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