Kenya's Breast Milk BankIn April 2019, Kenya’s Ministry of Health launched Kenya’s first breast milk bank at the Pumwani Maternity Hospital in Nairobi. Given Nairobi’s high neonatal death rate of 38 deaths per every 1,000 live-births, the Ministry launched the bank as a pilot to test if it could reduce the neonatal mortality rate. 

Background

Kenya’s breast milk bank serves infants who are premature, malnourished, underweight or orphans that do not have access to their mother’s breast milk. PATH, like several other global health organizations, cites human milk as the greatest tool for child survival. Breast milk contains a dense number of nutrients and antibodies critical to human development. Therefore, PATH estimates that if children had access to universal breast milk, breast milk could save about 823,000 children’s lives under the age of 5.

Human milk banks are an alternative to ensuring that infants have consistent access to breast milk. At the time of the bank launch, Kenya’s Ministry of Health stated that if the bank was successful, the Ministry would open several more banks in the country. Here are 5 facts about Kenya’s breast milk bank.

5 Facts About Kenya’s Breast Milk Bank

  1. The Pumwani Maternity Hospital: The Technical Working Group selected Pumwani Maternity Hospital to host Kenya’s first breast milk bank because the hospital promotes kangaroo mother care– skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding–as part of its neonatal program. The hospital’s neonatal program caters specifically to preterm, underweight and malnourished infants.
  2. Mothers as Primary Milk Donors: Lactating managers from the Pumwani Maternity Hospital select mothers with more milk than their infant requires to donate it to the milk bank. The managers require mothers who agree to donate to undergo health and lifestyle screenings in order to ensure that they are viable candidates. The screenings include health and lifestyle questionnaires and laboratory blood tests. If lab workers identify alcohol, tobacco and drugs, HIV, Hepatitis B or C or Syphilis in a mother’s blood test, they will disqualify her from donating milk.
  3. Storing and Pasteurizing Donor Mother’s Milk: Mothers at the Pumwani Maternity Hospital donate their milk both naturally and with an electric pump. The hospital stores every mother’s milk separately in batches that contain codes for every mother. Once every batch volume reaches capacity, the hospital pasteurizes the batches to kill any bacteria or viruses in the milk.
  4. The Ministry of Health and Kenya’s Newborn Care Guidelines: Given that Kenyan infants now have access to breast milk due to Pumwani Maternity Hospital’s milk bank, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has added donated human milk to Kenya’s newborn care guidelines. These guidelines help to ensure that Kenyan infants receive the growth-development benefits from breast milk in order to increase their chances of survival.
  5. The Milk Bank’s Impact: As of October 2019, after six months since the MOH launched the bank, the Pumwani Maternity Hospital has delivered nutrient-rich breast milk from over 400 donors to 75 infants.

As stated in these 5 facts about Kenya’s breast milk bank, Kenya’s Pumwani Maternity Hospital is impacting the lives of numerous vulnerable infants. The Ministry of Health looks toward the hospital impacting an increasing number of infants and significantly reducing Kenya’s neonatal mortality rate.

– Niyat Ogbazghi
Photo: Flickr

Hope for Slums in Kenya

A homeless child is wandering the streets of the largest slum in Africa. The child steals a mango, his meal for the next two days. An angry mob seeks justice and starts beating the hungry child. For some reason, a man saves the child from further punishment by paying for the mango. The man carried on with his day, but that boy’s life was changed forever. His name is Kennedy Odede and he is the founder of the multimillion-dollar nonprofit organization called Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) to create hope for slums in Kenya.

Odede was forced to the streets at the young age of 10 because of poverty and violence in his family. After being saved from the angry mob, Odede met a Catholic priest who helped him go back to school. In addition to school, Odede was working a factory job that paid him only $1 for 10 hours of work. The kindness from strangers in the face of these struggles is what inspired Odede to create Shining Hope for Communities as a way to give back to his hometown and help the urban poor.

SHOFCO started in 2004 with, “passion, 20 cents and a soccer ball.” The grassroots organization works to transform urban slums into communities of hope. They do this in three ways. The first is by providing life-saving services like healthcare and clean water. As a grassroots organization, they also promote collective action, so that the struggling communities can advocate for lasting change. Finally, SHOFCO also works to educate young girls and allow them to be leaders because they are the key to advocating for and maintaining positive change in Kenya and Africa’s slums.

Here are a few ways that SHOFCO has benefited Kibera:

  • Over 500 students received free education from kindergarten to eighth grade
  • SHOFCO created 24 water kiosks that provided low-cost water to over 30,000 Kibera residents
  • The water kiosks served around 300,000 people in the region

The progress SHOFCO has made in Kenya and other African nations are remarkable. Grants and donations are SHOFCO’s main source of funding. They have yet to receive foreign aid, but the possibility of funding from the Kenyan government is looking more likely. SHOFCO could give hope for slums in Kenya and so many other slums in Africa if they received foreign aid. The impact that they have already made is astounding and they can only go up from here. In 2018, SHOFCO had some remarkable achievements:

  • Over 90 percent of students passed their KCPE exam which is an exam given at the end of primary school
  • The average school score on the KCPE was a B+
  • SHOFCO trained almost 1,500 new entrepreneurs

Fifteen years ago a boy who had struggled for most of his life started an organization that would change the lives of thousands. From earning $1 for 10 hours of work, Kennedy Odede used 20 cents of that dollar to create SHOFCO. With his amazing passion and kindness, SHOFCO has given hope for slums in Kenya. Together, Odede and SHOFCO have provided essential services to the poor and empowered young girls and women to create lasting change.

Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr

 

Fight Against Asthma
When people think of asthma, the first thought is usually a minor annoyance at worst. It is far more crippling in lower-income countries, however, than it is in regions with widespread access to health care facilities. The fight against asthma may be a tough conflict, but there are plenty of allies working to make asthma a manageable disease.

Asthma: The Facts

Asthma is a widespread disease, however, there are still common misconceptions about how it functions, perpetuating the fight against asthma.

  • Asthma is a respiratory disease that people commonly associate with fits of breathlessness and coughing. The intensity and frequency are different from individual to individual.
  • When an asthma attack occurs, the bronchial tubes swell, restricting airflow to and from the lungs. These recurring attacks can cause truancy, fatigue and decreased activity levels.
  • Approximately 235 million people have asthma across the world.
  • Asthma has been on the rise the past few decades, with industrialized nations suffering the brunt of it.
  • There is a multitude of risk factors when it comes to asthma. These risk factors include genetic predisposition, obesity, living in an urban environment and lack of exposure to infections during childhood (the hygiene hypothesis).
  • Triggers for asthma are numerous and they include but are not limited to smoke, air pollution, pet dander and even extreme emotional duress (fear, anger, etc.).

While asthma may not be curable, it is not nearly as fatal as other respiratory diseases like COPD. With proper medication and avoidance of certain triggers, it is possible to live a normal, fulfilling life with asthma.

Asthma, Children and Poverty

Asthma is a disease that occurs predominantly in children, with 10 to 20 percent of children aged 13 to 14 in sub-Saharan Africa exhibiting asthmatic symptoms. Asthma has become far more prominent in lower to middle-income countries; suggestions state that this is due to increasing amounts of children living in urban environments.

A study that Addo-Yobo et al conducted in 1993 showed that children in urban rich schools within Ghana had exercise-induced bronchospasms (EIB) at a percentage of 4.2 percent. This is rather high as urban poor and rural schools had an EIB percentage of 1.4 and 2.2 percentages respectively.

Another study that Odhiambo et al conducted in remote and urban Kenya found that rural children had lower rates of asthma (3.0 percent) while their urban counterparts had far higher rates (9.5 percent). The factors influencing asthma formation in children are extremely varied; while location certainly plays a role in asthma formation, so too does socioeconomic status and lifestyle choices.

Global Alliance Against Chronic Respiratory Diseases

Thankfully, there are groups working around the clock to spread medication and asthma awareness. One such group is the Global Alliance against Chronic Respiratory Diseases (GARD). GARD has recently enacted its Practical Approach to Lung Health in high-HIV prevalence countries (PALSA Plus) in South Africa to help combat asthma and other respiratory diseases. PALSA Plus works by ensuring primary care nurses have proper access to the corticosteroids that asthma sufferers need to manage their attacks while also giving guidelines for the treatment of high-priority respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis.

With the help of GARD and its PALSA Plus plan, the fight against asthma has never looked so promising. Asthma may be a debilitating disease, but with proper care, knowledge and support, anyone suffering from this disease can live a long, rich and prosperous life.

– Ryan Holman
Photo: Flickr

Eliminating HIV In Kenya

The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa affects adolescent girls more than any other group within the population. As a public health response, a new approach for the elimination of HIV in Kenya emerged which addresses the gender and economic inequality that aid in spreading the disease. This new approach is related to female empowerment eliminating HIV in Kenya with new effective methods.

Health Care System in Kenya

Kenya is home to the world’s third-largest HIV epidemic. Kenya’s diverse population of 39 million encompasses an estimate of 42 ethnic tribes, with most people living in urban areas. Research shows that about 1.5 million, or 7.1 percent of Kenya’s population live with HIV. The first reported cases of the disease in Kenya were reported by the World Health Organization between 1983 to 1985. During that time, many global health organizations increased their efforts to spread awareness about prevention methods for the disease and gave antiretroviral therapy (ART) to those who were already infected with the disease. In the 1990s, the rise of the HIV infected population in Kenya had risen to 100,000 which led to the development of the National AIDS Control Council. The elimination of HIV in Kenya then became a priority for every global health organization.

The health care system in Kenya is a referral system of hospitals, health clinics, and dispensaries that extends from Nairobi to rural areas. There are only about 7,000 physicians in total that work within the public and private sector of Kenya’s health care system. As the population increases and the HIV epidemic intensifies, it creates more strenuous conditions for most of the population in Kenya to get the healthcare they desperately need. It is estimated that more than 53 percent of people living with HIV in Kenya are uninformed of their HIV status.

In addition, HIV disproportionately affects women and young people. After an initiative implemented by UNAIDS in 2013 to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV through increased access to sex education and contraceptives, significantly fewer children are born with HIV. Today, 61 percent of children with HIV are receiving treatment. However, the young women (ages 15-24) in Kenya are still twice as likely to be infected with HIV as men their age. Overall HIV rates are continuing to decrease for other groups within the population, but studies show that 74 percent of new HIV cases in Kenya continue to be adolescent girls.

Female Empowerment Eliminating HIV in Kenya

Women’s empowerment is an overarching theme for the reasons that HIV is heavily impacting the young women in Kenya. A woman’s security in the idea that she is able to dictate personal choices for herself has the ability to hinder or help her well-being.
Female empowerment eliminating HIV in Kenya uses these four common conditions to eliminate HIV:

  1. Health Information – Many girls in Kenya lack adequate information and services about sexual and reproductive health. Some health services even require an age of consent, which only perpetuates the stigma towards sexual rights. Also, the few health services available are out of reach for poor girls in urban areas.
  2. Education – A lack of secondary education for young women and girls in Kenya often means that they are unaware of modern contraceptives. A girl that does not receive a secondary education is twice as likely to get HIV. To ensure that adolescent girls have access to sexuality education, the 2013 Ministerial Commitment on Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Eastern and Southern Africa guaranteed that African leaders will commit to these specific needs for young people.
  3. Intimate partner violence –  Countless young women and girls have reported domestic and sexual violence that led to them contracting HIV. Something as simple as trying to negotiate contraceptive use with their partners often prompts a violent response. There has been an increased effort to erase the social acceptability of violence in many Kenyan communities. An organization called, The Raising Voices of SASA! consists of over 25 organizations in sub-Saharan Africa that work to prevent violence against women and HIV.
  4. Societal norms – Some communities in Kenya still practice the tradition of arranged marriages, and often at very young ages for girls. The marriages usually result in early pregnancy and without proper sex education, women and babies are being infected with HIV at a higher rate. In 2014, the African Union Commission accelerated the end to child marriages by setting up a 2-year campaign in 10 African Countries to advocate for Law against child marriages. Research suggests that eliminating child marriages would decrease HIV cases, along with domestic violence, premature pregnancies by over 50 percent.

Young women in Kenya face various obstacles in order to live a healthy life, and poverty acts as a comprehensive factor. Studies show that a lack of limited job opportunities leads to an increase in high-risk behavior. Transactional sex becomes increasingly common for women under these conditions, while they also become more at risk for sexual violence. An estimated 29.3 percent of female sex workers in Kenya live with HIV.

Solution

The most practical solution to tackling the elimination of HIV in Kenya combines HIV prevention with economic empowerment for young girls. The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is an organization that has worked hard at implementing strategies, and interventions across Africa that highlight women’s access to job opportunities and education. In 10 different countries in Africa (including Kenya), young women can attend interventions in which they learn about small business loans, vocational training and entrepreneurship training. One way that more women in Kenya are able to gain control over their financial resources is by receiving village saving loans. To participate in village saving loans it requires a group of 20-30 to make deposits into a group fund each week. Women within these groups can access small loans, which enables them to increase their financial skills while gaining economic independence. The Global Fund to fight AIDS has cultivated a space for numerous empowerment groups for young women out of school called the RISE Young Women Club. The young women in these clubs often live in poverty and receive HIV testing as well as sexual health education.

Overall, the global health programs that aid in the elimination of HIV in Kenya are continuously improving their strategies by including young women in poverty. The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Kenya steadily sees progress thanks to the collective efforts of programs that empower young women.

– Nia Coleman
Photo: Flickr

IsraAID Responds to Global Crises
Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, the nonprofit organization IsraAID responds to global crises, such as natural disasters and poverty, and sends teams of volunteers to help those in need. After its founding in 2001, IsraAID responded to crises in over 50 different countries. Its expertise in crisis relief includes emergency aid distributions, pinpoint trauma support and prevention training for local government and non-government professionals. These are some of the global crises IsraAID has responded to:

Typhoon Ketsana in the Philippines

IsraAID sent its first mission to the Philippines after Typhoon Ketsana in 2009. Working in collaboration with local partner Operation Blessing International, IsraAID dispatched a team of nurses and doctors to assist in the emergency medical operations. In 2013, another typhoon devastated the Philippines, killing over 6,000 people, injuring more than 28,000 and affecting over 16 million people overall. IsraAID responded within 48 hours with its medical team on the ground less than four days after the event. It spent the first three days of its efforts assisting the local health workers in one of the many hospitals the typhoon had destroyed. After that, IsraAID spent the next two years operating with the local government, instigating programs in medical support, psychotherapy and the rebuilding of the fallen cities.

Earthquake in Nepal

After a major earthquake left Nepal in ruins back in 2015, IsraAID sent a team to help the local police force locate survivors and provide emergency medical treatment. This was a relief to the local authorities and medical personnel outnumbered by the number of injuries and the chaos that ensued. Working alongside the authorities and an emergency response from the Israeli Defense Forces, IsraAID volunteers risked their lives to save and treat the survivors who the rubble had trapped. IsraAID not only provided the immediate essentials of food, water, shelter and medical aid to the Nepalese but also focused its efforts on long-term recovery via farming, fishing and a new supply of clean water. It also provided psychosocial services to the victims, helping them cope with and build resilience in the wake of the tragedy.

The Dadaab Refugee Camp and Famine in Kenya

Since 2007, IsraAID has been sending emergency relief teams to the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya—the largest refugee camp in the world—to aid the victims running from violence and famine. Later in 2011, when a drought caused one of the worst famines to ever strike the Horn of Africa, IsraAID returned to Kenya with a distribution of food and relief items for the refugees and locals still suffering from hunger and chaos. It also offered that same assistance to the people of Turkana, Kenya’s poorest county. IsraAID has maintained a steady presence in Kenya since 2013, helping those in poverty and the refugee camp with medical treatment, water management and psychosocial support.

Refugee Crisis in Greece

During the refugee crisis in 2015, IsraAID responded by sending a team of volunteers to Greece. Special mobile units provided immediate medical and psychosocial aid, distributed supplies and identified particularly vulnerable groups, such as children. IsraAID volunteers also rescued refugees whose boats had capsized and provided sleeping bags to anyone who had to sleep on the ground. Throughout the crisis, the volunteers provided food, clothing, medicine and hygiene kits to the refugees, as well as psychotherapy training to the local government and non-government professionals so that it could better care for the traumatized population.

Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico

After Hurricane Maria devastated the Puerto Rican population in 2017, IsraAID responded with a Spanish-fluent team of psychosocial and medical support, as well as experts in water and sanitation. At the time, the country’s poverty rate was 43.5 percent and the unemployment rate at 10.3 percent, on top of 95 percent of the populace losing electricity as a result of the storm. IsraAID provided emergency relief programs in the distribution of food, water and basic supplies, medical treatment and mental support. The team then shifted focus to long-term recovery and implemented a system to provide water and sanitation to the people of Puerto Rico.

The aforementioned countries and many others have benefitted greatly from IsraAID’s support, and IsraAID responds to global crises to this day. The organization has even established ongoing training programs for water management, psychosocial services and other relief efforts in the countries listed above, as well as in Japan, South Korea, Haiti, Jordan and South Sudan. As IsraAID responds to global crises, those in need have a chance to lead better lives.

– Yael Litenatsky
Photo: Flickr

Products Tackling Global Poverty
People who live in poverty-stricken communities typically do not have access to simple products that can be the difference between life and death. Below are five products tackling global poverty.

5 Products Tackling Global Poverty

  1. The Shoe That Grows: The Shoe That Grows produces a shoe for kids living in poverty. It expands up to five sizes and lasts for years. Kenton Lee founded the shoe after he traveled to Nairobi, Kenya. He lived and worked with kids at a small orphanage and noticed that many of the children either had broken, worn shoes or none at all. He came up with the idea of a shoe that expands to prevent soil-transmitted diseases and parasites that can cause children to miss out on their education and even death. As of now, the company has distributed over 200,000 pairs of shoes to 100 different countries. The organization sent 30,000 of those to Ethiopia alone.
  2. NIFTY Cup: The NIFTY Cup is a device that some use to feed premature babies in Malawi and Tanzania who are unable to breastfeed. Unlike the metal cups and spoons that people in poverty-stricken countries often use, the NIFTY Cup contains durable, soft silicone that one can shape to allow all nutrients to reach babies’ mouths without causing them to cough or choke. The cup serves as a life-saving resource for mothers who do not have the necessary medical assistance necessary to keep premature babies healthy. Donors have made it possible to send over 6,000 NIFTY Cups to hospitals in Malawi and Tanzania.
  3. The Lucky Iron Fish: The Lucky Iron Fish is a tool used to fight iron deficiency in developing countries. Families place the iron fish in boiling water before cooking to add proper nutrients to meals. One of these iron fish is equivalent to five years of iron pill bottles. The Lucky Iron Fish company works on a one-to-one donation scale. This means that when people in developed countries buy one of the fish, the company donates another to a family in a developing country. As of 2018, the company impacted 54,000 lives because of the buy-one-give-one system. The impact fund has distributed the fish to Nicaragua, Tanzania, Cambodia, Haiti, Benin and more.
  4. Embrace Warmer: Embrace Warmer is a life-saving tool that developing countries use. In these places, newborn babies often suffer hypothermia due to being premature and low weight. The tool is essentially a sleeping bag that helps regulate the body temperature of newborn babies during their first few days of life. Embrace Warmer began as a class project at Stanford, when students had to design a cost-effective product to help battle neonatal hypothermia. Eventually, the product expanded to rural India and has now helped 200,000 infants in developing countries.
  5. Flo: Flo is a reusable menstrual hygiene kit that Mariko Higaki Iwai designed to provide a solution for women and girls in developing countries to take care of their bodies. The kit allows girls to wash, dry and carry reusable sanitary pads. This kit makes it easier for girls to stay in school, prevent reproductive diseases and illnesses and take care of their menstrual cycle in privacy. Flo is still a prototype but people working in the field in developing countries have been trying to make Flo available for their communities. The team is currently seeking manufacturers to make this possible.

These life-saving products are working at tackling global poverty, while also giving those who live in poverty-stricken communities a better chance at having a healthy lifestyle.

Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr

 

Digital Education in Kenya

Despite Kenya’s large economy and rapid digital and technological growth, the country still suffers a vast digital gap. This gap is especially apparent in Kenya’s primary schools. As of 2015, Kenya spent 95.7 percent of its total education expenditure on primary public institutions. But, there is still only one teacher for every 47 students, the majority of whom do not have access to the internet. Tech-start ups and pilot projects are trying to close this gap by creating innovative programs that are helping students to earn a digital education in Kenya.

Opportunity for Everyone

In 2016, Kenya’s Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology created the Digital Literacy Programme (DLP). The project promised to deliver 1.2 million digital devices to 21,718 primary public schools nationwide. The launch was successful and by 2018 the roll-out provided 19,000 schools with more than 1 million laptops, tablets and mobile devices pre-programmed with interactive, educational materials for students.

According to the ICT Authority of Kenya, 89.2 percent of public primary schools have been supplied with these devices. Since its launch, teachers involved with the DLP have also reported increased student alertness, boosted attendance and reported an overall increase in student admissions. The DLP has also created 11,000 employment opportunities in ICT support centers, local laptop assembly plants and digital education content development.

Despite the DLP’s successful roll-out of devices, experts in the field speculated that teacher-engagement combined with access to materials is the most effective way to ensure students’ success. The Inter-American Development Bank carried out a study in 2012, reporting that 860,000 computers supplied to Peruvian schools made teachers feel disengaged from students and did not improve student test scores. The DLP and projects like it looking to innovate digital education in Kenya took note of this and put more emphasis on teacher training. The DLP alone has trained 91,000 teachers to deliver digital learning content through the project since its launch.

Combating Educational Imbalance

Despite the overwhelming contributions provided by the DLP, obstacles still remain in terms of digital education in Kenya. Students in rural areas rarely have access to traditional libraries and textbooks. Then, there is also the issue of not having enough teachers to cover the multitude of students in each classroom. These same areas also suffer from regular power outages, making it difficult to keep devices charged throughout the school day. This, on top of an overall lack of internet access, creates a significant imbalance in the quality of resources provided to students and a system that can’t ensure equal opportunities for every child to be successful.

BRCK, a tech company based in Nairobi, aims to combat this imbalance with an innovative solution called the Kio Kit. The kit provides 40 tablets per school, that can be charged wirelessly, a wifi hotspot and a small server packed with educational content. The Kio Kit is connected to the cloud, making its server self-updating. The kit’s self-updating capabilities ensure that students and teachers utilizing its platform receive the most diverse and up-to-date information that BRCK’s content providers, like TED Education, Khan Academy and the like have to offer. The kit’s wide-ranging content also enables teachers to identify learning techniques that are unique to each student and apply them in the classroom.

Kenya still faces many challenges in quality education for all students. But, innovative tech projects like the DLP and the Kio Kit are working to combat these issues by ensuring both teachers and students have access to the best tech and resources available and helping to make great strides toward strong, digital education in Kenya.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

 

Green Energy in Kenya

Kenya has big plans for its future as a major green technology user. About 70 percent of Kenya’s electricity comes from renewable energy, which is almost three times the global average. The Lake Turkana Wind Farm, which was completed in 2018, and the Meru County Energy Park are two important developments in wind and solar power, each helping Kenya to reach its target of 100 percent renewable electricity by 2020.

Meru County Energy Park

Meru County Energy Park will be Africa’s first large scale hybrid wind, solar photovoltaic and battery storage project. It will provide 80 megawatts (MW) of clean, renewable energy that could power more than 200,000 households. The project is a great step in producing green energy in Kenya and also acts as a model for other countries seeking to advance in low-cost, clean energy. Construction begins during 2021 in Meru County, Kenya.

The $150 million investment consists of 20 wind turbines and more than 40,000 solar panels. The Meru County Energy Park is a lead project by the Meru County Investment and Development Corporation (MCIDC) and its partners WindLab and Eurus Energy. WindLab is a wind energy developer that has completed projects across three different continents. During the signing of the agreement between Meru County and Windlab, Governor Peter Munya stated that “The development, construction and operation of a large scale renewable energy project within the County will bring employment, energy security and expertise to the region.”

Lake Turkana Wind Farm

The Lake Turkana Wind Farm, operational since 2018, is another major development in Kenyan green technology. It’s Africa’s largest wind power project, consisting of 365 turbines with a capacity of releasing 310 MW of sustainable low-cost energy. The wind farm is located in the Turkana Wind Corridor that channels wind between the mountains in the north and south of the desert region.

It’s also another stride in achieving Kenya Vision 2030, Kenya’s long-term development plan to create a better nation by 2030. The energy provided by the Lake Turkana Wind Farm is helping to create “a newly-industrializing, middle-income country providing a high quality of life to all its citizens in a clean and secure environment.” The entire energy sector has grown tremendously. Thanks to advancements in green energy in Kenya, electricity access in 2018 stood at 73.4 percent, an increase from 56 percent in 2016.

Since September 2018, the Lake Turkana Wind Farm generated 1.2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and saved taxpayers about $77 million from reduced use of diesel-operated power. The project proves that wind power is an efficient and low-cost alternative for rural regions that often rely on more expensive and environmentally harmful methods of electricity, such as diesel.

Future of Green Energy in Kenya

President Uhuru Kenyatta plans to continue reducing Kenya’s carbon footprint by welcoming private investment in green technology. Major investments from corporations such as WindLab and Eurus Energy are simply the beginning to Kenya reaching its goal of achieving 100 percent renewable electricity by 2020. The nation ranks ninth in the world for geothermal power generating capacity, making green energy in Kenya a viable option to help those in poverty who struggle to access electricity. Since 70 percent of Kenya’s current power usage is already from renewable sources, the country is on an upward trajectory to achieving its green technology goal.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture in AfricaAfrica boasts one of the biggest farming industries in the world. Agriculture accounts for 60 percent of the continent’s paid employment and 30 percent of its overall GDP. However, due to a lack of market information, modern farming technologies and financial stability in smallholder farming, the continent suffers from low farming productivity. With so much of Africa’s development being dependent on agriculture and farming, low productivity rates pose an array of problems for the continent’s pursuit of advancement. These five tech start-ups are tackling these issues and transforming agriculture in Africa.

5 Tech Start-Ups Transforming Agriculture in Africa

  1. ZenvusZenvus is a Nigerian tech start-up centered around precision farming and is rapidly transforming agriculture in Africa. Farmers in Africa often don’t have access to information that could help improve their harvesting yields, and Zenvus is looking to change that with an innovative solution that uses propriety technology to collect data like soil nutrients and moisture, PH values and vegetative health. The information is collected and sent to a cloud server through GSM, satellite, or wifi networks, at which point the farmers receive advice from the program. This data arms them with the best information in seeking the proper fertilizer for their crops, optimizing their irrigation systems while encouraging data-driven farming for small-scale farmers. Zenvus also provides specialized cameras to track the growth of crops, as well as features like zCaptial that provides small-scale farmers with the opportunity raise capital by providing collected data from the program’s precision farming sensors to give banks an overall sense of profitability in farms registered with the service.
  2. M-FarmM-Farm is a tech service app based in Kenya that provides small-scale farmers with information on retail prices of products, prospective buyers in local markets and up-to-date information on agricultural trends. Information is gathered daily by independent collectors using geocodes and is then sent to subscribers phones via SMS messages. Collectors use geocoding to ensure that all pricing and market-related data is being collected from traders that are located in the users’ actual markets. The app, which now serves 7,000 users and tracks 42 different kinds of crops in five major markets throughout Kenya, aims to help small-scale farmers connect directly with suppliers, and even provides considerable discounts on fertilizers and seeds.
  3. EsokoEsoko is another striking example of a tech start-up transforming agriculture in Africa where, historically, many farmers had a limited understanding of market pricing and agricultural trade. Market middlemen often took advantage of this and persuaded unknowing farmers to sell products well below market price. In 2005, Esoko aimed to change that by providing farmers with real-time information on market prices, weather forecasts and agricultural techniques through SMS messaging. The start-up currently serves one million users across 19 African countries, gained $1.25 million in equity from two major venture capital companies, with a study finding that farmers who used the app were able to increase profits by 11 percent.
  4. Apollo Agriculture – Founded in Nairobi in 2014, this tech start-up has raised $1.6 million in the pursuit of helping small-scale farmers get maximum profits for their products and diminish credit risk. The start-up does this through machine learning, remote sensing and the utilization of mobile phone technologies. Apollo Agriculture not only assesses credit risk for farmers, but it also uses satellite data to provide personalized packages specific to farmer behavior, location, crop yields and even soil and vegetation health.
  5. Kilimo SalamaKilimo Salama (Safe Agriculture) founded in 2010, is a Kenyan tech start-up that provides small-scale farmers a more informed approach to weather index/micro-insurance for their land. The start-up uses an app to send users SMS messages regarding weather patterns and up-to-date climate data. This ensures that users can more readily prepare for weather that might be detrimental to their crops. The app also includes a feature that allows users to receive confirmation of insurance payouts through SMS messaging. Users also receive educational messages with tips and techniques on how to increase productivity, food security and crop protection.

Africa suffers from low farm productivity due to an array of issues like financial instability, limited access to modern farming technologies and lack of information. However, countless tech start-ups across the continent are actively combating these issues with innovative tech solutions for transforming agriculture in Africa.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

Scuba Diving Can Alleviate Poverty
Scuba diving is the practice of underwater diving with a SCUBA, an acronym for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. The United States Special Force’s frogmen initially used this during the Second World War. Through this technology, divers can go underwater without connecting to a surface oxygen supply. The main aim for many scuba divers today is dive tourism, with marine conservation trailing closely behind. It is through these conservation efforts and tourism businesses in coastal areas that plenty of communities have found themselves being alleviated from poverty. Scuba diving can alleviate poverty due to the new employment opportunities that arise through environmental efforts, as well as the work scuba diving training businesses provide.

Although the Earth’s equatorial belt possesses 75 percent of the world’s most productive and beautiful coral reefs, this area is home to over 275 million individuals living under poverty. These are individuals who depend directly on coral reefs, fish and marine resources for their food, security and income.

According to Judi Lowe, Ph.D. in Dive Tourism, these incredible bio-diverse coral reefs have immense potential for dive tourism. However, conflicts are currently present between dive operators and local communities due to a limited supply of essential resources. If businesses in the diving industry turned to greener practices and focused on indigenous local communities, they could achieve marine conservation, along with poverty alleviation.

Integrated Framework Coastal Management and Poverty Alleviation

Without a doubt, efforts to preserve the marine environment must include local communities to preserve the marine environment. By including people whose livelihoods are dependent on fisheries and aquaculture into recreational scuba diving, there will be greater benefits for the community and the environment. One of the pre-existing frameworks that ensure this mutual symbiosis is the integrated framework of coastal management.

Integrated framework coastal management is a tool that ensures a successful and profitable outcome for all parties involved in the use and conservation of marine resources. Through this model, locals integrate into the administration and the use of natural resources in several water-based industries. Supplemental payments and employment within other businesses create employment opportunities, should fish bans or similar legislative actions displace primary jobs. This has occurred in Northern Mozambique and Kenya.

Scuba Diving and Poverty Alleviation in Mozambique

Mozambique is a country with a history of the slave trade, colonization and 15 years of civil war. Nevertheless, it is a nation in the equatorial belt that has significant tourism potential. After the civil war, tourism was its quickest growing industry. Forty-five percent of the country’s population participates in the tourism industry.

Poverty is lowest in the province of Ponta do Ouro, located in the southern-most area of Mozambique. Ponta do Ouro is home to the greatest levels of marine tourism, where tourists and locals collaborate to participate in water-based activities such as scuba diving. The area particularly favors scuba diving due to the presence of bull sharks, tiger sharks and hammerheads. It also has year-round warm water and is home to humpback whales from August through November. As it holds pristine marine biodiversity, the area is a marine protected area (MPA).

Scuba activities in Ponta do Ouro mainly happen within scuba diving management areas that follow the diver code of conduct. Most diving in the area is done to maintain the biophysical environment through the monitoring and assessment of ecosystem health and management of marine pollution by maintaining low levels of plastic pollution that accumulates in the bays along the coastline.

Not only can scuba diving alleviate poverty through dive tourism, but MPAs have also been influential. For example, MPAs have helped promote and facilitate the involvement of Mozambicans to monitor their fisheries, map different user groups that can overlay with physical and biological data and conduct research. All of these actions help locals find employment and elevate their living standards.

In the future, a greater exploration of the Mozambican Indian Ocean should be explored and strategic planning to maintain the attractiveness of the area and avoid loss of biodiversity is imperative. This will open up greater possibilities for locals to set up dive sites and cultivate diving enterprises, conserve the biological species and obtain greater income.

SPACES, Diving and Poverty Alleviation in Kenya

The Sustainable Poverty Alleviation from Coastal Ecosystem Services (SPACES) Project is a collaborative initiative funded by the U.K. Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) and SwedBio. The project aims to uncover the scientific knowledge on the complex relationship between ecosystem services, poverty and human wellbeing. The project studies sites in Mozambique and Kenya.

The concept of ecosystem services (ES) that the project uses determined that humans derive great benefits from ecosystems. People can apply these benefits to environmental conservation, human well-being and poverty alleviation. People can also use them to inform and develop interventions. If people implement the integrated framework coastal management, there is a large possibility for ecosystem services to inform the development of ES interventions that contribute to poverty alleviation through entrepreneurial activities. If locals cultivate diving enterprises, these communities would reap the benefits of the cash-based livelihood that many diving businesses currently possess.

Lobster Diving in Honduras

In Honduras, diving has been a primary livelihood. In the Central American country that shares its borders with Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, lobster diving serves as a way of living, particularly in the indigenous community of Miskito. Mosquita is one of the most impoverished areas of Latin America.

Despite the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) setting safe standard diving techniques, one that calls for a gradual ascent to the surface and a limit to the number of dives a person can make in one day, the divers of Mosquita dive deeply, surface quickly and go back for more. They race to collect as much lobster as possible, fishing to take their families and themselves out of poverty. These conditions make them prone to nitrogen decompression sickness, a sickness that disabled over 1,200 Miskitos since 1980.

Nevertheless, a diver receives $3 for every pound of lobster they get and 28 cents for every sea cucumber. This is a significant amount of money for the area and for that reason, many take the risk. The boats where the divers spend their time between dives also only have rudimentary safety equipment, using aging tanks and masks. These divers need to do their jobs to raise themselves out of poverty. Until the government implements necessary training to divers, as well as health insurance provisions, divers will remain at risk. Lobster diving has great potential for promoting marine biodiversity, poverty alleviation and sustainable coastal development; however, health precautions must be a priority as well in order for lobster diving to be a truly sustainable solution.  

Looking Forward

Scuba diving can alleviate poverty with its safety practices and dedication for marine conservation, which opens up many opportunities for technological and economic advances through educational, conservation and entrepreneurship potential. Aside from igniting passion and dedication to fighting for the underwater environment, scuba diving urges divers to fight for their survival, their protection and their businesses as well. It is therefore understandable why many have come to value scuba diving as one of the most potent ways to educate society about environmental conservation, and with it, help increase living standards for coastal communities.

– Monique Santoso
Photo: Flickr