In the Keroka Township, in Nyamira County, exists one of the oldest cultural groups in Kenya. The Otenyo Cultural Group promotes Abagusii culture and supports tourism in the area. Created in 2004, it also operates a cultural centre in the city.
“The Otenyo Cultural Centre is a community-based organisation, and our unique purpose is to preserve the Abagusii culture,” says James Namu, the executive secretary of the group. Group members specialise in cultural activities, such as traditional dances and songs, Abagusii language courses, performances in Abagusii traditional clothing or offering traditional cuisine.
The Otenyo Cultural Group is one of the beneficiaries of the SUS-TOUR project, funded by the EU through the SWITCH Africa Green programme. The project was implemented by the Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production in partnership with Ecotourism Kenya and the Federation of Community based Tourism Organizations.
Diversify & thrive
Abagusii communities have also been using soapstone for generations — their rock art carvings are the earliest examples of its use as an artistic material.
The Otenyo Cultural Group has diversified into other income generating activities, including horticulture, poultry farming, rabbit rearing and weaving of traditional baskets.
The project offered the group training in marketing strategies to help them diversify their products, explore new potential market entry points, promote and organise exhibitions, and strengthen their online presence.
In addition, the project also supported the group to create linkages with local authorities through collaboratively hosted events and awareness-raising meetings, and strengthen partnerships with other organisations that are part of the SUS-TOUR project.
Thanks to the SWITCH Africa Green programme, the group has been able to increase sales, due to new revenue sources as the sale of bio-fertiliser to farmers and the realisation of artworks from waste materials.
“SWITCH Africa Green assisted us in so many activities, for example networking which is very important. They have helped to improve our products and have also assisted us to create a website,” says James Namu.The cultural group has also introduced tours and excursions in a bid to increase visitors to the region.
Responsible tourism: a driver for sustainable development
The cultural centre does not use electricity and relies purely on solar panels for energy. They use gas as a substitute for fuel, and foster forest conservation by avoiding burning charcoal.
They also collect rainwater, and reuse kitchen and laundry wastewater for watering the plants in their nursery. Otenyo was also able to implement a more efficient waste collection policy for their visitors, by placing bins within the cultural centre and ensuring the area remains always clean. Moreover, they have been using waste materials to make items that give a second life to the waste.
Thanks to the Otenyo Centre’s activities and the jobs it has created, the livelihoods of the local community and everyone involved have considerably improved, while contributing to the preservation of cultural richness of the country for generations to come.
Why we do this? To preserve our heritage for the young generation because if we don’t, the Abagusii culture is going to die.
James Namu, the executive secretary of Otenyo Cultural Group.
Original article published by SWITCH Africa Green.