Posts

Safaricom’s Job ExpansionIn a move to fight competition, Safaricom in Kenya expanded its technical staff by hiring 400 employees with one new deal. The deal, completed in July 2022, will not only create new jobs for Kenyans and open the door for future employment but also will improve Kenyans’ access to technology. Nationwide access to the internet and reliable technology is critical to fighting poverty in Kenya.

Safaricom and its Role in Kenya

Safaricom is a mobile network and internet company based in Kenya. The company hires directly for countless fields, including tech, cybersecurity, commercial, corporate and more. Indirectly, the company is responsible for sustaining thousands of jobs, almost millions, of jobs. Indirect jobs, like contractors, have connections to the production or maintenance of a company’s products. Indirect jobs are also ones where someone’s business or employment is reliant on the services that the company produced. The jobs are indirect because they result from Safaricom’s internet spread or use of Safaricom’s technology and would not exist without Safaricom. Safaricom operates in at least 10 other countries, with recent expansions and more to come.

Allot, a secondary company that tracks cybersecurity and reliability, described Safaricom stating that “With 29 million connections, they are the largest telecommunications provider in Kenya and one of the most profitable companies in the East and Central African region.” In the fiscal year 2020-2021, Safaricom contributed $4,642,499,981.43 in earnings to Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP). Safaricom’s earnings amount to almost 5% of Kenya’s entire GDP. The economic impact of Safaricom’s work is indisputable, and Safaricom’s job expansion exemplifies its effects on technology usage and poverty reduction in Kenya.

Technology in Kenya

Kenya has the “best e-infrastructure in Africa,” making the country known for its technological development and innovation. Kenya’s information, communications and technology sector (ICT) is at the core of Kenya’s government’s latest projects to strengthen the country’s economy. The World Bank has reported that the ICT sector in Kenya still requires significant work to increase its impact on Kenya’s economy and to completely help its poorer citizens.

In April 2022, Kenya’s government created and began implementing the Digital Master Plan 2022-2032. Safaricom will be one of the companies tracking the Master Plan and its progress, specifically regarding data usage. The plan outlines goals, strategies and necessary steps to have Kenya align with global technological infrastructure advancements, and to strengthen and secure Kenya’s “digital economy.” A digital economy is the economic income and improvements from technology use, online activities and all the businesses that depend on the use of technology to strengthen their work and employee retainment. The Digital Masterplan, while not a direct plan to decrease poverty rates or unemployment rates, is meant to enhance the economy, which will result in reduced rates.

One of the key technological advancements in Kenya is the use of M-Pesa. M-Pesa stands for “mobile pesa” and allows users of M-Pesa to make secure transactions from their phones. Vodacom, a partner of Safaricom, and Safaricom itself produced M-Pesa first in 2007. M-Pesa has become a critical connector between rural and urban Kenya. It pre-dated apps such as Venmo and Paypal and has been a part of daily life with further expansions underway. M-Pesa is one of the primary technological tools in Kenya that have lifted thousands out of extreme poverty. Safaricom’s job expansion will help even more escape poverty once the expansion is underway.

Poverty in Kenya

Extreme poverty is when a person lives on less than $1.90 daily. Kenya’s extreme poverty rates were at their highest at 21% in 2016 but have since dropped to 17% as of 2022. Projections for Kenya’s poverty rate show the percentage of Kenya’s population in extreme poverty decreasing to 14% by 2025.

Poverty in Kenya has many causes including lack of education, poor health, and, as technology becomes a key source of income and infrastructure for Kenya, a digital divide. The World Bank noted that 44% of the urban population has access to the internet, compared to the rural population’s meager 27%. Older Kenyans know there are not enough basic skills for technology usage, especially in rural areas. The lack of skills will result in their being economically disadvantaged as technology becomes Kenya’s dominant source of income. Younger age groups are beginning to participate in courses in technology usage or computer science. However, not enough of the older Kenyan population, who struggle to escape poverty, are learning these skills. This is furthering the poverty rates and the technology divides.

Safaricom’s Work In Kenya and Its Future Impact

Safaricom’s job expansion continues the work of the company’s efforts to fight poverty and reduce unemployment rates. Safaricom has created access to financial services for almost 80% of Kenyans. Before Safaricom began operations, the number of Kenyans with access to financial services was 20%. Safaricom has closed education gaps by providing updated technology to schools or has supported local communities or refugees as they find their footing. The technology demand is growing in Kenya, and Safaricom’s job expansion of 400 new employees for the tech team will help meet these demands.

M-Pesa, a product of the tech team, has become one of Safaricom’s most economically valuable ventures, connecting poor rural Kenyans with financial services and mobile usage. M-Pesa earned Safaricom $896,454,132.48 in 2020-2021.

Safaricom is hiring new employees to meet demand and further the company’s reach with M-Pesa and projects like it. Safaricom’s job expansion might seem small. Safaricom is hiring 400 new workers compared to the 6,230 the company already has working as full-time, part-time or contract workers. However, the new workers are invaluable to the company and its ability to serve those who have become reliant on the company and its technology. Safaricom’s job expansion might not seem like a grand move, but there are now 400 tech developers who will benefit from a steady income. There will also be thousands more Kenyans lifted out of extreme poverty by Safaricom’s projects and technology advancements that rely on these new 400 tech developers.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Elevating Farmers in KenyaAfrican agricultural technology (agri-tech) services bring in $2.6 billion every year. Kenyan agri-tech is a large piece of Africa’s agri-tech industry, accounting for 25% of all startups. Agri-tech companies in Kenya create websites and mobile applications with the hope of elevating farmers in Kenya from poverty by allowing them to showcase their products and access information databases. Mobile applications and virtual marketplace platforms also boost market accessibility for farmers in Kenya.

Agriculture in Kenya

More than 25% of the global workforce works in the agriculture sector. In Kenya, agricultural employment accounts for more than 40% of the population. Additionally, agriculture comprises 33% of Kenya’s GDP. Although agriculture is a major economic sector, in Kenya the industry traditionally consists of older and smallholder farmers. Socially, Kenyans see farming as lackluster and dirty. Many young people prefer to turn to education rather than farming but digitalization in the agriculture industry is drawing in younger people.

It is important for younger Kenyans to enter the agricultural industry because their experience with technology will advance the market. What Kenyans saw as an industry for the older generation is transforming into a technologically advanced industry with the help of young adults. Engaging young people through social media and other mobile applications will rejuvenate and modernize agriculture in Kenya. Additionally, because many farmers in Kenya are smallholders, people who own small-scale farming operations, the creation of mobile applications allows farmers to feasibly access new markets via smartphone or computer without relying on brokerages or a middle-man, elevating farmers in Kenya from poverty.

4 Agri-Tech Applications Transforming Agriculture in Kenya

  1. Mkulima Young: Created by Joseph Macharia, a Kenyan farmer, Mkulima Young’s website connects farmers and potential buyers throughout East Africa. The platform is enhancing trade throughout the region. Using the application, Kenyans can feasibly buy and sell agricultural products. On the platform’s website’s homepage, Mkulima Young features young farmers’ selfies with their products, the latest products its members uploaded to the site and requests from buyers. Another page on the site includes a virtual market that allows farmers in Kenya to showcase and sell their cash crops, flowers, livestock and other agriculture products. Mkulima Young’s virtual marketplace gives users access to data to help understand trend projections and market insights.
  2. Twiga Foods Ltd: Beginning in 2014, Twiga sources products from Kenyan farmers and food manufacturers for registered vendors to sell, in turn providing adequate market security for farmers and vendors. After sourcing fresh fruits and vegetables from Kenyan farmers, Twiga Foods brings produce to Kenya’s urban centers. Currently, more than 4,000 suppliers and more than 35,000 vendors utilize Twiga’s marketplace platform. Twiga prides itself on transparency and efficient delivery of quality products. The platform offers smallholder farmers reassurance that their products will be profitable. Twiga Foods makes selling and buying Kenyan produce easier for average Kenyan farmers and vendors through its transparency and a guaranteed market.
  3. DigiCow: Founded by tech start-up Farmingtech Solutions, which specializes in agricultural data management, DigiCow provides smallholder farmers with farming management services. With DigiCow’s services, farmers in Kenya can reach data-based conclusions rather than guessing and estimating results, which was common practice before applications like DigiCow. The application enables its users to make data-driven decisions. Specific tools the application offers are, but are not limited to, virtual training, message boards for farmers to connect with each other, digital tracking of feeding, insemination and milking, notifications for vital dates and analyzed reports. April 2019 marked a notable milestone for DigiCow. The World Bank recognized the Farmingtech Solutions team as Kenya’s most inventive Agri-tech by awarding DigiCow the winner of the Disruptive Agricultural Technologies challenge. With the DigiCow application, farmers can now keep data sets and make educated decisions.
  4. DigiFarm: Founded by Safaricom, a telecommunication firm in Kenya, DigiFarm allows farmers to connect directly with bulk produce buyers, credit providers and cheaper agronomic materials. DigiFarm arranges deals with buyers for small farmers. These deals are more beneficial than the deals farmers use to make with traditional brokers. More than 40,000 farmers utilize the application. The app allows smallholder farmers to analyze the market of their produce. Additional services DigiFarm provides its users are insurance for weather-related incidents, loss management and recommendations on how to increase yields. Projections estimate that if success continues, DigiFarm will represent 10% of annual ag-business affairs in Kenya. Before DigiFarm’s assistance many farmers could not afford supplies but with DigiFarm’s help, many small farmers can now run successful operations.

How Agri-Tech Alleviates Poverty in Kenya

The World Bank states that an increase in agriculture technology will assist Kenya in meeting its rising food demand, whilst elevating farmers in Kenya from poverty. As smaller farmers utilize more agri-tech, their production will increase leading to a rise in income for themselves and also a rise in food production for the country. Increasing agriculture productivity through agricultural technology will not only increase food supply but will also increase the number of jobs available in both the agriculture and technology sectors.

These agricultural technology applications are a game-changer for smallholder Kenyan farmers. They have the potential to create economic growth in the agriculture and technology industry. The creation of virtual marketplaces and agri-tech platforms will ultimately lead to prosperity in Kenya.

– Bailey Lamb
Photo: Flickr

Education in Kenya​Flying Kites, an organization co-founded by Leila de Bruyne, seeks to improve education in Kenya by focusing on the needs of individual students. The emphasis on individual students stems from de Bruyne’s experience teaching in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2004, when she identified weak points in the educational system. These include the reality that long-term, highly trained teachers, as well as a focus on the individual child, not just the academic student, were lacking. Since then, the organization has reached 134 teachers and 4,591 students at seven schools across Kenya. Their belief that “education is a path out of poverty” supports their goals to create solutions to widespread poverty, hunger and illiteracy.

Poverty, Hunger and Education in Kenya

​The World Poverty Clock estimates that 11 million Kenyans are living below the poverty line, which is defined as less than $1.90 per day. To provide additional financial support for their families, many Kenyan children forgo education. Of those who do attend school, many are eventually forced to drop out due to financial instability. Only around 40% of children make it through primary school and are enrolled in secondary school.

Gender discrimination is another factor affecting school attendance. A Menstrual Health report found that “one in ten 15-year-old girls are having sex to get money to pay for sanitary ware,” and dropping out of school due to pregnancies or lack of sanitary supplies is common.

Nutrition also impacts attendance. Many students don’t have access to food at home, let alone enough to bring to school for lunch. The Borgen Project spoke with Katie Quinn, the U.S. Director of Operations for Flying Kites, who said, “In Kenya, one in four children suffer from stunting due to chronic undernutrition. Stunting is associated with an underdeveloped brain, causing long-lasting harmful consequences including diminished mental ability and learning capacity.”

With 90% of Kenyan teachers citing hunger as the primary obstacle to student learning, Flying Kites understands that “without access to food at school, hungry students cannot learn.” The organization has since implemented a program that works with families, teachers and schools to provide meals to students across the country in order to encourage health and education in Kenya.

Primary Goals

According to Quinn, Flying Kites aims “to ensure that more vulnerable students in rural Kenya come to school, stay in school, and thrive in school.” It isn’t enough to have students simply attend school. Instead, by upskilling teachers and investing in girls, Flying Kites creates an atmosphere in which they can excel.

  1. Upskilling Teachers: ​The Teacher Training Center and Academy seeks to provide teachers with the support and the skills necessary to increase learning among students. Its programs include year-round ICT training and a digital learning curriculum to encourage the use of technology as a learning tool. The Center and Academy work throughout a network of schools assembled alongside Kenya’s Ministry of Education to spread the wealth of highly trained, capable teachers across schools and communities.
  2. Investing in Girls: ​Girls United is a Flying Kites program designed to support girls and train female teachers to be “advocates for gender equality and agents of change.” G.I.R.L.S. (Guidance, Information, Resources, Leadership and Skill-building) focuses on the whole individual, her needs and her rights within the community. The program supports vulnerable girls, especially those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides them with essential resources such as sanitary pads, allowing them opportunities to discuss important information within their communities and teaching them basic life skills.

Challenges and Successes

The COVID-19 pandemic “illuminated the technology divide” limiting educational opportunities in Kenya and elsewhere. Faced with virtual education and school closures, Flying Kites realized that technology was crucial to equitable student learning outcomes. To mitigate this divide, the organization implemented the KitKit program, a digital and tablet-based early learning solution to bring more students into virtual classrooms.

Yet, in-person education is Flying Kites’ primary goal. In particular, girls mentioned feeling unsafe at home and struggling with being out of school during the pandemic. Additionally, students who were provided with meals at school weren’t receiving the same nourishment at home. Today, Flying Kites is bringing students back for in-person classes after many were forced to return to work to help supplement their families’ incomes during the pandemic.

Transforming “18 schools into food distribution centers to support 6,449 students and their families,” turning a school bus into a library and mobilizing a network of teachers to launch a Remote Learning Program: These are Flying Kites’ major pandemic successes. But their most major success, Quinn says proudly, is getting students back in school and improving education in Kenya.

Partners and Next Steps

​Flying Kites recognizes that there is more to be done to ensure that education is a path out of poverty. The organization partners with several organizations to help spread the word and seek student-centric solutions. Quinn cites two in particular:

  1. ZanaAfrica Foundation: ​This ZanaAfrica Foundation is an “innovative rights-based menstrual and sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) education curriculum” that supports women and girls. Flying Kites joined the foundation amid COVID-19 closures to ensure the health and safety of its female students. Together, they provide resources to women and girls, educate them and train teachers on the SRHR aspects of the curriculum.
  2. Ujamaa (No Means No Worldwide): Ujamaa provides workshops to address sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) in Kenya and across the globe. Flying Kites hopes to continue providing workshops to students, especially those in grades 5-8 since the pandemic resulted in numerous incidents of SGBV.

Looking Ahead

​Flying Kites aspires to promote change with the knowledge that “systemic change requires a holistic, grassroots approach.” By building from the ground up, training teachers, supporting partner organizations and, above all, ensuring the safety and success of the students, Flying Kites works to ensures that education is a path out of poverty by implementing individualized solutions.

– Grace Manning
Photo: Flickr

Helping Kenyan Tea Farmers Rise Out of PovertyThe East African country of Kenya has one of the fastest-growing economies and is a global leader in tea exports. With a significant number of Kenyans employed in the agriculture sector, the country’s strong economy relies on the labor of millions of farmers. The recent push to raise wages seems to be a positive initiative to improve the condition of rural poverty in Kenya and lead the country to reach middle-income status within the next decade. The Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) runs initiatives that aim to empower Kenyan tea farmers to rise out of poverty.

KTDA Raises Earnings for Kenyan Tea Farmers

The Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA), which was established in 1964, employs around 600,000 smallholder Kenyan tea farmers across 16 different counties. The organization works to advise farmers on the best methods of growing tea and markets the products on behalf of the farmers while allowing farmers to serve as shareholders. Following its mission to invest in the tea industry and ensure the success of small-scale tea farms, KTDA has recently approved an increase in monthly payments by as much as 17%. This comes as an important measure in the fight to mitigate weaknesses in the global tea industry as many farmers reap the consequences of climate change and oversupply in the form of reduced wages.

Providing farmers with a means of financial security allows them the ability to invest in a growing economy and promote the longevity of tea farming. True to its values of promoting ethical practices and upholding a standard of social responsibility, CEO Wilson Muthaura tells World Tea News that he believes the wage increase, “is in line with the commitment the new board has undertaken to ensure that farmers are getting earnings that reflect their hard work, and which are responsive to their everyday social and economic needs.” Though the wage increase benefits a small portion of Kenyan farmers, KTDA’s forward-thinking initiative could serve as an example for those involved in the tea industry as a whole.

Current State of Kenya’s Tea Industry

Located in what is considered a logistic hub in Eastern Africa, Kenya’s tea industry is a crucial part of Kenyan agriculture, with nearly 75% of Kenyans earning their income in the agriculture sector. In 2017, Kenya’s tea exports contributed about $1.4 billion in revenue and agriculture accounted for 33% of total GDP. For major companies like KTDA, smallholder farms account for nearly 60% of all tea production.

Operating under the watch of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Tea Directorate and key research organizations in Kenya, the industry combines the efforts of producers and manufacturers to smoothly export tea leaves around the world. And while the country profits from the widespread success of the global tea trade, the majority of tea farmers still face major issues. With a lack of funding to invest in up-to-date agricultural equipment, many farmers resort to using outdated equipment to harvest crops. This often results in crops perishing before the harvest time and farmers run the risk of ruining the quality, thus contributing to higher costs of production.

Poverty in Kenya also extends to the lack of access to proper transportation, where rural areas do not have adequate roads that can connect farms to commercial areas of the country. Possibly the biggest hurdle for farmers is the lack of information about the most efficient growing methods and how to utilize updated machinery. The inability to keep up with modern farms could spell disaster for farmers who rely on large crop yields in order to make a sufficient income.

Poverty in Kenya

In 2020, estimates indicate that nearly 27.3% of Kenya’s population were living in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.90 a day. Impoverished communities, primarily located in the northeastern region of the country, are often at a disadvantage due to their distance away from social resources. By 2039, Kenya’s population is expected to reach 81 million people, nearly doubling from the current number.

And while this steady upward trend means the creation of more jobs and overall consumers, it also puts more strain on a system fighting food insecurity, unstable infrastructure and unfair working conditions. Although overall poverty in Kenya is declining, poverty continues to disproportionally affect those in rural areas.

Empowering Farmers

KTDA’s increase in wages is just one of its many ways to help smallholder farmers. Acknowledging that growers often face reduced wages in circumstances out of their control, the agency also provides a number of programs aimed at helping farmers become self-sufficient. Farmer Field School (FFS) teaches classes on the latest developments in planting and preparation, incorporates diverse farming practices and provides information on managing finances.

Fully funded by KTDA, the organization runs nearly 400 classes that assist farmers in gaining access to the vital information they need to ensure their farms stay operational. By empowering farmers directly, these methods serve to better the quality of life of workers in rural areas and call attention to changes that need to occur if poverty in Kenya is to significantly diminish. In line with the country’s overall mission to reach middle-income status by 2030, KTDA’s move to pay farmers a living wage benefits not only small-scale farmers residing in rural communities but improves the entire tea industry.

– Nicole Yaroslavsky
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa has a direct impact on poverty in the region. When adults are too ill to work, they and their children can quickly fall into extreme poverty, which leads to hunger and malnutrition. Around 46% of Africa’s population lives on less than $1 a day; an even larger proportion than was the case 15 years ago. Despite these challenges, organizations like Wild4Life are working to expand the reach of healthcare into these underserved communities.

Poverty and Health Care in sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is the poorest region in the continent. Close to 60 million children under the age of 17 work instead of attending school in an effort to help their families rise out of poverty. Every fifth child is forced into child labor. This effectively means that when grown, that person will lack education and most likely remain in poverty. This social plight creates a vicious cycle in which chronic malnutrition, growth disorders and physical and mental underdevelopment occur. These health issues further limit an individual’s opportunity to earn a living later in life. In addition, 25 million Africans are infected with HIV, including almost 3 million children — the highest rate of infection in the world. Many of these children have lost one or both parents and are living on the streets.

Government expenditure on healthcare in Africa is very low; typically about $6 per person. This means that medical workers experience huge pressures, operating with little-to-no equipment or means to reach rural populations, Such challenges make healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa difficult to provide.

Good News about Health Care in Rural Communities

The good news is that organizations such as Wild4Life are working to reverse these disturbing healthcare trends. The NGO’s mission is to expand the reach of health services to underserved remote, rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa that have limited or no access to healthcare. To achieve this goal, Wild4Life has developed an incredibly innovative service delivery model. The aim of this model is to reach more people than previously would have been possible. Wild4Life works to establish the basic building blocks of a healthcare system. It believes that a well-functioning system has a lasting effect on a community’s overall health and longevity.

Expansion to Twelve African Countries

The Wild4Life model involves partnering with organizations that are already established in remote locations, and that have put together links with people in the local community. This approach leverages the existing infrastructure, social ties and knowledge bank in cooperation with Wild4Life’s network of health providers. This allows support and treatment to impact some of the hardest-to-reach people and places on earth.

Wild4Life began as an HIV/AIDS program in Zimbabwe, but it has expanded throughout sub-Saharan Africa.  Now operating in twelve countries — Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe —the organization delivers extremely low-cost healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa and provides interventions that are scalable yet sustainable.

Community Partnerships to Improve Health Care

The goals of the NGO include assessing the needs of rural populations and targeting the health issues that most affect them. It also seeks to build clinics in remote areas; strengthen rural healthcare networks; provide quality healthcare and improve community partnerships so that creative ways to address problems become permanent solutions. For example, Wild4Life trains community leaders to mobilize local demands for healthcare services and advocate for quality care from clinic staff and maintain facilities. This results in significant infrastructure improvements. The NGO also organizes events around such topics as improving healthy behaviors and coming up with strategies for the best way to use clinic funds.

Five Clinics in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe alone, Wild4Life has a network of five clinics. These clinics have achieved remarkable results, including hundreds of lives saved by new diagnosis and treatment of HIV as well as other preventable diseases. The organization believes that there is not one single technology or innovation that will create a lasting impact on the health of people living in rural communities. Instead, it partners with all levels of the healthcare system to locate the gaps in the extant setup. By doing this, it hopes to leave behind a resilient, local healthcare system for those who need it most.

During comprehensive clinical mentoring, well-trained, multi-disciplinary teams composed of six specialists comprehensively mentor clinic staffs on primary care conditions. These conditions include HIV, TB, Integrated Management of Childhood Illness and testing for anemia. Such services also aid in labor and delivery. This process also covers monitoring and evaluation of data quality, pharmacy management and clinic management over a two-year period.

Scaling Up to Improve Healthcare in Africa

Wild4Life has significantly scaled up since its inception, through government, nonprofit and for-profit connections. It has gone from delivering care to remote areas, to building healthcare networks in rural populations. As a result of its expansion plan, 70,000 more people will have access to high-quality health services in their communities. By training clinicians and community members in the most up-to-date medical care delivery, the NGO is changing the way that rural healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa is delivered.

Sarah Betuel

Photo: Flickr

Vulnerable Children in KenyaOrganizations like UNICEF and ACAKORO have been providing educational resources to Kenyan students despite the immense difficulties in the country due to COVID-19 and 2020’s locust invasion. On March 15, 2020, the Kenyan Government forced schools to shut down due to COVID-19. Due to school closures, millions of students risk losing out on education during the pandemic. Organizations stepped in to provide resources, remote learning services and sanitation facilities to vulnerable children in Kenya.

Education in Kenya

Over the past decade, poverty in Kenya has improved due to the country meeting many of its Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Development Goals are goals created by the United Nations to help underdeveloped nations improve and one of these goals is to achieve universal primary education. A key issue that Kenya needs to address is education disparities. According to a UNICEF study conducted in 2014, low educational attainment of the household head and living in rural areas is the highest indicator that predicts child poverty.

Impoverished children struggle to gain an education. More than 1.2 million primary-school-age children do not attend school. Even more vulnerable children like orphans have increased susceptibility to experiencing education disparities.

Employment in Kenya

Young people in search of employment experience difficulties finding a job that lifts them out of poverty. Only 1% of Kenyan youth have a university education and many young people are entering a job market with few hirable skills. A whole 40% of the youth in Kenya either did not go to school or failed to complete primary education and the largest percentage of people unemployed in Kenya is represented by those aged between 15 and 24. Higher education in Kenya is expensive and not accessible to disadvantaged children.

UNICEF Provides Aid

Nationwide access to quality education is key in reducing poverty and investing in the futures of vulnerable children in Kenya. UNICEF alleviated education burdens during the COVID-19 crisis by providing remote learning to students and giving solar-powered radios and textbooks to vulnerable families. Through UNICEF’s solar-powered radios, 40,000 vulnerable children were reached with educational resources that are necessary for remote learning. On December 23, 2020, UNICEF provided 700,000 masks to be distributed in time for schools to reopen on January 4, 2021. Improved access to sanitation is an ongoing issue, and due to the pandemic, the need for sanitation is of crucial importance. UNICEF foresaw the issue and provided handwashing facilities to hundred of schools.

ACAKORO

ACAKORO is a community-based organization, supported by UNICEF, that uses football as a tool for development. ACAKORO works with the community of the Korogocho slum and has been tutoring vulnerable children during COVID-19 so that they can continue their learning. UNICEF is also supporting the government and the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) with remote learning and getting schools ready to reopen safely.

The Kenya Jua Kali Voucher Programme

The Kenya Jua Kali Voucher Programme, implemented between 1997 and 2001, was a revolutionary comprehensive policy designed to provide vulnerable youth with vouchers to pay for training courses. A similar modern-day strategy can be put in place in order to address the lack of access to essential education in Kenya. Providing equal access to education for all children in Kenya is essential to lift people out of poverty.

Organizations such as UNICEF and ACAKORO are addressing education-related disparities amid the pandemic, thereby addressing overall poverty in the nation.

– Hannah Brock
Photo: Flickr

 Preventing HIV in KenyaA new, injectable antiretroviral drug, cabotegravir (CAB LA), may have significant potential for preventing HIV among sub-Saharan African women. In November 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported trial results of the HIV Prevention Trials Network Study (HPTN 084), testing the use and effectiveness of CAB LA in preventing HIV among more than 3,200 HIV-negative, sexually active women across east and southern Africa. This drug could significantly lower prevalence rates and help in preventing HIV in Kenya, which has one of the largest HIV/AIDS epidemics in the world.

Cabotegravir or CAB LA

CAB LA, a long-acting pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) regimen, requires an injection only every eight weeks and has been shown to be 89% more effective in preventing HIV than taking a daily oral antiretroviral PrEP, a generic pill currently marketed as Truvada.

Kenya’s HIV Epidemic

The first case of HIV in Kenya appeared in 1984. By 1990, HIV was one of the leading causes of illness in the country. At its highest point, more than three million Kenyans lived with AIDS. Since then, the government of Kenya decreased the prevalence of HIV from its 10.5% peak in 1996 to 5.6% in 2012. By 2019, the prevalence rate was 4.5% in adults aged 15-49. However, certain vulnerable populations within Kenya are more at risk of getting HIV, such as women. Males have an estimated prevalence rate of 4.5% while the rate for females is 5.2%. Among youth aged between 15 and 24 years old, boys have a prevalence rate of 1.34% compared to girls at 2.61%.

The only option for preventing HIV in Kenya is a daily PrEP pill called Truvada. The government of Kenya first approved oral PrEP for country-wide distribution in 2015, and since 2017, has scaled up the distribution throughout Kenya. However, of the 1.5 million Kenyans living with HIV, only 26,098 (1.7%) are currently on PrEP.

Though 72% of the population had been tested for HIV, only 70% had been tested more than once. Frequent testing, at least once a year if sexually active or at least every six months if part of a particularly vulnerable population, is vital to giving care and treatment for at-risk groups.

The Potential of CAB LA for Preventing HIV in Kenya

  1. The HPTN study reported that CAB LA is nine times more effective in preventing HIV in Kenya than the Truvada pill, the current form of PrEP. The PrEP pill is only effective if taken daily and is not a standalone prevention method for other STIs or unplanned pregnancies. The new drug also does not require other forms of protection, such as condoms.
  2. This drug gives vulnerable populations more HIV options for preventing HIV in Kenya. Vulnerable populations include sex workers, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, youth and women. These vulnerable populations face stigma, which affects their ability to access PrEP pills. Because the injection is needed only once every two months, the increased discretion and ease of the infrequent injection may increase its use and thus increase the protection of those who need it.
  3. Discretion in use of the drug may be able to reach more women specifically. In combination with the stigma attached to HIV, women in Kenya face discrimination in terms of access to education, employment and healthcare. As a result, men often dominate sexual relationships, with women not always able to practice safer sex, even when they know they should. For example, in 2014, 35% of adult women (aged 15-49) who were or had been married had experienced spousal violence and 14% had experienced sexual violence. Women in Kenya find it especially difficult to take a daily pill, which significantly reduces the effectiveness of the medicine. Only 68% of Kenyan women have access to antiretroviral pills.

Though not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the developer of the drug, ViiV Healthcare, expects cabotegravir to be ready for the market by early 2021.

– Charlotte Ehlers
Photo: Flickr

Use of Chemical Pesticides
Despite their effectiveness in killing specific pests, historic incidents and unknowns related to chemical pesticides have led to public health concerns. Fears that people could be at risk if they consume food treated with chemical pesticides do have a foundation. Pesticides have been found to partially cause neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s Disease, among other maladies. Chemical pesticides cannot choose which organisms they kill, which can lead to raised ecosystem contamination and toxicity. Not all chemical pesticides directly harm humans. However, evidence of those that do, along with evidence for unintended ecological damage, led to efforts to reduce the use of chemical pesticides.

Neem as an Alternative

One of the most concerning side-effects of the use of chemical pesticides is their effect on bee populations. Bees are vital to crop pollination and indirectly help create much of the food that humans eat. Pesticide use is a primary cause of the current decline in beehive populations. American and European beekeepers report this is at around 30% per year.  Bee population decline contributes to food scarcity and poverty. When food becomes more scarce, prices rise and more people go hungry. Current conditions necessitate implementing an alternative to chemical pesticides that is safe for humans, certain insects and plants.

New research points to naturally derived pesticides as possibly safer and less damaging to the environment. Currently, the most promising natural solution is neem oil. Neem oil is an organic, naturally-derived substance from the Neem tree. The tree grows primarily in tropical regions. These areas tend to be most affected by insect infestations and represent some of the poorest areas in the world.

Neem oil use is not a new phenomenon. Traditional Indian farming methods practiced for thousands of years, and even folk medicines incorporate neem usage. It is effective at reducing specific insect populations while having minimal noted negative effects on beneficial insects like bees and worms. A number of agricultural companies have begun using neem in their products, and its use is only expected to grow as its efficacy is increasingly verified.

Outbreak and Application in Africa

In early 2020, East Africa faced its worst locust outbreak in decades. Swarms devoured hundreds of thousands of acres, fostering hunger and fear in local communities. Millions of people became more food insecure and the use of chemical pesticides became less viable. The COVID-19 pandemic upset the global chemical supply chain, which seems to have inhibited governments from receiving the large quantities of pesticides needed to make an impact against the locust invasion.

In response, some farmers in Kenya began making their own neem oil to push back against locust invasions. Neem oil can weaken locusts’ reproductive ability and potentially kill them, which reduces the current and future populations. While it was too late to make a big impact against the swarms, individual farmers protected their crops. If enough farmers learn to make their own oil in the future, or if it is produced cheaply on a large scale, Kenya could have an effective, safe defense against locust invasions. Other countries in the region also afflicted by locust swarms stand to benefit from looking to Kenya as an example.

Potential for Future Practices

Chemical pesticide use is harmful to the environment and can create bad health outcomes for some people. Industrial use of neem oil instead of chemical pesticides could improve health conditions worldwide and protect ecosystems. On a smaller scale, it could protect the economic interests of poor farmers and people at risk of starvation. People may also be more accepting of the use of growable, natural pesticides over the use of chemical ones. Locally-made neem oil also mitigates environmental pollution. This puts more power into the hands of individual farmers. Though natural pesticide solutions require more research, they represent critical development in the future of agricultural pesticides.

Jeff Keare
Photo: Unsplash

Mental Health in KenyaIt is estimated that 11.5 million, or one in every four Kenyans, have experienced mental illness. Common mental health issues in Kenya include disorders due to substance abuse, neurotic and personality disorders, as well as dementia. However, the country has limited resources for those struggling with mental health issues. As of 2015, there were only around 12 neurologists and 100 psychiatrists in Kenya. Furthermore, mental health-related stigma decreases the accessibility of care since it can lead to discrimination. Greater awareness of mental health issues as well as providing more resources for those suffering from mental illnesses and disorders can aid in increasing the quality of life of those struggling with mental health issues in Kenya.

Mental Health Care Project

In 2015, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Forum on Neuroscience and Nervous System Disorders and Board on Global Health created a demonstration project with the goal of improving the state of mental health in Kenya. The project focused on mental, neurological and substance use (MNS) disorders in Kenya, specifically alcohol abuse, depression and epilepsy because of the high burden of these conditions. The project addresses the limitations of Kenya’s healthcare infrastructure, lack of availability of medication and data in regard to MNS disorders. Additionally, the project emphasizes the potential benefits of incorporating traditional and faith healers (TFHs) into the Kenyan healthcare system. Kenyans who struggle with mental illness often rely on TFHs for care because of their wide accessibility. Because TFHs are viewed with acceptance among communities, the project encourages the collaboration between TFHs and healthcare practitioners.

Mental Health Stigma

Kenyans living with mental disorders often experience stigma on multiple levels. Stereotypes surrounding those with mental illnesses lead to public stigma, especially since many people associate mental illnesses with evil. Furthermore, those struggling with mental disorders may internalize others’ negative perceptions of them, impacting how they view themselves and their overall quality of life since it can lead to loneliness and isolation. Stigma is a factor preventing Kenyans from receiving efficient treatment. Therefore, greater public education on mental disorders and providing more resources for treatment can improve the lives of those living with mental disorders in Kenya. A better understanding of mental health in Kenya will aid in the destigmatizing of mental disorders, leading to effective treatment.

Kenya’s  Mental Health Response

In 2005, in collaboration with WHO, Kenya created a program to implement mental health into the country’s healthcare system. This was done by training healthcare staff across the country. The outcome of the project proved the possibility of educating healthcare workers through courses in mental health.

Furthermore, in 2014, Kenya presented the Mental Health Bill, which proposed providing resources for those with mental illnesses, including treatment, care and rehabilitation. The law has yet to be enacted. If implemented, the legislation aims to address the inequality in mental healthcare and to ensure greater accessibility of mental health services in Kenya.

Despite the strides taken by the Kenyan Government to address mental health, it is necessary to further these efforts in order to improve the overall healthcare system. Greater awareness of mental illnesses and how they can be treated is imperative to advance mental healthcare in Kenya.

– Zoë Nichols
Photo: Flickr

GiveDirectly’s cash transfer projectIn March 2020, GiveDirectly launched The Kenya Emergency Cash Fund to protect vulnerable Kenyan communities by sending recipients cash through mobile wallets. GiveDirectly is a nonprofit organization operating in East Africa that works to alleviate extreme poverty. Since its founding in 2009, GiveDirectly has given over $160 million to 170,000 families in the region, eventually earning a 100% rating from Charity Navigator. GiveDirectly’s cash transfer project is an initiative to help low-income Kenyans, especially during COVID-19.

Kenya Emergency Cash Fund

The Kenya Emergency Cash Fund, also known as the Kenya COVID-19 Fund, was formed in partnership with the Shikilia Initiative, which is a collaboration between the Kenyan private sector and nonprofit organizations. In coordination with GiveDirectly’s cash transfer project, Shikilia’s goal during the pandemic is to provide 200,000 people with monthly transfers of $30 for the next three months.

“We currently have enrolled 11,000 adults into the program and have disbursed around $300 to these recipients,” Director of Recipient Advocacy, Caroline Teti, told The Borgen Project. Teti joined GiveDirectly in 2016. She hopes to put an end to the devastating and disempowering nature of poverty across Africa through innovative projects such as GiveDirectly’s cash transfer project.

GiveDirectly has already launched settlements in Mathare, Kibera, Korogocho, Mukuru and Kawangware. This is crucial since resident families of these settlements live on $2 or less and are therefore expected to take the hardest economic hit as a result of the pandemic. For example, Teti reported that as a result of COVID-19, 95% of people in Mathare are eating less.

Recipients barely had savings before the pandemic. So, without GiveDirectly’s cash transfers made available to low-income communities by the Emergency Cash Fund, Teti believes that “families would have snuck back to the villages, increasing transmission risks to older people living in the countryside.”

Making Cash Transfers Efficient

In order to ensure that these cash transfers made to recipients are efficient, GiveDirectly is partnering with Shining Hope for Communities, a grassroots movement that catalyzes large-scale transformation in urban slums in Kenya.

Methods GiveDirectly and SHOFCO use to reach recipients more rapidly include using existing databases of low-income households, using rosters provided by local vetted NGO partners and using rosters of mobile money subscribers recruited through partner mobile network operators.

Project 100

Though GiveDirectly’s priority is getting cash to hard-hit families in extreme poverty in Kenya, it also organized Project 100 to raise funds for U.S. families impacted by COVID-19. For this project, GiveDirectly partnered with Propel, a company that helps recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program manage their benefits. The project aims to raise a total of $100 million for recipients.

The Road Ahead

According to the World Bank, poverty in Kenya may still remain above 20% by 2030 if it continues on a minimal growth path. More job opportunities for youth and infrastructure investments that improve transportation and service deliveries would be necessary to raise Kenya’s productivity.

Through GiveDirectly’s cash transfer project, an efficient and simple method of delivering cash, small-scale businesses will have the opportunity to grow, especially when food insecurity is no longer an obstacle. As Teti says, “We must rethink recipient empowerment and consider cash as a model for changing the lives of people living in poverty.”

– Joy Arkeh
Photo: Flickr