Women in Kenya are going back to a traditional practice to help hold communities together. The practice is that of communal agriculture and through a woman-led initiative, neighbors helping neighbors in farming will hopefully save the lives of over 700,000 Kenyans over a period of 20 years who would have died from inadequate nutrition.

The traditional practice used to be the norm, yet, climate change has made the outcomes of crops unpredictable and scarce resources threatened economic prosperity, forcing many to seek jobs in more urban areas. This weakened bonds between village members, which made maintaining peace within a village difficult and brought up other issues, such as problems between ethnic groups that had been living in harmony before. Weakened bonds between community members predisposed many Kenyan communities to violence in the elections of 2007 and into 2008. According to Nyokabi Wamuyu, a member of the women-led farm initiative, “Some people say they [we]re fighting for land while others do it to take political sides.”

Over the next three years, the women-led farm initiative is aimed at 3,400 women farmers in the eastern areas of Kenya and in the Rift Valley. The mission of the initiative “is to equip the women with skills to make income-generating farming more attractive than subsistence agriculture.” This will be done by teaching women to bond with other women over shared activities, providing activities that will give women the tools and techniques to negotiate prices and access agricultural activities via mobile devices.

This initiative succeeding will hopefully help bridge the gap between genders in Kenya. Even though the new Kenyan Constitution gives women rights to land and property, gender inequality still exists in many rural farm areas.

– Angela Hooks

Source: AllAfrica
Photo: Calista Jones

What Elections in Kenya Mean to the United States
Uhuru Kenyatta is slated to be the next President of Kenya. The elections in Kenya on Monday were a monumental and happy moment because they were one of the most peaceful elections the country has ever had. And now, as ballots are being counted, Kenyatta has the lead.

For the United States, while the peaceful elections are celebrated, Uhuru Kenyatta becoming President may lead to some serious problems. Kenyatta has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for a long list of heinous crimes. He has been accused of stirring up the local militia to conduct retaliation attacks in the previous election that killed numerous people, including innocent women and children.

The United States has invested a lot in Kenya, serving as an important ally to the region. Even more, Kenya has become a crucial center on Terror.

Yet, the United States is dedicated to justice. And supporting or working with a president that has been indicted by the ICC for crimes against human rights, against women and children, would not be living up to this value. President Obama’s administration, as well as the administrations of many of its allies, are faced with the very tough decision to either completely distance themselves from Kenya, because even small things like diplomats shaking Kenyatta’s hand could be problematic, or figure out a way to work with Kenyatta and still put forth a message of justice.

Jendayi Frazer, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, said, “This is going to pose a very awkward situation. Kenyatta knows he needs the United States, and the United States knows it needs Kenya.” Some even say that the United States needs Kenya more than Kenya needs the United States.

The Obama Administration has refused to talk about the situation, only saying, in the words of President Obama, “The choice of who will lead Kenya is up to the Kenyan people.” Once Kenyatta is announced President, the United States, and its allies must proceed very cautiously.

– Angela Hooks

Sources: NY Times, CNN
Photo: Forbes

Kenyan Elections Delayed, Recount Requested
The party of Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has called for a cessation of vote counting, accusing the results of being “doctored.” Campaign officials are requesting a fresh count, with oversight on all parts of the tallying process. The final results were supposed to be transmitted electronically, but a server malfunction resulted in a complete failure of the digital voting system. As the results are now being tabulated by hand, citizens nervously await an official result in the Kenyan elections.

In Kenya’s first elections since 2007, Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president, is the front-runner, despite being accused of war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC asserts that in the violent aftermath of the 2007 election, Kenyatta helped to organize attacks against members of different ethnic groups. If elected, his position as Head of State would make the ICC’s case all the more difficult to see through.

Though many politicians are calling for peace, there is no guarantee that peace will last. Violence has flared in recent months, although the overall level of fighting is far below where it has reached in the past. Further reforms, like the new constitution and election procedures instituted after the 2007 violence, are necessary to ensure that all Kenyans can vote freely and peacefully for whomever they feel best represents their interests in the Kenyan elections.

Jake Simon

Source: New York Times

The 2013 Kenyan ElectionOn Monday, the first general elections since December 2007 were held in Kenya. In 2007, the Kenyan election resulted in weeks of bloodshed, making this election an important push for political peace. These elections are also the first held under the new constitution passed during the 2010 referendum designed to avoid violence. Millions of Kenyans arrived at polling stations to cast ballots and vote for their representatives, members of parliament, governors, senators, and president. Running for President are Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta. Kenyatta along with his running mate William Ruto are facing trial by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, accused of organizing the riots that took place in the 2007 Kenyan election.

In the minds of every Kenyan election is the violence that occurred in 2007. After incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was re-elected, riots erupted all over Kenya. Supporters of the opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, were enraged by allegations that the election was rigged by supporters of Kibaki. Ethnic violence erupted between members of the Kikuyu, Kibaki’s tribe, and the Luo and Kalenjin tribes, as opposed to the Kikuyu. Eventually, an agreement was reached wherein Kibaki would hold the position of President and Opposition leader Raila Odinga would be Prime Minister. Up to 1,000 Kenyans were killed and 600,000 displaced during the riots which lasted for more than a week. In light of the violence caused by the disputed and controversial election of five years ago, Kenyatta, Ruto, and other major politicians have urged voters to “keep the peace.”

In preparation for this recent election, people stocked up on supplies, food, and fuel, in case of riots did break out. Stores were closed and the roads were empty of cars. People strayed from ethnically-mixed urban areas fearing violence. There was a heavy security presence with trucks of police patrolling polling stations. Unfortunately, the day was not without some incidents of violence. In Kilifi, Mandera, and Changamwe, several people, civilians and police officers alike, were killed. A group of armed men attacked a police post in Mombasa killing at least ten people, including two police officers. The separatist Mombasa Republican Council has denied accusations that they were responsible for organizing some of these attacks. It is uncertain whether the violence that did break out is connected to voting. Police were critiqued as being “ill-prepared” for violence that occurred near polling stations.

The weather was hot and the voting process was slow with faulty biometric voting kits at some stations causing delays. In Nairobi and Kibera, lines stretched for more than a kilometer and people waited up to nine hours in sweltering heat complaining about the slow process to cast their vote. Despite these technical glitches and occurrences of violence, the underlying theme seemed to be the determination of the Kenyan population to cast their votes. People began lining up at five in the morning, an hour before polls opened, and many of the 30,000 polling stations remained open an hour after the official closing times with long lines of people refusing to leave until they vote. At two in the morning in Kisumu, people were blowing vuvuzelas, an alarm to call people to the polling stations early. Thousands were already in line at four in the morning, two hours before the poll opened. This election was commented as being the most complicated election that Kenya ever held, but also one of the most peaceful. It was a vast improvement from the process of the previous election that showed many discrepancies.

Last Monday truly was a “historic day” for Kenya. In Kibera, a man was seen painting “Peace Wanted Alive” on the walls and roads. “We have been waiting for this for the past five years,” said Anthony Wachira, a Kenyan who had been waiting in line for hours to vote. “Above everything we want to vote for peace.”

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: BBCBBC, CNNNY Times

Does International Aid Help Or Not?
In the never-ending debate about whether international aid helps or not, Al-Jazeera’s Counting the Cost gets four experts’ insight. Will Ruddick, a young scholar at the Institute of Leadership and Sustainability who has spent time in Kenya, argues that such resource-rich countries might not need as much as 300 million dollars in food aid every year. He argues that it’s not the aid itself, it’s the Western economic model which has been proven inefficient when it comes to international aid and development.

Ruddick thinks that a new economic model is needed, one that’s similar to the Swiss model, where there are monetary innovations to reach the goals of sustainable development. He says that micro-finance lending and entrepreneurial models are causing more social stratification thereby amounting to more debt. Ruddick suggests policies that move to something that creates more networks and communities, an implementation that involves the local affected and recipient communities.

In Keyna, there is a wide dependence on anti-retroviral drugs for HIV as opposed to development. Ruddick argues that there should be more of a push from international aid organizations to help these people develop the needed drugs locally; aid and development aren’t necessarily linked. Networks must be encouraged and created to help local people help each other. According to Ruddick, Kenya is exporting 3 billion dollars worth of food to Europe, and yet every year, with the consistency of food aid to Kenya, people are still underfed and starving.

In Jerusalem, Palestine, Dr. Nora Murad argues that “aid” is subsidizing the Israeli occupation that it’s allowing the Israeli army to occupy cost-free because every time a road, a school, or a hospital is destroyed, the international community pays for it rather than have the Israeli army replace it. Thus, in places like Palestine, the international community needs to politically intervene to better implement any aid that goes to Palestine. “The Israeli occupation costs the Palestinian economy 6.8 billion dollars per year,” Dr. Murad argues. She also argues that recipients of aid, in her case she’s talking about Palestinian communities specifically, should have control over their own development resources and be able to make development decisions.

Alan Duncan, the British minister of state in the department of international development, argues that they don’t deal directly with untrusted governments, they focus on the “real economies” of “real people,” that they are the “engine of development,” and such a development is precisely what his department is pushing for. He explains that the private sector is so important and that the existent aid model isn’t flawed, and that they “underpin the basic building blocks of an agricultural economy,” to help the underdeveloped internal economy of Africa. In regards to Palestine, he says that the kind of aid that goes to Palestine is to equip the Palestinian Authority to be a future government, the development is thus working in such specific political circumstances.

The head of development finance and public services at Oxfam, Emma Seery, comments by saying that her organization is more focused on development than aid, they focus on policies in an effort to put an end to extreme inequality. So the question is this: we know that foreign aid helps, and that poor countries are appreciative of this gift but are the right policies being implemented to sustain growth and development? Is there a need for a new more efficient economic model?

– Leen Abdallah

Source: Al Jazeera
Photo: Google

A Voice for the Poor
There are billions of people in the world today who are currently living under the shaky circumstances of poverty. One in five people in the world survive on less than $2/day, while 1.5 billion struggle with less than $1/day. This shocking truth affects people everywhere and creates a lack of hope and opportunity.

Although there is aid money that is accessible, cash transfers have become comparably effective way to help the poor. In the effort to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty, cash transfers have played a significant role in reducing the high number of people living in extreme poverty. While the benefits of having access to cash transfers are well known, the people who are most in need of them believe that the value and improvement of the system can be better. For the poor, their voices remain unheard.

Cash transfer programs in developing countries have been viewed as an effective and fast way to provide aid.  Because of how money is distributed, the money is not being given to everybody due to eligibility concerns and a lack of people properly applying before deadlines. Some countries such as Kenya had trouble trying to figure out the application process for cash transfer programs. Like many people living in poverty stricken area, many are unaware of what to do and are more focused on surviving.

While there are always benefits to receiving money, there is also conflict in the process of collecting it. Elderly people in Uganda have had a difficult time trying to voice their issues whenever mistakes occurred. Whenever there is any kind of conflict, elders are faced with the problem of whether to address it or not. They don’t believe that a voice truly exists for them. Not being able to share their complaints has a lot to do with their fear of having their benefits taken away from them.

As the poor are struggling to reach out to share their voice, there is an ethical argument for them to have a say in society. Although they already face such vast conflicts in their life as the poorest in society, discrimination plays into their lives on the basis of gender, age, disability, ethnicity, sexuality and religion.

Being able to find a voice for the poor is not only going to better their lives, but it will properly open up a different perspective on how unjust the poor are treated. This issue is not that these programs are not already effective enough in combating poverty, but by having their own voice, the poor can address their issues with aid systems to the government and donors for improvement, efficiency, and fairness.

Jada Chin

Source: The Guardian
Photo: Council on Foreign Relations

Violence Flaring as Kenyan Elections ApproachKenya is nearing its first elections since 2007, and rival ethnic groups are beginning to take up arms once more as they fight out their differences. The violence more than five years ago more than 1,000 dead, but reforms since then (including a new constitution) had left many hoping that Kenya can proceed through its voting process in peace. Unfortunately, members of both the Pokomo and Orma tribes have been fighting each other in the Tana River Delta, and so far over 200 people have been killed.

Both tribes claim that the other has victimized them in many ways, including the destruction of homes, villages, and identification documents which prove the bearer is able to vote. And all over the country, the various governor races are prompting discord among Kenyans, many of whom have spent the past few years focusing on building a vibrant economy.

An article in The Daily Nation, the largest newspaper in Kenya, criticized the way Kenyans were behaving as the elections draw near. “All the tribal prejudice, all ancient grudges and feuds, all real and imagined slights, all dislikes and hatreds” are brought out, the journalist argued. To break the cycle of violence flaring as Kenyan elections approach, it will take this kind of honest accountability on the part of all Kenyans to put a stop to the violence before it goes too far.

President Obama has spoken out in favor of cooperation between all Kenyans, but the United States can do even more to help ensure the safety of these people by providing more aid for those Kenyans in poverty. It is far easier to live in peace when there is no need to worry about losing basic necessities at the hands of a government targeting a specific ethnic group. Kenya has experienced surprising economic growth over the past half decade; doing more to extend those gains to all citizens should be a major priority for all parties involved.

Jake Simon

Source: The New York Times

Kenyan Flowers
Giving flowers is a globally symbolic gesture.

Red roses mean love and romance, yellow daisies and sunflowers symbolize friendship and joy; but how do all, if any of these, suggest that you’re helping fight poverty?

The story starts with Feed the Future, a U.S. government initiative to end global hunger and increase global food security. Feed the Future has partnered with Kenyan farmers to cultivate crops for sustenance, such as potatoes, as well as cash crops, such as “smallholder-grown cut flowers,” writes Ian Chesterman, Chief of Party for USAID-funded Kenya Horticulture Competitiveness Project.

Partnering with Kenyan flower farmers has lifted thousands of farmers into an economic situation that helps them produce crops that sustain both their wallets and their stomachs, meaning that thousands of families can afford previously unavailable medical care and that thousands of children can go to school, where they will learn skills to affect prospects for their futures and hopefully lift themselves safely out of poverty.

For about two years now, this USAID project has partnered with Wilmar Flowers Ltd., a private business that was looking to expand its ventures more thoroughly in Europe and worldwide, to hire thousands of more farmers for the project.

Wilmar has been able to “invest in collection centers, research and development trials of new flower varieties and new technologies such as shade nets, charcoal coolers, water harvesting dams and grading sheds,” expanding the company’s private business while simultaneously creating jobs in Kenya.

A long cry from Feed the Future’s initial investment in the partnership, Wilmar has taken over the project, meaning that USAID’s involvement has remained minimal at best while private industry manages itself.

Wilmar’s advancement might have never happened without the involvement of USAID, a foreign aid-giving entity of the United States Federal Government, once again demonstrating the value of the meager portion of the U.S. budget dedicated towards foreign assistance.

– Nina Narang

Photo: Hortidaily

Broadband – A Basic Human RightMost technology is limited in Mfangano, a fishing community off the Kenyan shore of Lake Victoria. The first time a car drove around the entire island was in 2007. Islanders only receive spotty coverage from cell providers due to the difficulties of building cell towers on Mfangano. Providers face difficulty constructing links from the mainland, and islands perceive key construction platforms as sacred.

Worst of all is the lack of internet access.

Chas Salmen, the director of the Organic Health Response (OHR), a small Kenyan NGO that provides HIV/AIDS-related services, noted the Islanders’ repeated desire for internet at community meetings. OHR started the meetings as a means to educate the public about HIV/AIDS and encouraged feedback in order to understand the lives of the islanders.

One of OHR’s primary difficulties was getting a substantial proportion of the community to attend the meetings. This was solved when OHR built the Ekialo Kiona Center (EK). The EK has a computer center, library and training facility. “Ekialo Kiona” means “Whole World” in the Suba language; the name refers to the OHR’s policy of allowing anyone access to the EK and the internet in exchange for maintaining a schedule of HIV tests every 6 months.

Participation in OHR’s programs has grown rapidly with the internet incentive. Now over 2,000 participants, or 10 percent of the population, use the EK and attend the regular meetings.

“The timing of the project was just perfect,” said Salmen. “It went live just before schools closed for a one-month break and we had 250 secondary students enroll right away. 75 percent of our new enrollment has been young people, under 25. They engage with us in a way that wasn’t possible before.”

The OHR also set up a network-connected radio transmitter to broadcast, which has greatly increased the amount of the population on the receiving end of their educational messages.

Salmen said, “When we broadcast we get SMS messages from a huge area, including Kisumu, 90km away. EK Radio fan pages have started appearing on Facebook without any prompting on our side. It’s a total game changer to start those conversations and have everyone listening at once.”

Broadband connectivity is not a high priority for those aiding developing communities. But, as Cisco’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs Tae Yoo noted, it creates jobs, higher productivity and ultimately enables economic and social development.

The United Nations now classifies broadband as a basic human right because it helps developing communities advance economically and socially. Yet, UNESCO estimates that 90 percent of communities in developing areas are without access to broadband.

Inveneo has launched the Broadband for Good Initiative (BB4G) to speed up access to broadband throughout the developing world. BB4BG uses low-cost technologies to deliver broadband into urban and rural areas. BB4G currently provides broadband access to 20 percent of rural Haiti, and certain areas of Micronesia, Kenya, Uganda and the West Bank of Palestine.

“Mfangano is a great pilot for building sustainable broadband networks,” said Eric Blantz, senior program director for Inveneo. “The challenges we’ve seen here are not unique, but the solutions we’re finding are innovative and replicable across the developing world.”

– Kasey Beduhn

Source: The Huffington Post

Photo: Organic Health Response

Women's Property Rights Success in Rural KenyaLandesa’s Kenya Justice Project has successfully negotiated women’s property rights in rural Kenya. Landesa, actively fights to attain and provide land property for those in global poverty and has successfully worked with USAID to target the progress of women’s rights in Kenya.

Recently, the Kenyan constitution was amended to grant more freedoms and political access to women. Property rights (in the form of access to land), is often taken for granted in most developed countries. But many developing countries, like Kenya, have not guaranteed rights for women. Additionally, the majority of those denied secure access to land rights are rural women farmers. Therefore, the heavy advocacy for the inclusion of women in state practices and formal constitutions is necessary for successful development and in this case, development of Kenya.

Landesa’s program in Kenya has seen success in marriage disputes as women’s written consent is necessary before property transactions are approved. Women are also increasingly able to acquire their own land to live on and farm independently of men. Another vital aspect to the progress is that women are now eligible to become elected as an elder and make larger impacting decisions, a role that was previously male dominated. More girls also attend school, which has now balanced the gender ratio of students.

Women’s access to property rights allows greater individual and political security and is a forward step in progress. Gender equality is vital to development as it “has the potential to end the cycle of poverty by enabling women to contribute to community decisions and govern family resources and money wisely.”

Evan Walker

Source: ONE