All posts tagged Kenya

Polis Postcard #002 -

Posted by / 11th July 2015 / Categories: Miscellaneous / Tags: , / -

Postcard  Polis Postcard #002 - Vijana Umoja Pamoja Foundation

What are the objectives of your community project and what is the story behind its creation?

My projects revolve around advocacy for sound governance and youth development. I have been very instrumental with my outfit in ensuring that public resources are adequately utilized. In this case, I have engaged young people in Uasin Gishu County, Trans Nzoia and Mt. Elgon on the need to further put our governments in check. I was motivated to join advocacy after realizing that very many individuals are uninformed about public resources including the manner in which the same resources are supposed to be utilized and for that reason public officers have always taken advantage of that. I approach the initiative both online and offline. Using advocacy tool kids, I train youth and women on how to engage respective governments, how to monitor budgets and how to see projects implementation to fruition. With the introduction of devolved functions, more corrupt officials were even decentralized making the need for advocacy around devolved governance more necessary. If people are to reap appropriately from their hard earned tax, then it is important that we engage these local governments.

At the moment, my focus is in Mt. Elgon where school enrollment is on the lower side but also cases of early child pregnancy and school drop-out is wanting. I am working around the clock with local leaders (village elders, chiefs and other county administrators) to see to it that the following objectives are realized;

·         Ensure higher enrolment and retention of about 1,000 – 5,000 girls and boys students in the areas of Kopsiro, Kapsokwony, Cheptais and Kaptama.

·         Enhanced involvement of the stakeholders such as teachers and parents for promoting quality education.

·         strengthen e-learning program in 5 secondary schools in Mt. Elgon by fixing computer labs and modern desks in about 10 primary schools across Mt. Elgon

·         Follow-up and scaling-up of the proposed school model in other rural areas with a demand driven approach.

I am also developing an online learning platform from where young people out of school from Mt. Elgon can share local resources with other young people from around the world through an online engagement. I am looking forward to a time when I can develop a fully-fledged Youth Resource center from where young people can gain access opportunities and skills that will better their lives.

In Uasin Gishu County, I am engaging youth in learning institutions through debates and essays with the objective of broadening their world overview. Through this, we are able to get to know the gaps and how best o intervene with other programs like team building among others. This is my voluntary venture as there is no funding to support a programme that is scalable in the larger region.

In which sector and with which groups do you work with?

I work well in governance, advocacy and youth development. My work entails working with young people in learning institutions, young people out of school, young women and school going children. But more importantly, I mentor young people through an online platform, share resources and skills that can make them more realistic in their communities.

 What obstacles do you face?

There are many challenges that I face, from government opposition, lack of sufficient human resources to further develop youth development and advocacy work to the level required and in some instances also the lack of sufficient funding to sustain programmes is a challenge. Further, I lack strong global network to support my work locally.

 What type of partner are you looking for to overcome challenges in your initiative? 

I am looking for a partner that can support my advocacy and good governance work. But also, I am interested in a partner that can help in resource and information sharing. A partner that we can develop and implement projects jointly. A partner that can enhance my network to like minded organizations and institutions, but also a partner passionate about youth development, women empowerment and Advocacy on Health and education is key.


Polis Postcard #001 – Enkishui E Maa Projects

Posted by / 11th July 2015 / Categories: Miscellaneous / Tags: , , / -

Postcard  Polis Postcard #001 - Enkishui E Maa Projects 


What are the objectives of your community project and what is the story behind its creation?

The idea to be the change we want to see and been proactive in working with the community to change their story was developed from discussion on different experiences which we have gone through as young people in a Maasai community. The community has been marginalized for many years and in most cases viewed as defiant to change.  With a unique/peculiar culture, the Maasai are often left out by successive governments in approaches to service delivery thinking that they (the Maasai) will equally pick up plans and policies as advanced by government.  The approaches have failed to initiate development among the Maasai. While the government is well meaning in its intentions, it has not tailored its strategies and methods in the most effective way to have an impact in Maasailand.  The government’s approach has mainly been top – bottom hence the need for homegrown interventions by Maasai themselves and more so the civil society.

The objective is to initiate home grown solutions to challenges by build community capacity to respond to their concerns through education and building the economic power of women to be able to participate in governance.

In which sector and with which groups do you work with?

The project works with Maasai women and youth to improve their livelihood through economic empowerment, promotion of education and their rights to participate in democracy and governance.With economic empowerment we are training women on basic savings and investment and how to use the available resources like beads to earn. Women work in groups which create a social support system as well as pull resources together through savings for specific needs.

Education promotion- main focus is on access to quality education and girl child education. In this we are working in partnership with OLE (open Learning exchange) from US on a pilot project in one of the villages using technology to create access to reading materials. During meetings conversations are created among women on their rights to property, health and governance.

What obstacles do you face?

Some of the challenges faced in implementation include: Funds- as most of the is voluntary and through partnerships with organizations like FPFK (where I  was employed) and Mara Discovery Center which helps in mobilizing and organizing women into groups. Funds for training and space for women to meet and work on their beads craft as well as sell there craft is a challenge.

Market links for the crafts and linking them to international markets or local designers using African Jewelry is a challenge.

What type of partner are you looking for to overcome challenges in your initiative?

We are looking for partners who will support in marketing the products or link to markets. In additional partners who will support in the economic training of women  and education promotion among the Maasai. We also need partner that can help in constructing meeting shades for women that will act as shops for selling the products as well as create safe space for conversation on, women rights, democracy and governance.




Connecting Local Realities: The case of women’s groups in Kenya

Posted by / 1st June 2015 / Categories: Analysis, Polis / Tags: , , , / -

In recent years, there has been increasing focus on the role of women in development. A number of countries have committed themselves to tackling gender issues with the goal of improving the socio-economic status of women. This position of women is seen to be crucial for achieving wider developmental and social goals. Kenya, for example, has initiated a number of activities and policies that address the socio-economic empowerment of women, ensuring its integration in national development strategies aimed at achieving targets such as the Millennium Development Goals. Furthermore, efforts from International Organisations (IOs) and Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have also contributed to the advancement of gender equality, especially within the education sector. However, their efforts do not always reach local women’s groups in rural Kenya, who themselves struggle to access the necessary information available to them. Although there exist initiatives that attempt to resolve this crucial chasm, improving connectivity is the key to local women’s groups partnering up with other actors in order to strengthen rural development.

Since the 1990s, an increasing number of women’s groups have been formed at both the grassroots and the national level in Kenya. Women’s groups make up the majority of local initiatives in rural development and they can play a fundamental role in the alleviation of poverty and addressing the social problems in their local communities. The motivations behind the formation of these groups vary from groups and communities: some groups are formed primarily to improve the living standards of their members, and some often in response to challenging situations faced by the community at the time, such as prolonged drought, famine or at times of socio-economic stress.  Some groups, such as the Mwethya women’s groups of Machakos District, are known for their commitment to water and soil conservation activities. On top of the need to conserve land, the key factors for the groups’ motivations is also the training, education and advice they receive.

Many women’s groups have multiple agendas, and act as catalysts for manifold national development targets. These include poverty alleviation and the eradication of hunger, promote gender equality and empower women. A number of women’s groups in Nyamusi Division in Nyamira County, that undertake women economic empowerment programs engage in activities of income generation such as merry-go-rounds, known as a chama. A chama is a scheme where members pool their resources for investment, allowing them to access the resources to address individual, family or community challenges. Women’s groups in the Nyamusi Division also run programs that range from household poverty reduction programs; education programs, for example to address the need for equal opportunities for boys and girls in schools; or health initiatives to raise awareness in the community of the importance of good nutrition and hygiene, and the effects of HIV/AIDs; as well as social initiatives to raise awareness and tackle gender-based violence.

And yet despite evidence reporting the contributions of women’s groups to community-based activities and socio-economic and national development, there is still a crucial gap between the national and international entities working towards universal development goals, and the women’s groups who are contributing to these same goals. Efforts have certainly been made by governemental organisations, IOs and NGOs to increase funding and support for women in Kenya. NGOs have contributed to the facilitation and support of women’s groups, many of which provide guidance, loans, materials or training. Governmental efforts have also contributed to the economic empowerment of women, such as the Uwezo Fund and Women Enterprise Fund, are initiatives to finance and support women-led businesses and enterprises throughout the country.

However, these governmental initiatives are not reaching many women, let alone many rural women’s groups. Studies reflect that there are still barriers impeding the success of these women’s groups, and inadequate funding is a primary concern. For the women’s groups in the Nyamusi Division, this is certainly one of the leading obstacles they face. Lack of funding along with high levels of poverty mean that many programs, including merry-go rounds and income generation activities struggle to remain sustainable and effective, especially when individual members are unable to contribute financially and are obliged to leave the group. A problem that often occurs with NGOs supporting women’s groups is the traditional structure and approach that still drives many NGOs. They have a tendency to create dependency through non-local leadership. NGOs setting their own agendas instead of listening to the agendas set by local groups, make the latter adapt to the former. This then leads to a donor-recipient relationship, with the relationship turning into one of one-directional need, rather than partnership. Other constraints that can hinder their potential advancement include certain cultural norms, which can prohibit the full participation of women in rural development, such as women’s rights to land and property. Despite the elimination of gender bias in Kenya’s legal framework, many women are still unaware of laws that protect their rights to property ownership.

In addition to these barriers, there is another important question to explore: if the government’s incentive is there, why is it not going to the women that need its support? For many women’s groups, the answer is simple: they lack access to the knowledge and the tools necessary to connect to these opportunities. Many women’s groups lack the information to access funding and support; in fact, rural women’s access to current information in general is one of the major challenges facing women in developing countries. Access to relevant and affordable information is particularly scarce for those who are marginalized either by their locality, gender or due to limited access to other resources. Another important factor is poor infrastructure, which imposes constraints on women’s groups.

The importance of access to information cannot be underestimated, it is the gateway to finding essential knowledge, resources and funding required for the success and sustainability of women’s groups. There have been some innovative approaches to tackle the lack of access to information, such as the Association of Media Women in Kenya who set up the ‘radio listening groups’ initiative to make information more accessible to marginalized communities. Through these, some women have learned how to access the UWEZO Fund, as well as information on government services. But initiatives that focus on connectivity are too scarce.

Connections to multiple sources of information increases women’s awareness of their rights to land and property, to available funding, to resources and materials, to knowledge and ideas. Connectivity would enable women’s groups to proactively find and choose the resources that will allow them to proceed with their initiatives, without relying on a third party, without depending on external approaches, but with direct connections to partners beyond regional borders. It is fundamental to bridge that chasm between national and international partners on the one hand, and local partners on the other. Both sides are strengthened through these relationships; with this connectivity comes access to information, and with information comes further growth.


Environmental Disconnect Between Global and Local Actors: The Case of REDD+ and Embobut Forest

Posted by / 14th May 2014 / Categories: Analysis, Polis / Tags: , , , , / -

The global environmental initiative for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) is unrealistic in its ambitions and image: various actors, including local populations, are divided on how this mechanism impacts their livelihoods and its utility towards global climate challenges. A case in point is the situation in Kenya. In that country, there are two clearly opposite perspectives with respect to the REDD+ project at Embobut Forest, and there is major disagreement with respect to dangers and opportunities. In order for REDD+ and similar initiatives to be truly effective, global institutions, governments and local populations must attain an agreement on the way in which they are implemented. Without active local support and stakeholdership, such mechanisms are doomed to fail.

REDD+ is a mitigation mechanism still being designed, and one that forms part of international climate change dialogue. Its principal aim is to reduce climate change by protecting global forests- the main planet’s CO2 stores and sinks- from deforestation and degradation. With 25% of total CO2 absorption occurring through forests, and around 15% of carbon dioxide emissions coming from changes in land use, there is widespread consensus that that global rainforests should be protected as a path towards climate change reduction. By maintaining absorption rates and reducing an important source of CO2, global emissions will increase more slowly, which will significantly contribute to anti-climate change efforts. As a form of encouragement, countries with rainforests that reduce their emission levels (coming from these forests) relative to a calculated reference, will receive financial compensation. As countries having rainforests within their borders tend to be impoverished countries, this mechanism is also seen as an opportunity towards poverty alleviation. With these goals in mind, the driving forces for REDD+ mechanisms are the introduction of governance reforms and institutional support, a monitoring system and the design of safeguard frameworks for possibly damaged injured sectors.

Lack of understanding

Many REDD+ initiatives all over the world face strong disagreements. One such case is Kenya’s Embobut Forest. The project was designed by the Kenyan government and World Bank, and has led to a series of displacements of Sengwer People, the indigenous people occupying the area and who have traditional land rights. These displacements are seen as illegitimate evictions by this indigenous group and their supporters, and as a necessary and well-justified step in the path for conservation and global climate initiatives by the Kenyan government. Another prominent line of confrontation is the usefulness of REDD+ as an actual way to protect forests and fight climate change. Kenya’s government has been accused of using indigenous forest lands for agricultural and profit-making purposes, which would of course be in contradiction with the REDD+ purpose and official public stance.

The principal reason behind deforestation in Kenya is forest conversion into agriculture. Forest degradation also occurs through unsustainable utilization, illegal logging, uncontrolled grazing and charcoal production. Thus, Kenya’s government identified the REDD+ project as a useful mechanism to protect Embobut Forest. This programme includes the identification of grazing systems and the implementation of a methodology for monitoring community engagement in forest management. Within this last strategy, a series of workshops were organized for local communities to educate them on carbon financing from a government perspective. In addition to improving forest protection, these actions are presented as a way to transmit management responsibilities to local communities, which would empower them and improve their livelihoods by “increasing the benefits of forests”. REDD+ mechanisms would therefore strengthen the fight against climate change through better governance of forestry lands.

The Kenyan government and other promoters of REDD+ mechanisms signal poverty and population growth as two of the main threats to national forests. With population growth and lack of access to biomass energy substitutes, there exists major friction in rural zones. Poverty makes people more dependent on natural resources, as they turn to them in order to cover their basic needs and extract economic income. This leads to more pressure on Kenyan forests. In addition, Embobut’s forest population has increased as a result of landslides and people fleeing cities after Kenya’s 2007-2008 electoral disturbances. These Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), just like the Sengwer, are seen as squatters, and a series of evictions were carried out to safeguard urban water supplies and to protect the forest.

In opposition to REDD+ projects, indigenous people and various national and international NGOs claim that this project is serving to illegally eject traditional occupants from their lands in the name of a fake climate change fight and with the real aim of financial profit. A major complaint is the government’s support in the eviction of the Sengwer, signaling cases of individuals being targeted and persecuted, as well as the burning down of their houses. From March 2013 until January 2014, Eldoret High Court emitted various rulings forbidding and condemning these actions. On the other hand, REDD+ opponents claim that Embobut project will actually promote deforestation. They accuse the Kenya Forest Service of having transformed indigenous forest into profit-making plantations and agriculture lands in the past, something which they fear will be repeated in Sengwer lands under the guise of REDD+ projects. They argue that the way in which REDD+ is being implemented does not only fail to contribute to the fight against climate change, it also leads to social injustices.

Addressing confrontation

Why indigenous people and some NGOs and ecologist groups in Kenya position themselves against REDD+ mechanism might be a mystery to its supporters, as they are meant to be the first beneficiaries or partisan of climate change and poverty fighting efforts. Clearer and more focused dialogue is needed to clarify different concerns and perspectives and find common ground. Agreeing that mechanisms have to be implemented to fight both poverty and climate change, stakeholders must first determine if such dynamics are really properly designed towards achieving the desired results.

One confrontation line- and thus need for dialogue- is the management of forestry resources and the potential displacement of people. While indigenous groups allege being unlawfully evicted, and governments and intergovernmental institutions arguing that this is necessary to attain better governance, poverty threatens affected areas. Nonetheless, government institutions also claim that REDD+ mechanisms will lead to communal management and livelihood improvements. It is crucial to clarify how the eviction of indigenous populations will serve to empower local communities and strengthen their position in forests management. And although energy generation and consumption is rather inefficient among the poorer sectors of affected populations, the lack of industrial behaviour and the small scale of such activities are insignificant to other sources of CO2 emissions, certainly when compared in absolute terms. Moreover, in order for the solutions to environmental problems to be supported by crucially important local actors, they should avoid social upheaval and disproportionate sacrifice. Truly effective measures require traditional occupants to remain actively involved and not be forced to leave their lands.

The utility of Embobut REDD+ project to environmental objectives also require further analysis. The problems witnessed in Kenya have also been signaled in other parts of the globe in which REDD+ projects are being developed. Kenya’s government and international agencies empathetically deny this accusation of generalized problems, but at the very least a clearer framework must be designed and monitoring mechanisms must be implemented in order to avoid unnecessary destruction in Embobut Forest and elsewhere.

The search for understanding

What is clear is that there is no unanimous support for REDD+. While large institutions and a vast majority of governments present it as a promising way to fight climate change and poverty in Kenya, wide sectors of civil society stand up against it and claim that it will have disastrous consequences in people’s lives and their environment. Evictions of indigenous groups undermine the fight against climate change, and better solutions must be found to IDI’s situation. Clearer forest management plans are required to guarantee consistency both with REDD+ overall objectives as well as with those of local stakeholders.

Climate change and poverty alleviation are two of the most important challenges facing the global community, and it is a point of serious concern why positions between people directly affected by these challenges and the mechanisms designed to face them seem so far apart. For REDD+ to work, governments and international institutions have to translate global ambitions into effective local application, and this requires much greater dialogue with local populations. Without this, indigenous peoples and other local communities will stand at the edge of these dynamics, eventually suffering the negative consequences as well as undermining the objectives of the project. It is still to be seen whether REDD+ can eventually become a useful mechanism towards climate change mitigation and poverty alleviation, as Kenya’s government and international institutions claim. Only the future will tell. Then again, when dealing with climate change, the future is not an option.  facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail