Let Our Girls Succeed
As Kenya moves closer to its goal of becoming an upper-middle-income country, many girls still lack educational opportunities, leading to gender disparities as the country develops. Girls living in urban slums and “arid and semi-arid lands” (ASALs) are particularly at risk of poverty. To address these issues, U.K. Aid developed a program, which will run from May 2017 to March 2023, called Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu, Swahili for “let our girls succeed,” as part of the Girls’ Education Challenge.

The Let Our Girls Succeed Program

The Education Development Trust has implemented the Let Our Girls Succeed program in “eight counties in [ASALs] and urban slums” in Kenya. The program targets 72,000 marginalized primary school girls, providing assistance for them to finish their current level of education with optimal outcomes and advance to the next phase of learning. The program builds on the original Wasichana Wote Wasome program, meaning “let all girls learn,” which began in 2013. The Let All Girls Learn program aimed to improve “enrolment, retention, attendance and learning.” Overall, the Let All Girls Learn program saw success, benefiting 88,921 girls.

Program Methodologies

The program uses several methods to help girls succeed:

  • Let Our Girls Succeed Considers Girls in All Contexts: The program addresses the needs of girls on an individual level as well as the needs of the girl in her household, in her school and within the community. Intervention at each of these levels allows for “a holistic approach” to confront issues acting as barriers to the girl’s success.
  • In-School Coaching for Teachers: The average primary school class size in Kenya is around 40 pupils. With this large class size, it is imperative that Education Development Trust offers gender-sensitive training to teachers so that they can teach in a way that supports girls, ensuring they feel comfortable and confident enough to return to class. As such, “more than 2,300” educators have received training on improved methodology and models, including gender inclusivity skills.
  • The Deployment of Community Health Workers to the Girls’ Homes: The Ministry of Health sends community health workers to households to talk to girls and their families about the importance of school. From 2013-2017, these workers made more than 15,000 visits to homes, leading to a rising rate of girls’ enrollment. In 2020, during the school closures due to COVID-19, community health workers were “the only education point of contact” for most marginalized girls in Kenya.
  • Community Education and Involvement: The program appeals to community leaders by seeking their involvement in girls’ education. The previous project saw success in this regard. At the beginning of the Let All Girls Learn project, 43% of community leaders did not agree that “vulnerable girls in [the] community should attend school.” At the end of the project, only 16% disagreed.
  • Implementing Catch-Up Centers: The centers allow girls who have dropped out of school to come back and catch up to their classmates. Rasol dropped out of school due to pregnancy but is now attending the catch-up center so she can re-enroll in primary school. The center focuses on girls aged 10-15 mostly. Typically, girls spend between six and 12 months in catch-up centers. By 2019, the center saw more than 650 girls attending these classes.
  • Cash Transfer Program Aids Underserved Households: More than 3,200 “households have received monthly cash transfers” to allow households to secure their basic needs and fund the costs of girls’ education.
  • Alternative Pathways: Let Our Girls Succeed pushes girls to attend secondary school or TVET (technical and vocational education and training) after primary school. Fatuma and her sister finished primary school in 2018, both with the prospect of attending secondary school. However, Fatuma’s parents could only afford the cost of one girl’s education. Fatuma’s sister attended secondary school and Fatuma chose to attend a TVET center to complete a dressmaking course. However, her parents still could not afford these costs. The program gave her a bursary for this course as well as “a start-up kit to enable her to start a business.” The program has given bursaries to more than 3,700 girls for secondary school and vocational training.

Looking Ahead

The Let our Girls Succeed program plays a crucial role in providing a pathway for marginalized girls in Kenya to gain an education so that they can lift themselves out of poverty. With an education, girls are more likely to have access to higher-paying jobs, gaining the ability to support themselves and their families.

– Amy Helmendach
Photo: Flickr

PwDs in Kenya
The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated countries worldwide with illness, fear and economic instability. However, its impact has not been equal for everyone. The pandemic has affected persons with disabilities (PwDs) disproportionately. More than 15% of the global population are PwDs, 80% of whom live in developing countries. More than 2.2% (0.9 million people) of the population are PwDs in Kenya, according to the 2019 census.

Connection Between Poverty and Disability

There is undoubtedly a strong correlation between poverty and disability. According to The Aga Khan University, approximately 67% of PwDs in Kenya live in poverty. Before COVID-19, Kenyans living with disabilities already faced pre-existing challenges in accessing health care, education and the workforce. Now, these challenges are deeper than ever as a consequence of the measures to control the virus transmission and expansion, and their impact on the socio-economic aspects of life and service delivery.

Organizations and individuals all over the world have racked their brains to find innovative solutions that could make life easier again after COVID-19.  However, most of these organizations and individuals did not have PwDs in mind. This problem is not exclusive to the COVID-19 era. For persons with disabilities, especially in developing countries like Kenya, solutions and innovation itself are limited for most present-day challenges.

Concerned by this situation, UNDP in Kenya decided to launch an innovation challenge. It Is inviting solutions responding to the socio-economic challenges experienced by PwDs during the pandemic. This way, UNDP Kenya seeks to harness the power of innovation for disability inclusion and social cohesion to promote a stable and secure environment for PwDs to thrive.

UNDP invited registered Kenyan organizations or companies in order to provide those with disabilities access to education, employment and other opportunities. UNDP encouraged the applicants to focus on one of five different areas; Access to Technology, Access to Information, Access to Health Care, Access to Education, Access to Opportunities and Access to Financial Products/Services.

Submissions of applications emerged all over the country and after a rigorous evaluation process, UNDP selected five winners. The five winning organizations received a grant of $8,000 to assist in further development and scale-up of the solutions.

5 Innovative Solutions Improving the Lives of PwDs in Kenya

  1. Action for Children with Disabilities (ACD) – Action for Children with Disabilities (ACD) came up with a solution that tests the use of Virtual reality (VR) to support children with intellectual disabilities to learn. The organization aims to develop educational video tutorials for children with Autism Spectrum disorders. It also uses VR to create simulations on the challenges that PwDs face in their daily lives. It will use this to conduct community sensitization and awareness sessions with the community members.
  2. Kytabu – Kytabu began in 2012. Its goal is to enable African learning institutions and students to leverage education technology platforms by providing and integrating education content to PwDs. Kytabu’s innovative solution adds a mobile-based school management system to the institutions supporting deaf learners. It is helping them to track the learner’s progress and needs. It is also producing reports to share with stakeholders and partners. This data would likely lead to better decision-making in Special needs education’s resources.
  3. Riziki Source – Riziki is a social enterprise that seeks to connect PwDs in Kenya to job opportunities. It created an automatic job-seeking database of people with different kinds of disabilities looking for jobs. Users can download the mobile app and easily register to the platform through their website or by text message, in case they don’t have internet access. Thanks to the platform, employers can easily connect with PwDs seeking jobs and understand the best way to interview and work with PwDs.
  4. Signs Media Kenya – In 2011, Signs Media began with the mission to educate, inform and entertain in sign language by enhancing disability and deaf culture. Signs TV developed an app called “Assist All.” It allows deaf people to access sign language interpreters on demand, facilitating communication where it may not be available. The app counts with a sign language interpreters’ database accessible by the touch of a button through a virtual interface.
  5. The Action Foundation (TAF) – TAF is a youth-led organization that began in 2010. It works with communities and governments to help PwDs. It aims to launch the “Somesha Stories project,” a platform that enables accessible child-friendly stories for early literacy and inclusive education. Learners will be able to access educational content specifically designed for all persons at their schools, from the comfort of their homes and via the Somesha Mobile-Based App. The Somesha stories come in audio, visual, print and sign language formats, hence allowing every child to learn.

Looking Ahead

All these great solutions not only validate Kenya as a hub of knowledge and innovation, but they also show technological transformation is about improving each citizen’s experience, leaving no one behind.

Innovation has and definitely will continue to have a great role in Kenya’s response and recovery to the COVID-19 crisis. Investing in building solutions that can improve the lives of PwDs represents a massive opportunity for Kenya to ensure that its growth is genuinely inclusive and transformational, something crucial for the future of the country.

– Alejandra del Carmen Jimeno
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in Kenya
On July 14, 2021, in Nairobi, Kenya, the National AIDS Control Council (NACC) held its sixth Maisha HIV/AIDS conference, bringing together stakeholders to continue the battle against HIV/AIDS in Kenya and find impactful solutions. The NACC is the main “body responsible for coordinating the HIV response in Kenya.” The organization of the Maisha HIV/AIDS conference follows the objectives of NACC to mobilize resources, engage and collaborate with other organizations focusing on HIV/AIDS control. Since its establishment in 1999, NACC’s government-funded groundwork, analysis and implementation efforts have affirmed the right to health. With an average of 100,000 new HIV/AIDS cases in Kenya yearly, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data from 2014, NACC’s research, community-led initiatives and destigmatization efforts form a core part of the frontline response to the fight against HIV/AIDS.

HIV/AIDS in Kenya

According to Avert, in 2019, Kenya reported “1.5 million people living with HIV” and 21,000 deaths stemming from AIDS. While this mortality rate is high, “the death rate has declined steadily from 64,000 in 2010.” Young people account for a significant number of infections — in 2015, young people between the ages of 15 and 24 made up more than 50% “of all new HIV infections in Kenya.”

Since the rise of HIV/AIDS in the 1990s, many sub-Saharan countries still grapple to control the spread of the virus. However, today, Kenya stands as “one of sub-Saharan Africa’s HIV prevention success stories.” In 2019, yearly new HIV infections stood at “less than a third of what they were at the peak of the country’s epidemic in 1993.”

The efforts of the NACC and several local and international organizations are responsible for these successes. In 2013, the NACC began the Prevention Revolution Roadmap to End New HIV Infections by 2030, a strategy for combating HIV/AIDs in Kenya.

The Kenyan government distributes condoms each year as an HIV prevention method. In 2013, the government distributed “180 million free condoms.” Furthermore, the government mandates the inclusion of HIV education in school curriculums to ensure citizens are well-educated on the HIV epidemic and specific guidelines for prevention and treatment. Kenya also utilizes events and the media to raise awareness of HIV/AIDs, which has proven successful. One particular community mobilizer with Lodwar Vocational Training Centre (LVTC) in Kenya distributes 5,000 condoms per day to communities while disseminating information on the current HIV/AIDS epidemic in Kenya and testing processes.

The Maisha Reporting Tool

Kenya’s Government Ministries, Counties, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) use the NACC’s Maisha Reporting Tool to monitor HIV/AIDS in Kenya. This allows MDAs to become effective AIDS control units. Policy-makers inform their intervention using localized data pulled from the tool. The Maisha Reporting tool ultimately aims to encourage the active engagement of MDAs “in developing and implementing policies to tackle the prevention and management of HIV and AIDS in Kenya.”

MDAs’ participation in the certification system involves documenting and tracking their efforts to reduce new cases of HIV/AIDS in Kenya. These recorded undertakings on the part of MDAs include efforts for counseling and testing, distribution of condoms and baseline surveys to help control the spread of the disease.

MDAs strive to manage HIV/AIDS in Kenya, and with the help of the NACC and government funding, MDAs are shifting the narrative of implementation. Through targeted outreach, conferencing, programming and advocacy, Kenya is able to make strides in the battle against HIV/AIDS. The NACC’s Maisha Reporting Tool aims to equip all government agencies with a platform that facilitates understanding and encourages action in order to one day establish an HIV-free Kenya.

– Joy Maina
Photo: Flickr

The Action Foundation
Close to 1 million people with some form of disability live in Kenya. They are at a greater risk of living in poverty. Women and adolescent girls with disabilities are even more at risk of poverty, as well as gender-based violence. Maria Omare founded The Action Foundation (TAF) in Kenya, a grassroots nonprofit organization, because she noticed a need for disability awareness, education that caters to children with disabilities in low-income areas and support for the caregivers of children and adolescents with disabilities. The Action Foundation is paving the way for inclusivity and resiliency. It is minimizing disparities in children and adolescents with disabilities and their caregivers through three programs.

The TUNZA Program

The TUNZA program offers support to caregivers of children and adolescents with disabilities. It also provides necessary skills and resources to caregivers. In Kibera, where the center is located, many families live in extreme poverty. They do not have the resources or finances to care for a child with a disability.

Earlier in 2021, The Action Foundation in Kenya launched an inclusive early childhood care education map and referral directory. This tool helps caregivers find and utilize therapy services at little to no cost. This can play a vital role in helping children with disabilities have a better quality of life.

The TUNZA program also brings awareness and education about disabilities because many Kenyans believe that children born with a disability are cursed, bewitched or a bad omen. A survey found that 45% of mothers who have a child with a disability are “pressured to give up and or kill their child.” Other mothers experience coercion to leave their children at an institution. The statistics are even more staggering in rural areas in Kenya.

The IBUKA Program

Many people are taking notice of The Action Foundation’s advocacy efforts and amplifying the organization’s voice, such as Michelle Obama and Google. Michelle Obama publicly highlighted The Action Foundation’s work in teaching girls with disabilities STEM-oriented education, such as robotics and coding, as a partnership with the Girls Opportunity Alliance.

Women and girls with disabilities in Kenya are more likely to face poverty, discrimination and denial of basic needs. Ibuka in Swahili means “emerge” or “rise,” and that is the aspiration of the IBUKA program.

One of the ways the program combats negative stereotypes of women and girls with disabilities and offers them hope is through mentorship and education. It teaches the women and girls the skills necessary, such as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and vocational training, so that they can play an active role in the workforce. Women with disabilities are less likely to face poverty, discrimination, exploitation and violence when they are able to work or run their own businesses.

Somesha

Children with disabilities in Kenya are unlikely to attend school due to a lack of accessibility. Also, “less than one in four children with a disability had access to any services.” Many families cannot afford special services for their children as the average monthly income per person is $39, and women in Kibera make 42% less than men.

The SOMESHA program aims to offer accessibility and inclusive education for children with disabilities. It fits the learning to the unique needs of each child. The SOMESHA program created a mobile-based application that improves literacy and promotes inclusivity. It is an interactive application for both caregivers and children. The application was especially helpful during the pandemic when Kenyans could not socialize in large groups.

The heartbeat of The Action Foundation in Kenya is in the people. Maria Omare, the center’s staff and volunteers, the caregivers and the children are what makes the organization thrive. The people of Kenya have historically looked down on people with disabilities as inferior, bewitched and helpless. However, Maria Omare and her team are changing the narrative. They are offering hope and resources to families who have a child with a disability.

– Amy Helmendach
Photo: Unsplash

The Maasai
When the COVID-19 pandemic decimated Kenya’s tourism industry and forced the closures of livestock markets, food insecurity became a reality for many of the Maasai people. Here is information about how the Maasai of Kenya are facing hunger during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Heart of Kenya’s Tourist Industry

Traditionally, the Maasai people’s pastoral life meant there was no need for the modernities of money. Cattle stood as a source of both food and currency, with Maasai livelihoods depending exclusively on the tribe’s “cattle economy.” However, as prolonged droughts ravage grazing lands and privatization and wildlife conservation lead to the displacement of the Maasai, the tribe has had to supplement its semi-nomadic lifestyle with income from tourists: selling souvenirs, conducting safaris and guiding tours of Maasai villages.

Visitors travel to Kenya from all over the world to witness Africa’s wild animals, and when it comes to spectacles, the Maasai of Kenya have an advantage. The majority of tourists flock to the Maasai Mara National Park to witness a yearly phenomenon known as the Great Migration — the largest animal migration on earth. Although much of the migration takes place from the Serengeti in Tanzania, the most sought-after scene for nature enthusiasts occurs when the animals cross the crocodile-populated Mara River into Kenya.

Severe Weather and COVID-19 Create a Food Crisis

Prior to 2020, tourism accounted for 10% of Kenya’s economy, employing more than 2 million citizens, many of whom “lost their jobs due to the pandemic.” In March 2020, after Kenya’s first report of COVID-19, President Kenyatta canceled “all international flights scheduled to enter the country,” allowing access only to Kenyans or foreigners with permanent residency. Although the government’s efforts proved crucial in preventing the spread of the virus at the time, the result was an 80% plunge in Kenya’s tourism during 2020, causing an economic loss of more than $1 billion.

Exacerbating circumstances further, flash flooding in April 2020 and severe hailstorms in September 2020 followed the collapse of tourism. The deadly storm patterns led to severe crop destruction, damaging homes throughout southern and eastern Kenya, including Narok county, home to the Maasai Mara National Park.

Despite standing as a hub for Kenya’s tourism, Narok county has an absolute poverty rate of 33.7%, with 12% of the population enduring food insecurity and 32.9% of children experiencing stunting. During the pandemic, when government mandates included the closures of livestock markets and the Maasai lost all income from tourists, hunger became a reality for many of the Maasai who also could not afford to purchase hygiene products such as soaps and hand sanitizers.

Nashulai Maasai Conservancy Supports the Maasai

The Nashulai Maasai Conservancy protects 5,000 acres of critical habitat and is the only conservancy that the Massai people entirely govern and run. During the COVID-19 pandemic, residents of Nashulai organized a crowdfunding plan and sought the help of Avaaz, an international advocacy campaign that promotes community-organized humanitarian movements.

The campaign mobilized 100,000 people who helped to pay ranger salaries and secure sanitation, medical supplies and food for communities living within the conservancy. Recognizing a need to reduce the Maasai’s reliance on tourism, Nashulai also began training people in farming, beekeeping and making hygiene products such as soaps and sanitary pads to sell at local markets.

The Maa Trust

The Maa Trust is a nonprofit organization that partners with nature conservancies in the Maasai Mara region to “increase the benefits of wildlife conservation to Maasai families.” The organization promotes sustainable businesses for Maasai women, such as jewelry-making and honey production. The organization also supports conservation education, builds schools and invests in clean drinking water, solar energy and alternatives to using firewood as fuel.

In April 2020, The Maa Trust partnered with the Mara Elephant Project to distribute food donations from the Sidekick Foundation to 637 Maasai families “in the Talek and Pardamat regions of the Maasai Mara.” The Sidekick Foundation is an international force that works both on the ground and politically to combat poaching, collaborating with organizations such as The Maa Trust and the Mara Elephant Project to protect elephants and aid local humanitarian efforts.

The Rotary Club of Nome Assists

In November 2021, the Rotary Club of Nome, Alaska, worked with local contacts in Narok, Kenya, to provide a month of food security to 450 residents in the Maasai village of Nkorkorri. The project to assist Nkorkorri village stands as part of the Rotary Club of Nome’s 75-year commitment to humanitarianism. The Rotary Club of Nome is part of a worldwide network of more than 1.4 million Rotarians who work together to reduce poverty, fight diseases, support local economies and protect the environment.  In an interview with The Borgen Project, club member Marcy O’Neil says that Nome Rotarians hope to turn this emergency donation into a long-term program.

Although tourism has helped the Maasai survive in a challenging economic landscape, the industry’s fall during the COVID-19-pandemic put a spotlight on the tribe’s increasing vulnerability. As a result, organizations are answering the call for help. Whether the support comes from near or far, ongoing efforts to assist the Maasai are crucial to ensure the tribe’s ability to survive while maintaining traditional values.

– Jenny Rice
Photo: Flickr

loliondo-radio-educating-rural-tanzanian-communities
The radio is a powerful poverty-fighting tool; it is low-cost and easily accessible to people in rural communities as a source of information. For children and teachers alike in these areas, educational radio programs are a valuable resource. By helping to educate children, radio gives children the skills that they need to acquire a job in the future and rise out of poverty. Radio also increases access to news and information in impoverished communities and keeps people up to date on societal developments. Additionally, nonprofits and campaigns striving to combat poverty can spread their messages through radio and garner support for their causes. Radio can combat poverty by educating people in rural communities and helping nonprofits share their missions. One such radio station is Loliondo FM, which operates in Tanzania. Here is how Liondo is educating people in rural Tanzanian communities.

Loliondo FM Benefits the Maasai

The Maasai tribe, in particular, benefits from listening to the Loliondo FM radio program. The Maasai tribe, located in parts of Tanzania and Kenya, has retained its culture and traditional way of living despite the tides of the modern world. However, due to modern developments and land acquisition of the Maasai’s traditional lands, the tribe faces both displacement and high rates of poverty.

With the increasing calls for change comes the need to educate the Maasai children. Radio stands as the most convenient method in this regard. Its portability and ability to tune into stations over long distances make it ideal for the nomadic lifestyle of the Maasai people located in Tanzania. Through radio, the Maasai learn about a range of social, economic, political and health issues. Some topics include poverty elimination efforts, human rights, the impacts of female genital mutilation, HIV/AIDS prevention and the importance of girls’ education. Loliondo radio increases the Maasai’s awareness of global issues and readies them for future changes.

Promoting Gender Equality and Women’s Rights

Loliondo FM especially benefits the girls of the Maasai tribe. The Maasai communities are traditional and typically patriarchal in nature with distinct gender roles. Through programs on gender equality and women’s empowerment, Loliondo FM is working to improve conditions for Maasai women, educating them to make informed choices in their lives. Tribal women in rural Tanzanian communities learn about issues such as gender-based violence, pregnancy and sexual health by listening to radio programs.

Girls who cannot attend school can learn through radio programs. The radio station also functions as a reporting system for gender-based violence incidents, with many women reaching out to through radio for help. Upon receiving these calls, Loliondo FM works with local community officials and members to resolve these cases. Through education and intervention, Loliondo FM is improving the lives of Maasai women and girls.

Conserving the Environment

Loliondo FM also encourages “active citizenship” to safeguard the environment and protect the livelihoods of the people in rural Tanzanian communities dependant on the environment. To raise awareness of the issue, Loliondo FM created educational radio broadcasts in addition to developing discussion groups “for sharing lessons.” The radio station “took [260] students to Serengeti National Park” in Tanzania to teach them about the importance of environmental conservation.

Thanks to Loliondo FM, 700,000 people received environmental education updates. The radio station also gathered the community to plant 1,000 trees around community schools. Loliondo FM’s work brings awareness to crucial global issues while giving the youth opportunities to make a difference.

The radio’s portability and affordability make it an ideal tool for bringing education to Africa’s tribal people and helping to lift them out of poverty. Through educational programming and coordination with community members, Loliondo FM raises awareness of social, health and gender equality issues while positively impacting the environment.

– Alison Ding
Photo: Flickr

the Maasai Mara
In the first week of November 2021, the Rotary Club of Nome, Alaska, provided a month’s worth of food resources to the Maasai Mara village of Nkorkorri, Kenya. One of Africa’s most recognizable tribes, the Maasai Mara faced devastation due to COVID-19 restrictions on tourism. The project to assist Nkorkorri village stands as part of the Rotary Club of Nome’s 75-year-long commitment to humanitarianism.

Background Story

It all began in 2018 when Nome Rotary member Marcy O’Neil traveled to Kenya in collaboration with the ME to WE Foundation to provide eye care to patients of the Kishon Health Centre in Narok. The ME to WE Foundation is an enterprise of WE Charity, an organization that partners with communities around the world to create sustainable solutions to poverty, such as supporting small farms, funding education and building hospitals.

During her time in Kenya, O’Neil worked alongside several Maasai warriors whom she kept in touch with after returning to Alaska. In an interview with The Borgen Project, O’Neil explained that “once [COVID-19] shut the world down and tourism came to a halt, most Maasai men who supported their families through tour guiding lost their jobs and income.” Compounding the Maasai’s troubles, Kenya is enduring a severe drought, leading to higher food insecurity rates in villages and starving livestock. “Over the past couple months, two of my Maasai friends reached out to our group that worked with them back in 2018 to see if we could find ways to help their villages,” O’Neil said.

O’Neil worked with Benson Leparan Sankuya of Nkorkorri village to calculate the funds needed to feed 450 people for one month. After finalizing the details, O’Neil made a formal proposal to the Rotary Club of Nome at the club’s November 6, 2021 meeting. The club of 25 Rotarians voted unanimously to approve the project, combining a club donation with two individual member donations.

The Maasai Mara

The Maasai Mara people are semi-nomadic cattle herders native to the Maasai Mara region of Narok, Kenya. Historically, cattle husbandry met all of the Maasai Mara’s needs, but in recent years, wildlife conservation, privatization and commercial development have led to the displacement of the Maasai, among other impacts. A drastic reduction in herd sizes means the Masaai can no longer solely rely on “the cattle economy,” but instead, must look to farming practices or economic endeavors in the tourism industry.

The Maasai Mara National Park is a world-famous destination for wildlife enthusiasts. International visits to Kenya totaled 2 million in 2019, however, the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic decimated the country’s billion-dollar tourism industry, which endured an estimated loss of at least 80 billion Kenyan shillings (about $752 million). In addition, the livestock industry plummeted when pandemic restrictions called for the closure of cattle markets and slaughterhouses, putting intense strain on traditional livelihoods. The combination of factors left tens of thousands of the Maasai Mara without income or food security.

Assisting the Maasai

A collective of 15 nature conservancies located in and around the Maasai Mara National Park helps nearby communities sustainably manage and protect Kenya’s wildlife. During the pandemic, when income from foreign visitors came to a halt, officials at the Nashulai Masaai Conservancy looked to counteract food insecurity through crowdfunding to provide weekly food rations to at-risk Maasai families.

Aiming to decrease the area’s economic dependency on the tourist industry, the conservancy began training Maasai people in beekeeping and farming to increase both food security and income. The conservancy also trained women to make soaps, sanitizers and sanitary pads to sell as local markets.

Whether an organization is small or large, working on-site or helping from afar, humanitarian service projects provide life-saving support to the most vulnerable people. The Rotary Club of Nome President Adam Lust tells The Borgen Project that his hope is for the club’s service to the Nkorkorri village of Maasai Mara to develop into a long-term endeavor. Nevertheless, as it stands, the club of just 25 people has helped reduce the detriments of poverty by providing sustenance to an entire community.

– Jenny Rice
Photo: Flickr

Smart Meter Systems in Kenya
In September 2021, Kenya’s largest telecommunications business, Safaricom, proposed a deal to Kenya Power to install “a $300 million smart meter system” at Kenya Power’s site. Furthermore, Safaricom will bear the cost of installing “330,000 consumer, transformer and feeder smart meters” in communities experiencing high power leakages or electricity theft. These leaks put an added economic burden on individuals and Kenya Power. Safaricom and Kenya Power’s partnership to install smart meter systems in Kenya will also lead to more job opportunities for Kenyans.

Power Leakages and Electricity Theft

Power leakages can occur when a current is not entirely insulated or the electrical equipment is not fully grounded, meaning there may be no safe way to discharge electricity in case of a malfunction. The energy needs somewhere to go and grounding sends electricity outside the building and into the ground through the insulated wiring. This lost energy costs Kenya Power revenue that often exceeds what the company earns. Safaricom anticipates that the new smart meter system will save Kenya Power more than $89 million of losses due to power leakages.

Kenya Power is the primary company in Kenya responsible for producing and distributing electricity to Kenyans across the country. Kenya Power holds the responsibility of delivering electricity to almost 70% of Kenyans with electricity access, however, this figure means more than 16 million Kenyans still lack electricity access.

Electricity theft is a common occurrence in Kenya. It happens when a person attempts to bypass the standard electrical meter on a power line in order to obtain electricity without payment. Thieves then bypass any electrical data tracking and effectively steal power from the company and the homes in the area. Annually, Kenya Power loses about $163 million due to electricity theft alone. Safaricom’s smart meter systems in Kenya will help prevent both leakages and electricity theft.

Smart Meter Systems Save Money

Smart meters involve real-time information of voltage usage and fault reports and detect theft and potential meter tampering. In the event of power theft, the meter sends alerts to the main computer in its system, and then, the company will have the option of shutting down the power line and sending the police to apprehend the thief.

The smart meters constantly monitor two wires, the neutral wire and the live wire and the current going through the wires. Smart meters continuously compare the two wires’ energy outputs. If the output of the live wire seems excessively high while the neutral is lower, then, there may be possible tampering or leakage.

The smart meter systems in Kenya will cost approximately $300 million to install. Safaricom and Kenya Power will split the revenue earned in the first eight years with the smart meters in place.

Creating Job Opportunities

Smart meters in Kenya seem to be a small addition to everyday lives, but their financial impact is significant. Kenya Power is a relatively small enterprise in the nation. The expected revenue to come in with the installation of the smart meters in Kenya is 71.7 billion KES ($651.23 million). This has the potential to increase earnings company-wide across all salary levels. Furthermore, the project will create job opportunities for Kenyans.

How Will the Initiative Help Kenyans?

In Kenya, the cost of electricity increased in September 2021. Those with access to electricity began paying 26.57 KES (0.25 USD) per electricity unit. The last monthly pricing was 2 KES less, making this spike in cost “the highest in five years.” This price hiking has continued as Kenya Power grapples with issues of power leakages and electricity theft.

The average annual salary after taxes in Kenya based on the average job is about 2,026,995 KES ($18,536). However, the more typical salary is 765,481 KES ($7,000). Furthermore, 26.3% of workers in Kenya survive on less than $2 of income per day. If the electricity prices continue increasing, many Kenyans will lose their ability to afford electricity and first-time users will struggle to gain access to electricity.

The introduction of smart meter systems will prevent severe revenue losses for Kenya Power. The smart meters in Kenya will benefit Kenya Power, Safaricom, workers and ordinary citizens. Preventing energy theft offers economic benefits for energy companies and workers, but it can also benefit energy consumers. Large-scale changes in security and energy efficiency could strengthen Kenya’s energy sector and infrastructure.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

how-small-town-rotary-clubs-fight-global-poverty
The rotary sign is a common sight alongside the parks and roads that rotary clubs maintain. However, what many people may not realize is that even the smallest rotary clubs are part of an international organization that unites 1.2 million Rotarians across 35,000 clubs worldwide. These rotary clubs contribute to Rotary International’s efforts to serve communities, beginning more than 110 years ago. Small-town rotary clubs fight global poverty by supporting international service programs, such as Rotary Community Corps, Rotaract and Rotary Peace Fellows. These programs teach leadership skills and address global humanitarian issues. As a result, small-town rotary clubs’ service activities promote world peace, fight diseases, protect the environment, provide clean water, support women and children and grow developing economies. Here is how three small-town rotary clubs are fighting global poverty.

How 3 Small-Town Rotary Clubs are Fighting Global Poverty

  1. Rotary Club of Nome. Supporting its townspeople for 75 years, the Rotary Club of Nome sets a rugged example of how small-town rotary clubs fight global poverty. The club’s humanitarian activities include a 2014 collaboration with the Rotary Club of Central Tandag to provide medical supplies, hygiene supplies, clothing and food to 49 indigenous families living in a remote village in Surigao Del Sur, Philippines. The club also contributes yearly to ShelterBox, an international disaster relief charity established in 2000 that provides emergency aid to families that disaster or conflict displaced. ShelterBox aid includes emergency shelter kits containing materials such as tarps, mortar and tent pegs as well as cooking tools, solar lights and learning games for children. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Nome Rotary Club President Adam R. Lust told The Borgen Project that the club is working on a proposal to fund a month of food resources for the village of Masai Mara, Kenya. Lust hopes the project is just the beginning and that it will lead to a more extensive, sustainable program in the future.
  2. Rotary Club of Boothbay Harbor. This club has 70 active community leaders committed to humanitarianism, with 15% of the club’s fundraising efforts going toward supporting international projects. The Boothbay Haborclub is a long-standing supporter of Safe Passage, a nonprofit school that creates educational opportunities for children and families who live and work at the Guatemala City dump in Guatemala. The club also helps to support Thai Daughters, an organization that “provides education, safe shelter and emotional support to girls” in Northern Thailand who are at risk of becoming sex trafficking victims. The club also supports Healthy Kids/Brighter Future, a program that Communities Without Borders runs. It provides access to education to Zambian children, with teachers who have training in first-line medical care. In addition, the Rotary Club of Boothbay Harbor provides support to Partners in World Health, PolioPlus and Crutches4Africa, among other organizations.
  3. Rotary Club of Crested Butte. This club puts an emphasis on benefiting youth. The club’s international outreach activities include supplying “English and Khmer language books” to Cambodian children to improve literacy rates. Additionally, the club sent “learning toys & games to Burmese refugee centers in Mae Sot, Thailand” to improve refugee children’s education in a stimulating way.

How to Help Small-Town Rotary Clubs Fight Global Poverty

One of the ways to help small-town rotary clubs fight global poverty is to become a member. Rotary membership is “by invitation only.” An individual can receive an invitation to join a club by someone who is already a member or one can attend a meeting as a guest and fill out a membership application form. If one is unsure of which club to join, Rotary International’s membership page has a questionnaire to assist in this regard.

However, one does not have to become a Rotary member to support a local rotary club. There are many opportunities to volunteer services, from canned food drives and park maintenance to tax preparation and building houses. Rotary International is part of a searchable database that helps potential volunteers find projects within their respective locations.

Whether one becomes a member, volunteers locally or travels abroad for one of rotary’s many international service activities, it is important to remember that every humanitarian effort of a rotary club contributes to reducing global poverty and empowering the most disadvantaged people at every corner of the globe. Every individual can help small-town rotary clubs fight global poverty simply by involving themselves in their initiatives.

– Jenny Rice
Photo: Flickr


In a part of the African region known as the Horn of Africa, Kenya has made significant reforms in the past 10 years to ignite economic growth in the nation. However, like the rest of the world, economic progress in Kenya came to a halt during the COVID-19 pandemic. With a vulnerable economy, poverty and inequality remain daunting issues. Infestations of locusts began in January 2020, which further weakened the economic infrastructure, particularly in the Northeast part of Kenya. The Horn of Africa Development Initiative aims to uplift and empower Kenyans living in poverty.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Kenya

For many Kenyans, food security is a serious problem. According to the Kenya COVID-19 Poverty Monitor by the Chronic Poverty Advisory Network, by January 2020, some families could not afford more expensive foods such as vegetables while others only ate one or two meals per day. In addition, “lower agricultural yields” create further stress on households as does job loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 has impacted the Kenyan economy through “supply and demand shocks.” In 2020, real gross domestic product in Kenya dropped by 0.3%. Service sectors such as tourism and education faced disruption and manufacturing took a hit as well.

Help for Kenyans in Need

An inventive non-governmental organization is working to help families in need and reduce global poverty by building resilient communities. Fatuma A. Adan founded the Horn of Africa Development Initiative (HODI) in 2003, in Marsabit, Northern Kenya. Through “advocacy, education, peacebuilding and sustainable livelihoods,” the NGO works with communities and women who struggle to meet their basic needs.

Due to unemployment, locust infestation and frequent droughts that wither crops, many households are barely able to put food on the table every month. Because economic shocks disproportionately impact women-headed households, HODI runs a program with disadvantaged Kenyan women in mind.

Building Resilient Communities Program

HODI’s Building Resilient Communities Program aims to empower women and help communities increase their economic power. The program encourages village women to organize into groups of 10 to 50 women to save money together. Each member must save “at least 10 shillings every day: three shillings for education, three shillings for hospital bills and four shillings for small business.” After 30 days, this amounts to 300 shillings per member, which goes into a bank account that the women operate. From this pooled money, “women take out small loans repayable in small monthly installments” to fund their children’s education, pay medical bills and even start their own businesses.

With the revenue from their small businesses, women can”repay their loans” and also provide for their families and achieve financial independence. Within the program, HODI helps participants with record-keeping and teaches them financial literacy.

With the donations HODI receives for this program, HODI “inject[s] grants into the groups to increase the amount of money that is available for loans” and provides households with “water tanks to increase the water-saving capacity” of families.

Bringing Women Together for a Shared Purpose

Another benefit of the Building Resilient Communities Program is that although the women belong to different ethnic groups, they come together for a common purpose. Because HODI founder “Fatuma Adan was born to parents from two warring tribes in Marsabit, Northern Kenya,” she made it her goal to help unite people from different factions.

For her work in building resilient communities in Kenya, Adan received the Stuttgart Peace Prize in 2011, among other awards. In 2012, Adan received a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. With support and funding from donors, the Horn of Africa Development Initiative can continue to empower and uplift Kenyans living in poverty.

– Sarah Betuel
Photo: Flickr