International Peace Inititatives Blog
Tiriji Peace Eco-Center in Meru PDF Print E-mail
Written by Gina McCune   
Monday, 18 August 2014 14:43

Tiriji is an eco-project geared towards reviving a community's traditional ways of food production to enhance sustainable agriculture through care of our land, conservation of our environment, and empowerment of the local people to rebuild the broken relationships. These skills are needed to kickback the impact of climate change, build a sustainable food system, and create resilient communities.

We are planning to build a holistic peace retreat, training, and conference center for locals, visitors, and volunteers to come learn about sustainable farming practices. Our goal is to model 'simple luxury' through a high quality, low impact lifestyle and thus contribute to sustainable peace and development in our communities. The retreat center will include classrooms, a conference hall, a kitchen, an information space, a demonstration farm, and a communal area. The center will model simple living through use of solar energy, eco-toilets, organic farming, eco-friendly building practices, and other techniques for preserving the ecosystem.


(Pictured above: An eco-hut built using locally sourced materials and traditional methods of construction)

Why this project?

Deforestation, chemicalized agriculture, and poor farming techniques have degraded the land so that we can no longer produce food without using hybrid (GMO) seeds. These practices are not only depleting the forests and the land, but also causing health challenges such as increased cancer incidence and other chronic health issues.

In our community, monoculture practices have affected food production diversity and have created a community that largely depends on maize and beans. Ultimately, this lack of variety, along with climate change, have led to food insecurity among the local people. The Tiriji eco-project will enable these people to dialogue about ways to create food sovereignty within their communities. The project will also facilitate the introduction of local varieties of different cereals and other food crops that have been forgotten, but can be grown using permaculture techniques. 

Overall, we hope to inspire the next generation to embrace permaculture as a way of life.


(Pictured above: Teaching the next generation about permaculture)

Your funding will go towards:

  • About $2000 will be used to purchase the rain harvesting system: piping, water tanks, and gutters
  • About $650 will be used to purchase tools (hoes (fork jembe), machetes, shovels (spades), and rakes)
  • About $350 will be used to purchase seeds
  • About $1651 will be the annual wage for one local who will be maintaining and developing the land, planting the gardens, and creating the food forest
  • About $800 will be used to bring in a local permaculture expert who will provide feedback on the existing model farm, implement an initial on-site community training, and work with the local people to demonstrate how a permaculture project is developed and maintained. This amount includes both the training fee and living expenses of hosting the expert.

Become our partner!!

Tiriji is a project of International Peace Initiatives (, with the aim to create sustainability for the Kithoka Amani Children’s Community Home (KACH), an orphanage that supports children affected/infected or made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS and/or poverty. We engage and partner with community members to imagine a sustainable world where there is enough for everyone’s needs now and for generations to come.
If you feel inspired to support us ‘birth’ this space for enabling sustainable development and peace in our lives, empowering children and the community, and providing a model of an ‘edible’ eco-cultural and peace building space to enhance our environment, feel free to contact Dr. Karambu Ringera at or 254 713 937 227.


Last Updated on Monday, 18 August 2014 14:45
IPI-Kenya Report by Ralph Odgen, IPI-US Board Member PDF Print E-mail


Hujambo Marafiki!

When I arrived in Nairobi, my daughter Norah met me and we stayed at the Amani Guest House in Nairobi. (Norah is a secondary student who reached out and touched my heart a few years ago, a person who really has become my daughter.  Last August, she placed fourth in national singing and poetry reading competitions sponsored by the Ministry of Education.)  The guest house was wonderful.  Lydia, the woman who runs the house, is an excellent cook and asks what we would like to eat.  We had fresh fruit every day and she even did my laundry.  Lydia has a long history with Karambu and IPI, and I believe came to Karambu as a pregnant young woman with nowhere else to go.  She is truly wonderful and very pleasant.  So are the others who help out there.  There were a lot of other guests on the three occasions I stayed there.  The guesthouse is much cheaper and much nicer than where we have been staying in past years, at a place called the Miele Presbyterian Guest House somewhere in Nairobi.  Amani has pick up and delivery from the airport, which is very nice.

The house itself was built as a private home and has one private room, two rooms with bunk beds, and another room with four flat beds, plus a kitchen and several bathrooms and a small patio outside the back door.  It is in a nice area with nice bushes and flowers in front and back.

Karambu sent the IPI driver, George, to pick me up and drive me to Meru on the 9th of January.  The trip takes about five hours, as getting out of Nairobi takes over an hour and because the road after that is single lane each way with lots of trucks and mtatus (mini-vans converted into buses packed well beyond capacity).  The road goes past the west side of Mount Kenya, which is almost always covered in clouds or mist, but on the way back, it was clear enough to see the highest peak and some of the snow fields.  Nanyuki, which at about 6,200 feet above sea level, is about the half way point where you can stop and get coffee and shop at the Nakumatt, use the facilities and stretch.   It is also the starting point for most of the expeditions to climb Mount Kenya.  A nice hotel room there costs 3,000 K/s-.

Karambu is using her brick-making machine to make bricks for a new building, which is under construction.  When I left, the walls were about chest high.  It is next to the old wood and concrete building where people do weaving and make beads.  Karambu also has a number of growing pigs (I can't guess their age, but they are probably half grown), a full grown boar and a full grown sow.  Shortly after I arrived, the sow gave birth to 11 piglets.  She rolled over on one and killed it and one other also died.  She plans to sell some of the pigs and use some for meat.  She also has a pen with goats, mostly for milk, and is planning to buy a cow at some time in the future, so they can get milk for the children.


On Monday, January 6th, before I arrived, she had a planning session and helped each of her department heads begin planning for the coming year.  On Friday, when I was there, each department head presented his or her plans for the coming year by writing them down on a large sheet of paper and taping it to the wall while explaining goals, budget, income source, and other items of concern as managers, to the rest of the group, all of whom were able to ask questions.  This may well be the first time any group like this has ever done this sort of thing anywhere in Kenya!  I was so impressed with the way each person prepared and then presented, and everyone did a marvelous job.  Even the cooks in the kitchen did this.  Karambu also presented her plans and was asked questions by the group.  This process took most of the day.

meeting meeting

meeting meeting



In the evening, Karambu and I went to a meeting of the Meru Rotary Club.  Karambu is now a full-fledged member and even has a badge.  She just wrote to tell me that one of the other members visited KACH and was "amazed" at the extent of the work we have done here.  He wants to partner with IPI on their 'Table Banking' ("TB") project with women."  Neither Karambu nor I are very familiar with this project.  It is modeled after the Mohamed Yanus banking program for poor people, a process that Karambu says is catching on in Kenya.  Karambu also told me that she has asked Rotary if she can send the women who have gone through IPI's empowerment program to the TB training program.  TB is a form of microcredit that is very grassroots and circulates money among group members.  The founder was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize several years ago.  For more information, see

I had been instructed by my home club (DTC Rotary) to find a club in Kenya that we could partner with, and after the meeting, I decided that I would like to partner with the Meru club.  The first thing I noticed was that almost half of the members were women.  The meeting was held in the Meru Sports Club, a former bastion for the British colonials, from which Africans were excluded.  It is now a lovely place for the Africans!  I have since learned that the Meru club is partnering with a British club from Middleton, England, on a number of water - rain catchment projects in the Tharaka District a bit north and east of Meru, which Karambu says is one of the most destitute areas in the country.  In the dry season, women and girls in this area must often spend 8-9 hours a day searching for water, and when they find it, it is contaminated, dirty, and unhealthy.  Infant and child mortality rates there are staggering.  I have the needs assessment from the British Club if anyone is interested.  It's not part of Karambu's direct concerns, but it is an area that desperately needs help.  I am recommending that my Rotary Club work hand in glove with the Middleton Club and several others and collaborate with the Meru Club to fund more water projects there.

Karambu reports that the focus of the Meru club is on water projects and a medical camp, and that she is exploring with the Meru Club the possibility of a borehole at KACH.  Karambu has a problem getting adequate water all year round.  She got bids for a well, which the drillers said had to be either 80 feet or 80 meters, I'm not sure which -- probably meters -- deep to be sure the water was safe to drink.  One bid was 2 million K/s- and another was 1.2 million K/s-.  If KACH is to be truly self-sustaining, a reliable year round water supply is an absolute necessity.  KACH has a rain catchment tank, but it is relatively small and does not hold nearly all of the water that comes down and could be saved with larger tanks.

Attached is Karambu's write-up for the Eco-Lodge Project.  One lodge is nearly complete -- only the electricity,  solar panels, and showers  remain to be put in.  The walls are made up of stabalized soil blocks, which are made from a mixture of soil, sand, and a small amount of cement, which hardens like rocks and looks quite nice.  The first lodge should be ready for habitation by June.  The goal is to create space for about 100 people.

Finally, when I was at the guesthouse on January 10th, I met a group of people from either Michigan or Michigan State university, who had just returned from KACH.  I understand that they did further work on the wi-fi there and that service there is now unlimited.



Thoughts from Margi Ness, IPI-US Board Chair, on her October 2013 trip to IPI PDF Print E-mail

December 2013

Dear Friends of IPI,

"It always seems impossible until it is done." -Nelson Mandela

I returned in October from a six-week trip to Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia.  It was an amazing time with each country bringing unforeseen adventures. What I want to share here is the story of my time my time in Kenya, which is why the trip happened in the first place.

As chair of International Peace Initiatives’ (IPI) U.S. board of directors, I was given the opportunity to visit Kenya to see IPI’s work up close and personal.  I was excited to see the progress IPI has made since 2005 when I was there for the groundbreaking of the Kithoka Amani Community Home (KACH).  Kithoka is a small village outside of Meru, Kenya.  Amani means peace.  KACH is home to over twenty vulnerable or orphaned children and is also the base for many of IPI’s other activities.

I realized when I got there that, despite my long-term volunteering with IPI, I hadn’t fully grasped its uniqueness nor the paradigm shift created by IPI’s founder and director, Dr. Karambu Ringera..  In the U.S., the government provides and/or coordinates services for those in greatest need.   We may disagree on the amount or quality of those services but, believe me, they are better than nothing, which is what most African governments can do…nada, zip, zero.  Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) provide some needed assistance, but very few of them are Kenyan/African founded and led; most are not self-sustaining; and rarely are cultural changes made that will actually prevent the cycle of poverty and violence.  I came home from my visit to Kenya in 2005 quite depressed by the horrible conditions for women and children (men had it bad too, but they were also the perpetrators of so much bad that it was hard to be empathic toward them).  I was glad to be there for the ground breaking of KACH.  With 30% of the children in the area orphaned, the Home would meet a critical need…but it wasn’t going to change the community overall.  How could it?

Well, I now see how.  Karambu knew that an orphanage was a place to start addressing the problems of an unhealthy community but, unless other problems were also addressed, it was only a bandage and the underlying sores would continue to fester.  That’s why Karambu insisted that the Home be a Community Home, not an orphanage.

There’s more.

Dr. Karambu says to her fellow Kenyans, “We are the ones we have been waiting for."

I went with Karambu to a Kenyan-only investment club meeting.  The loudest cheers came when the speaker talked about club members succeeding without mizungo (white) help.  Africans are desperate to help themselves, and Karambu has conceived and implemented a model that does just that.  IPI focuses on a very small locale, and includes the community in identifying and solving their problems using the tools of education, empowerment, and enterprise.

Education – IPI develops skills and confidence to help community members succeed

  • IPI keeps young people in primary and secondary schools both for children living at KACH and those able to live at home with family assistance for school expenses and to make up for the loss of minimal, but crucial, income children not in school could bring their families.
  • IPI works with schools by providing teacher training, school equipment, and motivational talks
  • IPI’s International College Scholars Program (ICSP) supports exceptional students in college.  The first graduates are forming an IPI Alumni Association to develop ways to give back to the community and IPI
  • IPI provides direct training in various trades and is developing an extension of ICSP for trade schools
  • IPI is building an Eco-Retreat which will offer a variety of peace building skills and other community training and will host the Women’s Grassroots Peace Congress

Empowerment - IPI inspires those who have been beaten by hopelessness and marginalization to believe they can be happy, successful citizens and to then act on that!

  • KACH offers a safe place for community members to gather and help one another.  I saw a group of women who have developed their own micro-finance program.  They meet every Sunday, discuss problems, pool resources to help those most in need and offer moral support.
  • IPI sponsors the Women’s Grassroots Peace Congress. I attended the first one in 2005, with Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter, Ela (what a gentle, self-effacing woman).  In 2008 the keynote speaker was Desmond Tutu’s daughter Naomi – but at both Congresses the focus was on the grassroots women, not the “stars”.
  • Training on HIV/AIDS, drug abuse, and other cultural traditions that perpetuate the problems will provide people with the knowledge needed  to begin making system changes

Enterprise - IPI initiated a Network of Enterprise called BOLD (Bettering Our Lives by Design) to develop entrepreneurial skills for the community. Existing projects include:

  • Beads4Peace – jewelry making
  • Weaving
  • Farming (pigs, chickens, goats, fruits, and veggies)
  • Brick-making
  • Catering
  • Tailoring
  • Tie-dying

Self-Sustaining Projects - Profits from some BOLD projects help support IPI operations as well as providing income for the entrepreneurs.  Additionally, IPI has developed several entrepreneurial projects that will sustain IPI for the long haul.

  • Amani Adventures and Holidays – provides cultural safaris and tours in Kenya, which can include volunteering or just visiting KACH
  • Amani Guest House – lodging 7 minutes from the Nairobi airport with airport pick-up and meals – I was happy to have this very affordable, comfy “home” the night before departing, knowing my transportation was arranged and I’d get a great meal!
  • Eco-Resort – This is being built on property a 5-minute walk from KACH.  Instead of staying on the top floor of KACH, where I was housed, future visitors and volunteers can stay at the Eco-Resort.  Trainings and conferences will be held here, there will be an internet café for guests and the community, and there will be a workshop with a gift shop.
  • Bio-fuel and solar – Cow manure is composted at KACH and used for cooking fuel.  Solar panels are in place to provide electricity.

Does All This Work?

Yes!  When the Amani Community Home opened in 2008, IPI-US donors provided 100% support. In 2013, nearly 50% of the expenses were raised through these projects.  IPI leaders seek to raise this figure to 80% by the end of 2014 -- and they are on track to do it.  Skansen Construction, which built the first home, has committed to build four more and land has been purchased for the second one.  The same model will be used – a model that can be replicated in other developing countries.

People in Kithoka aren’t just imagining a better future—they are building it.

I wrote this letter to my friends because I knew many of them give to good causes – and I wanted to give them an opportunity to make a contribution that will change lives.  Since you have read this, I hope that you, too, will want to contribute to this amazing organization. Here are three suggested ways to contribute:

1.  $2500 - A full sponsorship of a child: This provides the clothing, food, shelter, and solid educational needs of a child living in the Amani Home for a year.  These children are so well loved and cared for.  The staff is simply terrific.  Sponsors receive a letter and photograph at least twice a year, and the on-going relationship is a gift to the child - and to you!

2.  $500 - An educational sponsorship of a child: This pays for the educational needs of a school aged child for a year.

3.  A contribution of any amount will help with the most pressing needs - or you can designate that your funds support any other IPI project of your choice.

You can donate safely via Pay Pal on our website donation page here:

OR contribute by mail to:

International Peace Initiatives

P.O. Box 17415

Boulder, CO 80308

Please write checks to:  International Peace Initiatives. You may specify the application of funds to one of the IPI programs in the memo section or leave blank to give to the general fund.

Asante sana (thank you very much)!


Margi Ness

Chair, IPI-USA Board of Directors

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