership with Action aid, construction begun in September 2016, after the first workshop. This was made possible through project funds from the Start Network: Shifting the Power project. We plan to equip the center with resource materials relevant to humanitarian response. We will also mentor interns interested in community development through this center. Caritas Maralal staff will also access hard and soft copies of resource materials from the Centre. My other action plan was to introduce online learning to my colleagues, and as mentioned earlier one staff completed a course and presented her certificate.

I have also produced a terms of reference for production of a video documentary on “peace building initiatives in humanitarian response”. The objective of the documentary is to produce a documentary that provides a clear compelling narrative on the effectiveness and quality of emergency response during conflict in Caritas Maralal. The video will be shared with RedrUK.

Throughout the course work my learning objectives changed. Initially, my top two learning priorities were:

(1) Monitoring and Evaluation.

(2) Developing and maintaining collaborative relationships.

Having gone through this course I achieved my learning objectives and so much more. The insight from the online modules, the course facilitators and resource materials provided, greatly influenced this. I also know that there is still room for improvement in certain areas. I want to enroll for a detailed course on Do No Harm and Conflict Sensitivity which I believe will make a significant contribution to my learning Journey.

In conclusion, I can see extensive ways in which I will continue to apply what I have learnt from this course. I know that I will continue to grow and learn throughout the completion of this course and beyond.


“The context course has made tremendous change in the overall performance of Lucy in her work here in Caritas Maralal. Lucy has been able to broaden her skills in core areas of interventions especially in ensuring that at all times she strives to align her work and that of her project team to humanitarian  core standards. The training has really triggered her passion to undertake community work in the best ways possible putting into mind the need for positive results and impacts to the people we serve as a church. The staff is now a big asset in the organization since she is now able to proactively engage in and maintain collaborative relationships and partnerships with our strategic development partners in our humanitarian world.

Lucy has been able to development keen interest in fund raising and documentation of success stories for various projects carried out by Caritas Maralal and has been able to use the skills acquired from the course to rally support from the rest of the staff here. We are grateful for the project since it has enabled Lucy to be a great asset to us who is more objective and more objective and broad minded.” (Philip Lomanat Ekiru- Programmes Coordinator)





Impact of Shifting the Power project  in Samburu North Sub-County, Kenya.

Wilson Leleruk, Assistant Chief of Bendera village. Photo Credits: Caritas Maralal, Kenya.

Since January, 2.7 million people require humanitarian assistance with the acute needs in food, water and livestock in Kenya. StP and its partners have been working to respond to the drought in various ways. The below excerpt is from the Samburu North Sub-County where StP partners have worked to devolve power from the  County Steering Group to the Sub-County Level. 

Prior to the introduction of the sub-county steering group (SCSG), decisions were mostly made at the county level and there was less input from those on the ground. There were no effective and efficient communication channel to use to pass the problems faced by the sub-county to the Country Steering Group (CSG). Communities in Samburu North Sub-County did not have a grassroots plan on how to mitigate and address the disasters affecting them at the sub-county level. They were vulnerable and could not react to disasters appropriately.
In Samburu County, prolonged drought resulted in food insecurity which made much of the population in Samburu County experience acute food shortages requiring urgent interventions. The NDMA in collaboration with StP partner Caritas Maralal initiated the SCSG.
Wilsodn Leleruk Assistant  Chief  of Bendera village in Samburu North Sub-County describes the effect of the devolving of the CSG to the sub-county level.
“As a result of the sub-county steering group formation, it was possible to get the real picture of the situation on the ground like drought intensity and its impact to the local population and collecting views on the ground from stakeholders on how to address it. This ensured a sense of ownership in decision making by the partners in the sub-county. We were able to come up with our own sub-county action plan’’
‘’During drought, our members of the sub-county steering group are able to follow the prescribed and agreed upon action plan to mitigate drought and implement any other actions discussed at the sub-county steering group sessions’’ added Chief Wilson.

Now stakeholders in Samburu North Sub-County are able to use their action plans and engage other development partners to help them mitigate disasters and plan for responses to issues affecting the population.


Acquisition and adoption of energy efficient stoves in Samburu County.

In his 2011 research paper on “adoption of energy efficient woodstoves and contribution to resource conservation in Nakuru , kenya”, Paul observed that the demand for firewood in Kenya is on the increase as the population grows. This is because most of the rural households in Kenya use traditional stoves which are low in energy efficiency. As a result most of these households consume a lot of firewood. This has also led to an increase in indoor air pollution.

Currently in Kenya, there are efforts by state and non-state actors to promote conservation of wood fuel technologies. In view of this, Caritas Maralal has partnered with the Catholic Aid for Overseas Development (CAFOD) to implement the UKAID funded Climate Resilient Agriculture (CRA) Project in Samburu County.

The three year project that has run from June 2015, is also being implemented in Marsabit and Kitui Counties. It aims to increase crop and livestock productivity amongst target groups in Samburu East and Central Sub-counties.

The Climate Resilient Agriculture project is informed by the precincts of conservation agriculture and environmental conservation as one of the best practices to capture and learn from. The overall goal is that the communities living in Samburu County, will acquire and adopt the use of energy saving stoves, at lower costs.  The Molders provided to the communities, will also be used to manufacture the stoves for sale on small scale household use.

In our efforts to increase awareness on the effects of climate change and the need for environmental conservation in Samburu County, Caritas Maralal has trained 150 women on fabrication of energy saving stoves in Ngilai, Sordo, Ntepes, Milimani, Ldupai , Porro, Nomotio , Loikas and Tamiyoi villages. 35 women in Ngilai and Ldupai Village are now selling the energy saving stoves in nearby markets and villages.

Evidence in assessments and previous interventions in schools by Caritas Maralal in Samburu County reveal that, the demand and consumption of firewood is also high in these institutions. This translates to deforestation and environmental degradation. As a result, Caritas Maralal has installed energy efficient cooking stoves in 8 schools. The improved stoves have a higher combustion efficiency that produces more heat and less smoke from firewood.

“Before the installation of the Energy saving stoves by Caritas Maralal; we were using: open air- three mounted stones- as pillars that hold large cooking pots. This type of stove consumed a lot of firewood and money for fuel on a weekly basis. I now observe with appreciation that the installation of the new energy saving stove has minimized waste and we are in a position to conserve energy while cooking for 74 students every day. As a learning experience; we realize that we have to conserve our environment by planting trees and also adopting the use of energy efficient stoves”   said Mrs Grace, the Head teacher St. Irene Girls School.

Evidently, there is a need to invest in the development and promotion of renewable energy technologies in Samburu County. Throughout the Climate Resilient Agriculture project implementation, Caritas Maralal will support knowledge transfer on climate change mitigation and adaptation approaches within schools and communities in Samburu County.