Doing No Harm
Protecting the Earth’s natural resources and maintaining its ecosystems are fundamental to ensuring the sustainability of communities. Environmental degradation often increases the vulnerability of communities through displacement, loss of connection, risk of ecological disaster and climate change impact.
At MWIA, we acknowledge our responsibility to ensure our supported projects are conducted in a way that reduces harm to the environment and minimises unintended consequences on people and communities. This responsibility is underpinned by the principle to ‘Do No Harm’, that is, to ensure we protect the rights, health, safety, and livelihoods of people, including children, women, Indigenous peoples, and other vulnerable or disadvantaged groups, whilst maintaining the health, diversity and productivity of the natural environment.
Solar Energy at the Mary Ward Retreat Centre in Kenya
While all of our projects require us to identify and manage any environmental risks and engage and work with stakeholders and project partners, many of our projects also promote improved environmental outcomes by integrating ecologically sustainable development. One such example is the solar energy project at the Mary Ward Retreat Centre (MWRC) in Nairobi, Kenya, managed by Sr Hellen Oluoch IBVM.
The project builds on the success of previous work conducted in partnership with missio München, resulting in the increased sustainability of the MWRC through the conversion of the centre’s unused land into a food production farm.
This new solar energy project was established after MWRC staff identified an opportunity to harness renewable solar power to create a more reliable water supply to the farm. Through solar technology, staff aim to scale up farm production, further supporting the MWRC to become a self-sufficient catering facility whilst generating an income stream through the sale of excess food production to neighbouring communities, guests, and other local businesses.
To date, the installation of a solar-operated water bore and drip irrigation system has allowed for an efficient and continual water supply to the various crops and greenhouses on the farm. The MWRC has already experienced a drastic reduction in electricity costs and a significant increase in farming output. It is anticipated that by the end of 2022, the MWRC will be self-sufficient in its food supply, further decreasing its operational costs and enabling it to focus on its core mission of conducting retreats and workshops.
This project delivers environmentally sustainable development for the MWRC and protects it against the effects of future power cuts, drought, and water scarcity, all very real issues experienced across Kenya today. By promoting improved environmental outcomes through this project, we hope that it will serve as a model for other MWIA projects around the world.
Sr Hellen Olouch ibvm
I am Hellen Oluoch, a Kenyan-born religious Sister belonging to the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM). I joined the Institute in 2001. For the past 18 years, I have been assigned to various ministries, including education and project implementation. Currently, I am the administrator at the Mary Ward Retreat Centre in Kenya and the treasurer of the IBVM Eastern Africa Province.
This has been an opportunity for me to gain insights and utilise the wealth of knowledge gained from my professional qualification in education and my current studies in business administration. Moving forward, I see myself not only as a religious Sister but as a woman of Africa – a continent in which women and children are still largely voiceless against the extreme forms of injustice they experience, including discrimination, violence, and all forms of environmental degradation.
I consider the opportunities I have to contribute to the needs I encounter and fulfil the mission of the Church through the call of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si, with a greater commitment to the care of the Earth. An example of this commitment is in the solarisation of the water bore and drip irrigation system at the centre.
As I continue serving in my roles, increasingly, I feel the ongoing call to respond to the global cry of unity, development of the downtrodden, and to represent the voice of women contributing to the Church and African society. I hope that my sharing will inspire other religious Sisters and women in Africa whose contribution is crucial to the sustainable development of the continent.
Mary Ward International Australia thanks missio München for their generous support of this project.
Author: Kirstin Del Beato, Projects & Partnerships Manager, Mary Ward International Australia
Feature Image: Solar energy project at the Mary Ward Retreat Centre (MWRC) in Nairobi, Kenya.