Human Trafficking in Kenya
Human trafficking in Kenya, and all over the world, is a significant issue. In 2017, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that more than 24 million people were victims of human trafficking worldwide. Moreover, human trafficking brings in profits of more than $150 billion every year.

Human trafficking in Kenya manifests internationally and nationally. In 2019, the U.S. State Department estimated that 853 people were victims of human trafficking. Traffickers sexually exploit their victims and/or force them into labor. However, many victims initially believe they are heading toward a better life and more employment opportunities. For example, many Kenyans have migrated to the Middle East in search of employment only to end up as forced domestic or manual laborers with very little or no wages. Additionally, a large number of refugees from Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia has made human trafficking in Kenya a pressing issue.

A Source and Destination for Traffickers

According to the Kenyan National Crime Research Centre, Kenya is a source, transit route and destination for human trafficking victims. Poverty is the leading factor that contributes to human trafficking incidents in Kenya.

Both Kenyans and citizens of other East African countries are victims of human trafficking. Traffickers look for impoverished adults and children begging on the sides of the streets to force into labor. Meanwhile, traffickers have trafficked other nationals such as Ugandans into Kenya for forced labor. This is despite Kenya recently stepping up its fight against human trafficking.

Partnership with Uganda

Kenya has partnered with global organizations and neighboring countries to fight human trafficking. Kenya’s partnership with Uganda has been productive in fighting human trafficking in the region. In 2019, this partnership was able to rescue 96 Ugandans trafficked into Kenya.

This partnership has also improved Kenya’s international obligations under the U.N. Trafficking in Persons Protocol to fight global human trafficking through its close work with the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

Regulating Labor Migration

More effectively, the Kenyan government set up national preventive measures to fight human trafficking. In 2019, the government created the National Employment Authority (NEA), which works to regulate labor migration both nationally and internationally. The NEA has made it safer for Kenyans to find employment. For example, NEA’s website has a list of accredited agencies that Kenyans looking for work abroad should engage with.

Protecting Kenyans Working Abroad and Children

In 2019, Kenya’s Ministry of Labor started offering migrant workers training sessions on labor rights abroad and the dangers of human trafficking in Kenya. The NEA has an online platform for recruiting Kenyans who seek to work in Saudi Arabia. These steps protect Kenyans on their way to work in other countries and, upon reaching their destination, continue to inform them of their rights. However, while this has been successful in protecting Kenyans from external human trafficking, vulnerable groups, such as women and children, require more protection from sexual predators.

Due to the large number of girls trafficked for sexual exploitation, the government of Kenya implemented a national plan against children’s sexual exploitation in 2019. This plan forces companies to train their staff on how to identify victims of child exploitation and create awareness. This has been important in reducing the entry of predators entering the country to traffic children.

Kenya’s TIP Ranking

The Trafficking in Persons Report, or TIP, is an annual international document that categorizes countries as Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3 on their progress to eliminating human trafficking. Tier 2 countries are those that do not comply entirely with the measures to fight human trafficking but are taking significant steps to combat it. Even though Kenya has received the category of Tier 2, its international partnerships and national preventive measures are increasing its progress toward Tier 1.

– Frank Odhiambo
Photo: Flickr

Gjenge MakersGjenge Makers is a Nairobi-based startup company that offers a sustainable, practical and affordable solution to combat poverty in Kenya. The company sells affordable alternative building materials. Its products, which include an assortment of bricks with different functionalities and styles, are forged from recycled plastic and sand. These plastic bricks can help reduce poverty and plastic waste in Africa.

The Plastics Waste Crisis in Kenya

Garbage is quickly accumulating all around the globe and Africa is bearing the brunt of rising waste levels. Governments in resource-rich regions typically have the capacity to pare the trash down into a flaky substance, slashing the amount of physical space it occupies. This process is time-consuming and expensive. However, several countries such as Kenya instead address the issue by implementing a series of plastic bans.

Plastic ban policies typically have socioeconomic and environmental consequences. Throughout the state are large piles of waste that have built up as a result of excessive plastic use, such as the infamous Dandora dump in Nairobi. “Plastic traders” scour these junkyards for limited resources like bottles and certain compounds that can be exchanged for money. Many at the lower end of the disparity are also disproportionately affected by policing under these laws as plastic bag distribution, manufacturing and usage are subject to a fine and/or prison sentence. Additionally, some businesses will generally relocate to other states to avoid such strict laws, damaging economic interests and employment numbers.

Kenya had been taking a slow-moving approach in curtailing the plastics crisis when Gjenge Makers founder, Nzambi Matee, decided to take matters into her own hands. The entrepreneur experimented with mixing recyclables with sand in her mother’s backyard and eventually composed a formula to build a brick five to seven times stronger than concrete. Her products are now a core economic ingredient toward upturning poverty and improving infrastructure at the community level.

The Housing Crisis in Kenya

Kenya is currently undergoing a severe housing deficit, with homelessness numbers rapidly escalating under the pandemic. The estimated housing deficit stood at two million in 2012 but factors such as limited resources are further distending the issue. With limited support and a lack of housing, many families are struggling to survive.

How Gjenge Makers Helps

Gjenge Makers address both the plastic waste and housing crisis through its plastic brick solution. In accordance with its “Build Alternatively, Build Affordably” model, it seeks to contribute a key product that could empower individual communities by giving them the resource needed to rise out of poverty. Matee has declared eradicating poverty a personal goal of hers and her new innovation can help build more shelters to combat the housing crisis. The company also seeks to make its products accessible to essential learning institutions such as schools.

Gjenge Makers currently receives plastic through a multipronged approach. It collects from factories and recyclers seeking to discard their trash, whether at a price or for free. It also uses a mobile application that incentivizes rewards and allows homeowners to notify Gjenge Makers when they have available plastic. The formula to build the bricks requires a particular type of plastic compound, often labeled on the products themselves.

Gjenge Makers is a champion of eco-friendly, economic empowerment in a crisis that is widespread throughout the continent of Africa. Though the startup is currently based in Nairobi, it seeks to eventually expand and support other African states as well. So far, Gjenge Makers recycled 20 tons of plastic and created a total of 112 jobs.

Danielle Han
Photo: Flickr

Branch App The world of financial technology has a lot to offer low- and middle-income countries. Financial technology is essential to accelerate poverty reduction and enhance the growth and development of developing nations. One such innovation in financial technology is a mobile lending app called Branch. The Branch app has tapped into Africa’s emerging markets and the results are inspiring.

The Branch App

Branch offers mobile financial services that are accessible via smartphone. The advantage of this technology is that the app bypasses some of the restrictions that come with traditional institutions. Branch’s goal is to make money lending and credit building opportunities accessible to all people, which the company believes will “open new channels for personal empowerment and financial growth.”

Currently, Branch serves Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and India. Its user demographic targets members of the middle class in areas with emerging markets. Branch recognizes that people in these areas are often underserved and is dedicated to servicing them with customer-first products.

The People Behind the Project

Matt Flannery and Daniel Jung co-founded Branch in 2015. Flannery, the CEO, previously developed and led Kiva, a nonprofit microfinancing company. Flannery then set out to create a “branchless bank” for Africa, resulting in a financial app that would provide accessible services to low- and middle-income customers. Flannery is a Skoll Awardee and Ashoka Fellow, making him a highly acclaimed social entrepreneur. He was also part of Fortune magazine’s “Top 40 under 40” list in 2009.

Recently, in March 2021, Branch added a new member to its team: Dayo Ademola, who will oversee Branch’s Nigeria operations. Ademola has more than 15 years of experience working with consumer-centric companies and banking institutions. She has former experience with global fintech and much of her efforts in the field have been toward improving financial inclusion in Nigeria. Ademola is particularly excited about continuing this mission and working with Branch to help Nigerians simplify their relationship with finances. Fortunately, Branch provides a successful avenue to do that.

Branch’s Success

Since its launch in 2015, Branch has made significant advancements toward improving banking accessibility in Africa. Since its establishment, Branch has facilitated $350 million in loans. This is a significant accomplishment since Branch operates in countries with new markets and limited resources. Fintech investments in Nigeria have grown nearly 200% in the past three years, showing that these emerging markets are increasingly recognized as valuable.

Flannery and others see the African markets for the significant opportunities they present. Fintechs, especially those with a background in social entrepreneurship, have the power to transform African markets and improve social and economic stability in these countries. As it stands, Branch has more than four million customers and has issued more than 21 million loans in the countries it operates in. If the  Branch app continues to spread across Africa and other developing nations, Branch has the potential to vastly improve financial inclusivity and lift millions of people out of poverty by providing financial solutions that cater to those with minimal resources.

Samantha Silveira
Photo: Flickr

water crisis in Kenya Kenya’s economy remains the largest and most developed in East Africa, yet 36.1% of the population lived below the poverty line in 2015. This is predicted to moderately decrease to 32.4% in 2021. Although poverty rates continue to decrease, experts state poverty in Kenya is unlikely to resolve by 2030 at the current pace. Addressing the water crisis in Kenya is critical to improving conditions for citizens and reducing poverty.

Kenya’s Water Crisis

Kenya has shown rapid growth in education, with a literate population of 81.5% in 2018 for people 15 and older. Roughly 58% of adults older than 24 have also completed primary education, a notable increase from 44% in 2005. Despite progress in education and literacy, improved access to clean water in Kenya remains low. With long droughts and dry spells, water scarcity is an overwhelming concern. Kenyans living in rural areas rely on ponds, rivers and shallow wells as piped water connections are often unreliable. Women and children have the duties of traveling to collect water every day. This sidelines their education and increases the risk of contracting a  waterborne disease such as cholera.

Tackling Kenya’s water scarcity can seem daunting and many wonder how to help. Many question whether a small contribution will even make a difference. However, every effort to end the water crisis makes a substantial impact on Kenyan communities. There are a few easy ways to help contribute to solving the water crisis today.

  • Donate. A simple Google search will reveal an abundance of organizations working tirelessly to address the water shortage in Kenya. Checks can be sent via mail or donations can be made with a phone call or a simple click of a button. If time is of concern, in less than five minutes, anyone can sign up to make donations via credit card without even leaving their home.
  • Shop Smart. Help solve the water crisis by supporting businesses that make considerable donations to nonprofits. Buy coffee products at Golden Made Kafé and the organization will donate 5% of the proceeds to Water.org to support water access efforts in countries like Kenya. Gift a book from AwesOm Life to a friend and it will donate 100% of the proceeds to organizations like Water.org. Purchase coloring books from Hidden Words Coloring and it will donate 10% of book sale revenue to support Water.org’s mission of global water access.
  • The Water Challenge. Instead of buying soda or sports drinks, commit to drinking only water for two weeks. More than 800 groups all over the United States and Canada have taken part in The Water Challenge to raise money for the water crisis in Africa. Donate the money that would have otherwise been spent on beverages and it will provide at least one person access to clean water.
  • Share Stories. In a globalized world bombarded with technology, one share on Facebook could make a difference in whether someone will have access to clean water or not. Follow UNICEF’s water access efforts on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to learn more and share stories with friends and family to spread awareness.

The Road Ahead

Kenya has certainly made considerable progress in its development. However, the scarcity of water is an issue that results in Kenya lagging behind neighboring countries. It is important to have access to clean water now more than ever to support hygiene efforts to protect people from COVID-19 and other diseases. It may feel overwhelming to solve the water crisis in Kenya, but the crisis continues to move in a positive direction. With a push of a button, anyone can contribute to reducing global poverty.

Mio Vogt
Photo: Flickr

Higher Education in KenyaEnrollment in higher education in Kenya has been on a steady increase, posting a gain of 28% from 2013 to 2014. However, the government has cut funding to higher education programs. The cuts have made it difficult for universities to handle this influx of new student enrollment. Kenya’s Commission for University Education has decreased government subsidies to these institutions but is still trying to find ways to support quality higher education opportunities in the nation.

Kenya’s Higher Education System

Kenya has both public universities and private universities. Public institutions are established via Acts of Parliaments, while the Commission on Higher Education oversees the operations of the private institutions. Acceptance to bachelor’s degree programs require a Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education and typically lasts between four to six years. The higher education system has several similarities to the university system in the United States. It also shares many of the same issues with regard to equitable access and funding.

Beyond issues of government funding, the higher education system in Kenya faces issues of overcrowding, ever-growing demand and poorly equipped libraries and curricular resources. Due to all of these challenges facing the high-demand university system, outside NGOs and investors have worked with students to create a more productive, accessible and equitable system for higher education in Kenya.

Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program

The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program is one of these outside investors working with students. It wants to ensure students who want to access higher education in Kenya are not barred from doing so strictly because of a lack of financial resources. The Mastercard Foundation partnered with the United States International University-Africa in Kenya to provide 1,000 merit-based scholarships for those seeking an undergraduate degree.

This partnership and subsequent scholarships amount to $63.2 million. The first scholarships began in the 2020-21 academic year. They will ensure students are receiving high-quality university educations and also have access to leadership development opportunities. Further, the scholarships seek to address inequities with regards to who has access to higher education in Kenya. A total of 70% of the scholarships will go to young women, 25% to refugee scholars and at least 10% will go to students with disabilities. The Mastercard Foundation has a history of investing in global youth. It has stated that it is committed to creating a generation of African leaders who will transform not only their own nations and continent but the entire world.

Higher Education Creating African Leaders

This scholarship program not only supports students financially but grants access to internships and post-graduate career services. The program hopes to create graduates who go on to become entrepreneurs, NGO leaders, social workers and changemakers. Overall, the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program has committed $1 billion to support higher education worldwide and creating more equitable access to higher education and working to support leaders of the next generation from every part of the globe.

Tatiana Nelson
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 response
While the COVID-19 pandemic has yet to come under control, many countries around the world have taken steps to economic recovery. African nations in particular, although prone to severe economic impacts, have shown significant progress in their COVID-19 response. According to the World Bank’s October 2020 Africa’s Pulse issue, GDP growth projections in all regions of Africa are positive for 2021 and 2022 following GDP growth decrease in 2020. This article highlights three countries that are demonstrating optimistic economic growth after COVID-19.

Rwanda

COVID-19 Response Measures: Rwanda has received recognition for its efforts to contain initial outbreaks. This is likely due to the country’s aggressive measures combining public health mandates and innovative utilization of technologies. What separates Rwanda’s response is its reliance on scientific guidance and a high-tech approach to health and social service policies. For example, treatment centers are using human-sized robots for temperature checks and supply deliveries. National enforcement also deployed drones to monitor and ensure compliance with lockdown measures.

Fiscal Policy: The December 2020 update on fiscal policy in Rwanda includes $314 million in economic stimulus, corporate tax exemptions and subsidies, cash transfers to citizens (unemployment benefits) and food assistance. Rwanda’s financial capacity proved beyond national resources but international support was able to expand it. UNDP Rwanda and the World Bank are currently working closely with the Rwanda Ministry of Finance to discern how much the COVID-19 response plan will need for operation.

Monetary Policy: The National Bank of Rwanda reduced the policy interest rate to 4.5%. It has further plans to establish liquidity and digital payment support measures. In Africa’s Pulse, the World Bank classifies Rwanda as the only country established in the Growth Taxonomy in sub-Saharan Africa. The taxonomy compares pre-pandemic performance to mid-pandemic growth. Expectations have determined that Rwanda will achieve the highest post-pandemic recovery with a GDP growth of 7%. With economic drivers like vaccine campaigns and investment and trade boosts, countries like Rwanda and Tanzania expect GDP increases. East Africa in general is expected to reach 5.1% GDP growth as opposed to the continental average at 3.2%.

Kenya

COVID-19 Response Measures: Kenya adopted many of the common direct response measures, such as a widespread lockdown. Additionally, the U.N. praised Kenya’s maintenance of well-equipped emergency treatment hospitals to best accommodate not only Kenyan patients but also U.N. personnel and partners. Kenya’s hospitals can also potentially play an important role in regional humanitarian development.

Fiscal Policy: Kenya announced a $534 million economic stimulus, a $377 million COVID-19 health expenditure, corporate tax exemptions and subsidies, cash transfers to citizens and food assistance. Like other African countries, Kenya is receiving financial assistance from major international entities such as the World Bank and the E.U. With 86 different donors, Kenya received Ksh 194,663,072,350 ($177,3769,915.25) for COVID-19 response plans.

Monetary Policy: The Central Bank of Kenya reduced the policy interest rate to 7% and planned liquidity support measures. Additionally, the government launched the National Hygiene Program (Kazi Mtaani) to reduce pandemic-induced unemployment. It offers employment with daily wages to the hardest-hit communities. Jobs include street cleaning, garbage collection and disinfection. Kenya’s trade activities also indicate promising economic recovery. According to the World Bank’s Africa’s Pulse, Kenyan exports have already recovered rapidly and have surpassed pre-pandemic highs.

Senegal

COVID-19 Response Measures: The World Bank highlighted Senegal as demonstrating a successful health response to COVID-19. Swift responses were key, particularly in regards to test capacity, quarantine facilities and ventilators. Preventative measures also included temperature checks and hand sanitizer distribution. By September 2020, 80% of confirmed cases had recovered.

Fiscal Policy: Senegal has an $801 million economic stimulus, a $130 million COVID-19 health expenditure, corporate tax exemptions and subsidies, cash transfers to citizens and food assistance. Some participating entities for Senegal’s financing include the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. For instance, AfDB contributed €88 million to support Senegal’s measures to provide relief to vulnerable households, businesses and job security initiatives.

Monetary Policy: Senegal’s monetary policy is in collaboration with other West African countries, including Benin, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger and Togo. These countries work with the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), which has made FCFA 4.750 billion ($8,383,750) available to banks and has reduced policy interest rates to 4%. In Africa’s Pulse Growth Taxonomy, Senegal is one of five countries in the top tercile of growth performers. It has a classification of “improved.” Improved GDP growth can indicate the first signs of economic recovery.

The Road to Recovery

As a result of early preventative policy measures, fiscal and monetary policies, international financing and trade initiatives, many African countries have paved a road to post-pandemic recovery. Rwanda, Kenya and Senegal are merely three of the African countries benefiting from smart policy measures and quick COVID-19 responses. In many cases, these countries are experiencing even higher levels of growth than they did before the pandemic. The steps that these countries and others took can serve as a model for how to navigate the economic hurdles of a global pandemic.

– Malala Raharisoa Lin
Photo: Flickr

 

Delivering Food Security to Kenya
Maureen Muketha is working to deliver gender equality and food security to Kenya. The 26-year-old nutritionist and native Kenyan is a woman delivering food security to Kenya through Tule Vyema. It is a nonprofit that emphasizes education, sustainable farming techniques and female empowerment.

About Tule Vyema

Tule Vyema means “let’s eat right” in Swahili. Ms. Muketha founded the nonprofit in 2018, after graduating from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture in Kenya. Instead of looking for opportunities outside beyond the borders, she focused her attention on her own community, a pastoral region outside of Nairobi called Kajiado. Here, malnutrition is a major issue.

WHO reported that chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension are becoming more prevalent worldwide, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya, 55% of total deaths have links to these non-communicable diseases, which are often a result of malnutrition.

While it is no secret that eating vegetables is fundamental to sound nutrition, vegetables are simply a luxury that many people in the Kajiado cannot afford. The average household in the region lives on $1.50 per day, while one bunch of vegetables costs about 50 cents or one-third of its daily income. Impoverished households must then rely on cheap, highly processed food rich in sugar, salt and fat.

Industrialization is exacerbating this issue, from the emerging prevalence of cheap fast food options to motorcycles and scooters, which are taking the place of walking. As a result, people are consuming more empty calories and exercising less. Through Tule Vyema, Maureen is addressing this issue with education, first and foremost.

Education

Tule Vyema offers free education on the fundamentals of nutrition in order to address food security in Kenya. The organization teaches women how to prepare produce so they can retain their nutrients, and conversely, which preparation methods to avoid. For example, boiling vegetables leaves many of the nutrients behind in the water.

The program also emphasizes the value of indigenous vegetables such as African nightshade, amaranth, cowpeas and spider plant. Tule Vyema also teaches sack farming, which is an efficient method of growing crops.

Sack Farming

Sack farming turns a simple sack into a vertical garden. Farmers fill the bags with a combination of manure, soil and pebbles, and then, the crops grow out of the top and the sides. This technique requires less water than other growing methods, which makes it more viable in an arid climate and helpful in the mission of delivering food security to Kenya. This method also requires less land, which allows farmers without large plots the option of growing food in their own backyard. Additionally, sack farming results in better pest control, leading to fewer lost crops. Finally, it enables farmers to grow indigenous crops without using harmful pesticides, thus maximizing crops’ nutritional value. Not only has sack farming increased food security in Kenya, but the women who have adopted the technique are also enjoying the newfound economic freedom it provides.

Empowering Women

Most women in Kajiado households are homemakers. However, often their main source of income is household chores for neighboring houses. This type of work is frequently unreliable and low-paying. With sack gardens, women can sell surplus vegetables within their community.

The women of Kajiado are taking on leadership roles within the organization, handling logistics such as scheduling classes and bringing education straight to the doorstep of those who do not have the time to seek it out on their own. The administrative people who live within the communities give Tule Vyema real staying power.

Looking to the Future

In just two years, Tule Vyema has helped over 800 households achieve food security. With its early success in delivering food security to Kenya, Maureen Muketha wants the program to expand beyond its borders.

“God willing it expands to various other countries because this is a problem not only in my county but it cuts across the country and even globally,” said Maureen.

Greg Fortier
Photo: Flickr

USAID programs in Kenya
Former U.S. President John F. Kennedy created the United States Agency for International Development in 1961. Kennedy’s goal was to spearhead the United States’ international development and humanitarian initiatives. Additionally, the highest executive position is the Administrator of the USAID. This position’s responsibilities include executing foreign aid programs under the guidance of the President. Furthermore, the Administrator of the USAID selects members of the President’s cabinet and the State Department. USAID coordinates with different levels of the United States government. As a result, this agency often works closely with the State Department to achieve common goals. USAID programs in Kenya also contribute to the global economy and aid in alleviating global poverty.

USAID’s mission statement is to dedicate itself to the promotion of democratic values in its works and advance freedom and prosperity. As such, USAID is well-integrated into the United States’ foreign policy vectors and gives perspective in improving the lives of many in the developing world.

Mark Green is the most recent non-acting Administrator for USAID since 2017. USAID’s agenda underwent reorientation and Administrator Mark Green’s tenure resulted in the reframing of its definition of foreign assistance. Journey to Self-reliance is a new policy that emerged to reforge all existing USAID policies and strategies.

USAID’s Program Cycle’s policies and decisions reinforced its initiatives. In addition, an evaluative set of processes regarding a structured cycle of self-examination, planning, implementation and re-examination of outcomes helps countries become more self-reliant.

USAID Today in Kenya

USAID programs in Kenya have been making a difference for more than 60 years. Kenya received $540 million in aid from USAID in the 2019 fiscal year. Thus, this ranks Kenya as the fourth most-funded African country. As a result, USAID programs in Kenya provide more than the average $144 million funding that these regions typically receive. The HIV/AIDS sector receives the greatest amount of aid from USAID. It contributes a total of $260 million.

Kenya’s performance scores of self-reliance lag behind the average low and middle-income countries. However, Kenya surges ahead in having an open and accountable government. Yet, Kenya’s safety and security rates at 33 points out of 100. This is significantly lower than the statistical average. Thus, the nation’s lowest-performing index is the poverty rate. Kenya’s poverty rate is a mere 14 out of 100, whereas the statistical average rests at 44.

USAID Programs’ Focuses

USAID programs in Kenya have three primary focuses. First, it aims to effectively implement governmental devolution. This requires devolving the powers of the central government to regional bodies. Second, it aims to strengthen the health and human capacities of Kenyans. Lastly, it has the goal of driving environmentally sustainable economic growth.

Kenya’s economy is the largest and most diverse economy in all of East Africa. It serves as an important trading hub for the African continent. However, agriculture makes up the backbone of Kenya’s economy today. Agriculture provides an obvious pathway for economic development and poverty reduction. Furthermore, agribusiness accounts for roughly 40% of Kenya’s overall workforce and roughly a quarter of its annual GDP.

As an example of the United States government’s integrated approach to foreign aid, USAID’s Feed the Future initiative is currently improving social, business and human health in Kenya by increasing productivity and income. Moreover, its greater agenda is to develop a more effective and sustainable agricultural future.

– Marshall Wu
Photo: Flickr

The Future of Eco Building Materials
Green building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible. Additionally, it is resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction. Green building is the future for more developed countries and for impoverished nations. Re-using already existing materials for structural foundations greatly benefits impoverished regions. Several of these eco-building materials consist of discarded plastics, trash and compost.

The need for more environmental-friendly building materials arose from atmospheric pollution and the lack of energy conservation. Furthermore, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is what jumpstarted this movement to create eco-building materials. Moreover, this resulted in the creation of several organizations.

Organizations Fighting for Greener Building Materials

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) strives to transform the way people design, build and operate buildings and communities. In addition, it enables an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life. This is one of the primary organizations that began to actually shed light on the urgency of the issue. Since then, numerous companies have emerged to offer newer and greener alternatives to current building materials.

Additionally, Rammed Earth Works is another company devoted to providing eco-building materials. The housing concept incorporates exposed earth walls. Housing infrastructures recognize rammed earth as a low carbon releasing process that offers an environmentally safer and more sustainable option. Furthermore, this particular process involves the layering of sediment and waste runoff to structure an exposed wall of rock that creates somewhat of a retro aesthetic. This method is more environmentally friendly and is accessible to people in areas of extreme poverty.

Recent Developments

Many people imagine fluffy pink fiberglass when considering insulation. However, a much safer and less carbon-emitting alternative is sheep wool. Yet, the actual aggregational makeup of fiberglass is harmful to the touch. Other greener insulating alternatives offer an easier installation process. In addition, it generally consists of 70% recycled materials. Sheep wool is a much more accessible product to countries currently fighting immense poverty.

One of the more recent developments in the invention of a building brick comprised entirely of recycled plastics. This new brick is not only a greener alternative to concrete blocks but is also reportedly seven times stronger and more durable. Nzambi Matee creates the bricks by breaking down plastics that can no longer be recycled or repurposed. Matee’s factory is in Kenya and has already recycled 20 tons of plastics since 2017.

Developing countries are on the path to environmental and economic success with the discovery and creation of new, greener building technologies. Having access to these materials allows these countries to evolve structurally and economically while preventing pollution.

– Caroline Kratz
Photo: Flickr

Teaching Women Biointensive Agriculture
Kilili Self Help Project (KSHP) helps spread sustainable agriculture education to Kenyan farmers, most of whom are women. KSHP is a grassroots 501(c)(3) organization that is teaching Kenyan women biointensive agriculture. Millions of Kenyans struggle with hunger and food security. Many poor communities rely on small-scale farms for income and food for their families. Only about 20% of  Kenya’s dry land is suitable for farming and the population continues to grow by 1 million every year. As a result, Kenyan farmers are unable to keep up with demand.

Female Kenyan Farmers

Since 2008, all of the Kilili Self Help Project’s funding has gone towards the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Agriculture Center of Kenya (G-BIACK). Biointensive agriculture is a simple and sustainable farming technique that allows farmers to produce a maximum harvest on a minimum amount of land. The World Bank estimates that up to 80% of Kenyan farmers are women. Men leave their wives in full control of the family farm. This is a result of them finding jobs elsewhere. KSHP and G-BIACK focus on empowering women who are struggling to feed their families.

Table Banking

Teaching women biointensive agriculture in Kenya is very important. Once a week, the group of women meets for “table banking.” This is apart from learning the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method. Each group member contributes 20 cents. The group then gives the sum of the contributions to one woman. The recipient spends the money on anything they want to help their family. The next week the recipient contributes their 20 cents to a different woman to do the same. G-BIACK  shares and spreads all of its teachings. This benefits more farmers and ultimately helps reduce poverty in rural Kenyan communities.

Farming’s Manual Labor

One of the challenges of traditional farming is how physically demanding manual labor can be. The GROW BIOINTENSIVE Agriculture Center typically teaches women well into their 60s and even in their 90s. Many of them sing happily together as they learn. The GROW BIOINTENSIVE method is gentle on aging bodies. This adds to the sustainability of the technique. Proper digging uses body weight, gravity and a back and forth rocking motion to push the shovel into the ground. The process requires little to no force. John Jeavons trademarked the GROW BIOINTENSIVE farming method. He refined the “double-digging” step in soil preparation. This loosens and inflates the soil 24 inches down from the surface.

The deeper digging technique allows plants to extend their roots twice as far into the earth. Roots that extend deeper can reach more nutrients and water. This, in turn, produces a two to six-time higher yield. This technique uses a fraction of the space that farmers typically use in traditional agriculture.

Less is More

Jeavons believes, “In these days of difficult financial challenges globally, being able to do a lot with a little is the name of the game.” The Kilili Self Help Project and the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Agriculture Center of Kenya have empowered women and helped over 200,000 families become self-reliant. Families practicing biointensive agriculture no longer have to go to bed hungry. Farmers are able to sell extra crops for income. They also spread their knowledge throughout rural Kenyan communities. Increased biointensive agriculture directly decreases poverty. Teaching women biointensive agriculture and promoting it to other farmers also increases community health and food security.

Sarah Ottosen
Photo: Flickr