Food Security in Sipili, Laikipia West, Kenya

by Georgiana Phua

Project Proposal


I spent 2 weeks in Sipili, Laikipia West, Kenya, in January 2010 to teach art at art clubs set up by the Mobile Art School in Kenya (MASK). I wanted to take the opportunity to discover the African continent and share my passion and artistic knowledge.

Sipili is a little town in the central, semi-arid region about 4 hours north of Nairobi.

I had trouble finding it on the map- the driving map of East Africa that I had acquired from the bookstore in Nairobi left it out. Most of its 2000 inhabitants engage in subsistence farming, a common observation in the developing world. Each morning I was awoken by wailing donkeys, whipped hard on its backs, transporting a cartful of jerry cans from the water point to homes around the town. The less financially-able carry these large jerry cans on their backs, the women attach sashes to the water cans and support the bands on their foreheads.

In 2009, Sipili suffered from a year-long drought. The maize crops that many of the farmers relied on for their staple food, ugali, had dried up. It was a difficult year- food was scarce and some families had to get by with only one meal a day.

Thomas Kanyoko, a teacher at Lariak Day Secondary School, is the local coordinator of the art programs for MASK, the organization I was volunteering with. Beyond art education, there were local issues -of food security, poverty and meeting basic human needs- that needed to be addressed. On his family farm in Mwenje, a neighboring town, Thomas had started a small greenhouse that survived the year-long drought and was looking at educating his students at Lariak Day Secondary School on sustainable agriculture through practical training.

the Kenyan staple

That was how it started. One morning, Thomas and I  sat down at a small tea shop in Sipili,  discussed our ideas, wrote a proposal, then borrowed a USB modem and submitted the proposal for the Projects for Peace grant.

We will be executing our project this June with a grant from Projects for Peace.