Kenya | Blogs

  • Christmas: introducing the concept of giving


    December 12th, 2017

    I love this time of year. I am not ashamed to admit that I am one of those that eagerly awaits the Christmas John Lewis advert with great expectation, in the hope that it lives up to the previous year’s festive treat.

    Gorgeous Goat

    My tree is ready and waiting to be decorated by the first weekend of December and plans are already in place for a Christmas feast with family and friends. Of course, being a mummy, I have unashamedly pushed my Christmas obsession onto my 5 year old daughter, although she never needed very much persuasion to join in with the Christmas spirit. The Christmas story has been requested half a dozen times already at bedtime and it’s still only November.

    We have sat down together to write her Christmas letter to Santa. I spent most of the time trying to discourage her from adding the entire contents of the Argos catalogue to it and I found myself repeating “ but Santa only has a small sleigh and he has to deliver presents to all the children” several times over.

    Introducing the concept of giving and not just receiving, I will be honest, is a slow burner for my little one. But she is coming round to the idea – slowly! She does however love the idea of picking presents for mummy;  which is a huge relief especially as daddy isn’t the best at presents – the minion bubble bath from last year still sits unopened on top of the bathroom cabinet and the singing Orangutan from the year before has found pride of place in the back of the cupboard.

    Giving a charity gift at Christmas time, such as a Practical Present, is something I think that my daughter could get on board with. The novelty of purchasing a quirky gift such as a Gorgeous Goat to help farmers in Bangladesh, or some Snazzy Soap to help children in Kenya get access to clean, safe water, would make her feel very proud and would give her a great story to share with her class mates at share time.

    Snazzy Soap

    I find buying Christmas presents both a joy and a nightmare, especially if I have someone difficult to buy for. But rather than spending money on something that is likely to end up at the back of a cupboard, like my poor old Orangutan (just to clarify – it isn’t real!) why not use the money to buy a Practical Present and make a real difference to the lives of people living in poverty around the world.

    Snazzy Soap is just one of the gifts from our Safe Pair of Hands collection which also includes Tippy Tap and Safe Pair of Hands. If you decide to purchase one of these special presents this Christmas, gifts will be matched £ for £ by The UK Government (up to a total of £5 million). Which means there really is no better time to get into the Christmas spirit, turn up those Christmas songs and buy a present that really does keep on giving, a Practical Present.

     

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  • Energy Supporter Objects – The Variety of Energy Technologies and Uses in Refugee Settings


    December 5th, 2017

    A blog authored by Sarah Rosenberg-Jansen and Anna Okello. December 2017.

    A ‘missing link’ in humanitarian energy access

    Energy is a critical need for refugees and displaced people: millions of displaced people do not have access to energy, and humanitarian agencies and refugees themselves struggle to work with complex energy technology systems and products – as we discuss in the Moving Energy Initiative Report. Recognising this, Practical Action has developed an extensive portfolio of work on energy in humanitarian settings. This includes current research into how refugees practice and perceive energy, undertaken by working with communities to understand how refugees in Kenya engage with energy technologies and the objects that surround them, funded by the University of Edinburgh among others. By ‘objects’ or ‘energy supporter objects’, we mean items and technologies which are integral for, or attached to, sources of energy to make energy-use possible. These technologies can be seen as missing links between the energy supply (e.g. a solar panel) and the service (e.g. a fully charged mobile phone) – the energy supporter object is the phone charger, because without it the end energy use (charging a phone) is impossible. Other examples would include, matches, wires, cooking pots, vehicles for transport, and appliances such as clocks and headphones.

    Our research shows the extent to which communities maximise their total energy access needs by using a variety of energy objects and technologies. This goes far beyond having solar lanterns and improved cook-stoves, as, for people to use these products effectively, they require a great many additional technologies and objects.

    A comprehensive approach to energy poverty in humanitarian settings

    For humanitarian decision-makers to be fully aware of how communities’ use and value energy, we argue that it is vital that the total energy life of refugees is taken into consideration. Energy supporter objects form a core part of the realities of refugee lives, and systems of support and humanitarian response need to consider these physical things as well as basic energy access technologies to effectively work with communities. For example, a bicycle may not be considered an energy technology, but many people are reliant on this form of transport to enable them to move batteries to be charged, to transport firewood, and to deliver diesel fuel.

    Energy supporter objects in practice: Kakuma Refugee Camp

    One area Practical Action works in is Kakuma Refugee Camp, which is in the Turkana District of the north-west of Kenya. In Kakuma there are many diverse communities; with people from Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The camp population is currently estimated to be over 180,000 and has been in existence since 1992. In the past few years, the camp has expanded quickly with new arrivals coming from South Sudan or being relocated from Dadaab camp, which may close.

    In Kakuma, there are a dynamic set of markets, energy products and services available within the communities. During our research several types of ‘energy supporter objects’ emerged as being key to the community, including matches, wires, and phone chargers. The table below provides a summary of some of these objects and the type of ‘traditional energy objects’ they are often connected with or to in the Kenyan context.

    Communities solving their own problems

    While we don’t suggest that humanitarian agencies should provide energy supporter objects as part of their responses or aid programmes, we want to draw attention to the ways local communities are already solving these problems themselves. Many of the refugee and host community businesses that exist within or close to refugee camps are already centred on energy supporter objects and are supplying this demand gap themselves. For example, the picture below shows a refugee business owner who sells solar panels. But in his shop, there are also batteries, matches, torches, extension cables, light bulbs, chargers, speakers, sound systems and radios. By supporting and facilitating these markets, humanitarian responders have an ideal opportunity to also support income generating opportunities and the self-sufficiency of refugees – which can lead to increased human development and wellbeing of communities.

    Refugees’ energy access priorities in reality

    In many cases, our research found that the energy supporter objects were more central to business owners and refugee households than the source of energy itself. The picture below shows a music store in Kakuma camp, the owner of whom has multiple energy appliances: a computer, screens, keyboard, fans, a television and sound system. The source of energy for this business was actually a mini-grid connection, however, when discussing energy, the business owner focused almost exclusively on the appliances and uses of energy. This finding is in-keeping with Practical Action’s Poor People’s Energy Outlook report series, which has long maintained that it is not the energy supply but energy services that matter most to marginalised people – people care about what they can do with the energy, not where it comes from.

    We suggest that NGOs and practitioners can focus on the way that people use energy and the practical realities of living as a refugee, to more successfully deliver support and energy access technologies. Understanding energy supporter objects is one angle that could be used to achieve this. More information on the energy lives of refugees and displaced people is available from the Moving Energy Initiative and Practical Action’s work on humanitarian energy.

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  • Energy and forced displacement


    September 25th, 2017

    Due to conflicts and environmental change, we are currently witnessing the highest number of displaced people since recorded history. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) there are over 65 million displaced people in the world, with more than 21 million living in refugee camps. This is the highest number of displaced people in recorded history.

    Historically, the application of humanitarian principles of protection and assistance in contexts of forced displacement has focused on the provision of shelter, food, water, sanitation and health. But when people are displaced, they also leave their access to energy services behind. In fact, according to the Chatham House report: The Current State of Sustainable Energy Provision for Displaced Populations, 89% of displaced people living in spaces of temporary or prolonged displacement have no access to electricity at all. It is important to note that access to energy has been a missing pillar in the humanitarian response to forced displacement.

    Practical Action has collaborated with the University of Edinburgh to address this gap through a project on humanitarian energy named; “Energy and Forced Displacement: A Qualitative Approach to Light, Heat and Power in Refugee Camps”, or Displaced Energy in short, which is funded by the UK Research Councils – ESRC and AHRC. This research project is in partnership with the Moving Energy Initiative (MEI) and the UNHCR. MEI is an initiative of the UNHCR, the Department for International Development (DFID), and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), alongside Chatham House – The Royal Institute for International Affairs, and international non-governmental organizations Practical Action and the Global Village Energy Partnership (GVEP). MEI aims to make sustainable energy provision a key part of responses to forced displacement and humanitarian emergency, by designing and piloting new approaches and models for sustainable energy provision among displaced populations.

    The Displaced Energy Project is running simultaneously in Burkina Faso (Goudoubou Refugee Camp) and Kenya (Kakuma Refugee Camp). These sites have been selected because they allow the project to build directly on a quantitative survey of energy access undertaken for the MEI, and because they allow for a comparison of energy cultures. The project is informed by specialists in Social Anthropology and Design at the University of Edinburgh, and Practical Action’s energy researchers are currently collecting 50 case studies of everyday energy practices in the two camps. The Goudoubou refugee camp is located in the Sahel Region, Burkina Faso. Goudoubou hosts over 9,000 refugees. It grew out of political and military unrest that began in Mali in January 2012, which led to a mass exodus of civilians into Burkina Faso. Research by MEI has shown that a household in Goudoubou needs over 100 kilos of firewood per month for cooking alone. But in the camp each beneficiary receives just 12 kilos of firewood, and must buy or forage the rest of the firewood in the scarce environment.

    Kakuma refugee camp is located in Turkana County, northwestern Kenya. The camp is home to approximately 180,000 refugees from neighbouring South Sudan, Burundi, Somalia, Congo and Ethiopia. Also in Kakuma, firewood is the main source of cooking fuel. Every month 10kg of firewood is distributed to the beneficiaries by the UNHCR and their local partners but, as in Goudoubou, distributed firewood meets less than 20% of the domestic energy needs of the households. A new and more sustainable approach to energy provision is therefore needed.

    The objectives of the Displaced Energy Project are to inform future energy policy and practice in the humanitarian sector, and to establish new principals for the design and procurement of energy products and services.  The project uses qualitative research methods to assess in what ways refugees and host communities use and need light, heat and power. Furthermore, the Displaced Energy Project findings will be complimentary to the previously done quantitative MEI study dataset and will provide an even stronger grasp on the beneficiaries’ energy behaviours, needs, desires and routines. Dimensions that are essential, but often overlooked, when designing products, services and humanitarian responses that will actually fit into the beneficiaries’ life.

    Through this project, Practical Action contributes to safe, reliable and sustainable energy solutions, which reduce the vulnerability of refugees and ultimately aid in the rebuilding of their lives.

    By Anna Noëlle Okello and Robert Magori

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  • Championing sanitation in Kisumu

    On the outskirts of Kenya’s third largest city, Kisumu are rusty shacks that dot the landscape. This is Nyalenda settlement, an informal dwelling of at least 60,000 residents (as per the 2009 national population census). Nyalenda is the second largest informal settlement in Kisumu, after Manyatta, and is situated to the south of the Central Business District (CBD). Nyalenda consists of two separate settlements, Nyalenda A and B. Nyalenda A is subdivided into four units (Dago, Kanyakwar, Central and Western A), while Nyalenda B features five smaller units (Got Owak, Kilo, Nanga, Dunga and Western).

    An estimated 60 percent of Kisumu’s population lives in informal settlements and this population is rapidly expanding with the ever increasing rural urban migration, where rural communities move to the towns and cities in search of jobs and better livelihoods. Many households in the city’s informal settlements do not have adequate access to such basic services as water and sanitation, with as many as 100 people sharing a single toilet.

    It is this great need of Kisumu’s over 200,000 residents that prompted Practical Action to embark on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) initiatives within the city’s informal settlements. For over a decade, Practical Action has been working to improve the living conditions of urban poor residents through increased access to basic services such as adequate water and sanitation facilities, functional storm water, effluent drainage and solid waste management.

    A walk through Nyalenda provides a snapshot of what the residents here have to contend with. The congested tin roofed houses, large garbage heaps, and streams of sewage, are commonplace. One has to watch where they step as they walk through the villages as open defecation and ‘flying toilets’—the phenomena whereby residents relieve themselves in polythene bags, and then throw the bags outside on to streets, roofs and alleyways, is prevalent.

    Practical Action has been assisting the residents of Nyalenda by providing piped water with the support of Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company (KIWASCO) as well as improving the level of sanitation through construction of toilets and pit latrines.

    As a way of ensuring the residents fully participate in the overall improvement of the informal settlement they live in, Practical Action and its partner Kisumu Urban Apostolate Programmes (KUAP) in 2008 formed the Nyalenda A Neighbourhood Association that covers the villages of Dago, Kanyakwar, Central and Western A.

    Christopher Ogla at the door of an improved latrine in Nyalenda, Kisumu

    More significantly, Practical Action piloted Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) in this settlement. CLTS is an innovative and widely utilized methodology for mobilizing communities to completely eliminate open defecation (OD). Communities are facilitated to conduct their own appraisal and analysis of open defecation (OD) and take their own action to become ODF (open defecation free). One of the CLTS successes has been Dago village within Nyalenda A. This village’s latrine coverage stood at 54% nine months ago, but once Practical Action and KUAP with the help of the neighbourhood association as well as the community health volunteers (CHVs) and public health officers (PHOs) stepped in and introduced the CLTS concept, Dago is now well on its way to becoming ODF as latrine coverage currently stands at 99%.

    This modest success of achieving ODF status for one of the villages in Kisumu’s informal settlements demonstrates that if concerted efforts are put in place to improve sanitation through proper fecal disposal and proper hygiene, the spread of such waterborne diseases as diarrhea and cholera, particularly among children will be a thing of the past, and Kisumu can embark on a journey to see it free from open defecation which would herald a massive improvement of the health of its residents.

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  • Imagine bringing up your toddler here?

    I recently visited Kisumu, Kenya, where Practical Action is working with two local partner organisations (KUAP and Umande Trust) in a five-year project to transform the sanitation situation for 64,200 residents of the city’s informal settlements.

    Drains polluted with waste and human faeces, Obunga, Kisumu (c) Practical Action, Patrick Meinhardt

    We visited families to understand the extreme challenges faced by parents and carers looking after children under 5 years. As a Mum of two, the youngest of whom turns 6 next month, I could easily make comparisons. There are so many different stages babies, toddlers and children go through in those years, and so many challenges to keeping them healthy and happy. This area has been acknowledged as a blind spot within the already blind spot of understanding how to make progress on sanitation.

    If my children catch one of those nasty ‘winter vomiting bugs’ I know I’m in for a hard time. All that extra washing and cleaning up, and trying to bleach every surface I might have inadvertently contaminated.

    Now imagine dealing with 10 month-old twins with diarrhoea and vomiting with cloth nappies which have to be washed by hand, and where you can’t afford expensive cleaning products. No wonder the whole family got sick.

    Family from Obunga, Kisumu, with their older boy and one of their 10 month old twins (c) Practical Action, Patrick Meinhardt

    Children are generally taken out of nappies far earlier in developing countries than in the UK – and it seems that can mean more accidents, that can be hard to clean up where floors are not just mud or concrete and not easily wiped.

    And when children are old enough to manage their own toileting, the pit latrines adults use are not places for children. They are often filthy with excrement on various surfaces, and not designed to be used with little legs. Parents would rather put down old newspapers for children, or get them to use a potty, with the contents disposed in the toilet. But then again, sometimes children have to be left while the parent is at work in which case they are more inclined to just use an open space outside.

    Latrines are often generally avoided by young children (c) Practical Action, Patrick Meinhardt

    This is not uncommon. In a global study in countries with poor sanitation, UNICEF found that over 50 percent of households with children under age three reported that the faeces of their children were unsafely disposed of. Even among households with improved toilets or latrines, some unsafe child faeces disposal behavior was reported by caregivers.

    Every time these children and carers want to wash their hands they need to get the basin, soap and container of water out separately. It’s enough of a struggle to remind my children to always wash their hands and that’s when the basin is right there with soap on hand.

    Handwashing (c) Practical Action, Patrick Meinhardt

    Practical Action is working to transform the situation – using a combination of school-led and community-led total sanitation, which uses visual demonstrations to explain how an environment polluted with so much faeces is damaging everyone’s health. Encouraging handwashing and making it easier is also an important focus. We’ve been running the programme for a little over a year with good results so far, and action will be ramping up in the coming year. With the support of Public Health Officers and a cadre of amazingly motivated ‘natural leaders’ from the community we think the collective behaviour change needed will be ignited.

    As one Public Health Officer told me: “it’s one thing to force people to build toilets, but that’s not the answer. What matters is that they are used by everyone all the time.” And that’s the change we’re aiming for: a shit-free environment and a healthy future for Kisumu’s children.

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  • Lessons from Turkana on promoting sanitation in Kenya’s arid areas

    Since 2014, Practical Action has been delivering water, sanitation and hygiene promotion services to communities in northern Kenya through its SWIFT project.

    This is how a typical pit latrine built from local materials looks. Due to poor soil structure many of such latrines soon collapse.

    So far we have worked in 9 locations of Turkana County reaching 160,000 women, men and children directly. The activities that have been undertaken include the drilling of boreholes, Installation of pumps, construction of shallow wells, rehabilitation of 10 dysfunctional shallow wells, upgrading of 6 piped water systems and the Installation 5 high capacity solar pumps.

    Heavy rains and flash floods in Turkana wash away soil and damage structures such as latrines

    As part of the project, the Kenya program was also expected to construct 275 latrines with an expected outcome of reducing the occurrences of open defecation. The locations, mainly on the outskirts of the major town (Lodwar), had over 90% occurrence of open defecation and only a handful of sanitation facilities.

    The project faced a few challenges in 2016 with a number of the latrines collapsing due to the environment and condition of the soil in Turkana – loose soils that cause the collapse and exacerbated by disruptive weather such as heavy rain and flash flooding.

    As the toilets in Turkana were constantly collapsing due to the weak soil structure. We came up with simple culverts to line the outer wall of the latrine

    The collapse of the latrines meant a strategic shift in understanding the context and re-examining the technology needed to ensure that the latrines are sustainable and contextually appropriate for the arid and semi-arid areas of Northern Kenya.

    The Kenya program has recently embarked on another leg of the project to reconstruct the latrines. The new technology will involve lining the pit latrines with culverts and a top concrete slab that would make the latrines resistant to the harsh climate and adaptable to the loose soil. In addition, the use of culverts means the latrines would be appropriate to the lifestyle of the predominantly pastoralist community and can be easily moved /relocated by the community if need be.

    A community member digs the loose sandy soil to install a culvert that acts as the wall of the pit latrine

    Due to the weak soil structure culverts have to be installed to ensure the walls of the latrines do not collapse

    This concrete mould acts as the cover of the culvert and the base of the pit latrine

    Construction has commenced in four locations in Turkana County with an anticipated finish of July. This project provides an opportunity for reflection and demonstrate appropriate sanitation technology for an arid climate and most importantly pastoralist communities who are in constant movement. Practical Action in Eastern Africa hopes that the technology employed and its success will generate learning, inspire others and create opportunities for further programming in waste management and the re-use/ recycle of faecal waste that hasn’t been considered before in the geographic area.

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  • CLTS making an impact on sanitation in Kisumu

    Over the last year or so, Practical Action and our partner organisations KUAP and Umande Trust, have been rolling out a programme of urban-adapted CLTS (community-led total sanitation) in informal settlements in Kisumu. The work is part of a five-year project supported by Comic Relief.

    Last week I visited and was treated to a demonstration of some of the team’s favourite tools, as they described both what works best, and some of the challenges of taking these tools designed for rural contexts, into urban environments.

    Open Defecation hotspot in Kisumu (c) Practical Action, Patrick Meinhardt

    Differences in context

    Two years ago, I visited similar work in Nakuru, and summarised 11 differences between urban and rural CLTS. Many of these also apply in Kisumu. The local team themselves identified these features of urban areas as the most important in making collective triggering and behaviour change more challenging:

    • Large areas with large populations, with the need to break this down into smaller chunks to reach more people
    • Large numbers of tenants, with the need to persuade landlords to invest in better sanitation
    • The opportunity to reach people through the area’s schools, with children taking messages home from ‘health clubs’
    • A diverse, shifting, population where attempting to persuade your neighbour to change their ways may be seen as disrespectful
    • Open Defecation does not only mean hotspots, but can also mean polluted latrines, leaking and ‘hanging’ toilets open to the drains, flying toilets, open dump sites with waste such as sanitary towels and nappies, burst sewer lines, and the work of pit emptiers where the contents of a pit is emptied directly onto open ground.

    We have mapped all these sources of open defecation through transect walks using GIS technology and combined all the information to generate open defecation ‘heat’ maps. The aim of a CLTS approach is to help communities to eliminate all of these.

    Open Defecation Hotspot Analysis for Obunga low income settlement, Kisumu

    Favourite triggering tools

    In CLTS, it is often the ‘triggering’ process that is the most dramatic. This is the moment when, through demonstrations and visual tools, community members realise the drastic environmental situation they find themselves in, where they are, in all likelihood, eating each other’s poo.

    Public Health Officers trained by Practical Action have been supporting the process through their cadre of community health volunteers. At the same time, natural leaders have emerged from initial triggering events. These passionate and committed people have done the bulk of the triggering events so far. Many of the tools they use are familiar to CLTS practitioners such as:

    • Mapping of landmarks, houses and open defecation hotspots
    • Transect walks to open defecation hotspots and broken latrines
    • Bread and faeces side by side to watch the flies move from one to another
    • Clean water which is then polluted by faeces on a stick, and people no longer want to drink it
    • Calculations of the volume of faeces present in the community
    • Health cost calculations of the amounts spent on treating diseases caused by an environment polluted with poo

    Among the most impactful of these was reported to be the health cost calculation because in urban areas, people are acutely aware of the cost of everything.

    CLTS triggering in action, Nyalenda, Kisumu (c) Practical Action, Patrick Meinhardt

    In the area of Nyalenda called ‘Dago’ where we met the team, there has been a dramatic improvement. A major search had to be mounted to find any faeces with which to demonstrate! It was reported that almost all the plot-owners had now built toilets. But this area was more spread-out with enough space for digging simple pit latrines and fewer tenants. The process will likely be slower and need to involve many more stakeholders and different technology choices in more densely populated areas where soils either collapse too easily, are too rocky, or where the water table is high.

    We are learning from our recently completed work in Nakuru, and as the process moves forward we will share more highlights. The Public Health Department are keen to learn from others and celebrate the first communities becoming ODF. That may require some local adaptations of the verification protocol relax the requirements for hand washing facilities at the toilets, which is what has blocked settlements in Nakuru from achieving this status.

    As the process moves forward, we’ll share more updates and insights via our blog.

    Together with Plan International and the CLTS Knowledge Hub at IDS, Sussex University, we are compiling experiences of urban CLTS to create a new guide that will be launched later this year. This builds on the ‘Addis Agreement‘ which shares experiences of urban CLTS published in 2016.

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  • Father’s Day Special – how access to electricity transformed Thandolwenkosi Mazwi’s life


    June 6th, 2017

    With Father’s Day coming up soon, I thought it would be a good time to tell you about how Practical Action is helping men and their families.

    Thandolwenkosi Mazwi is a High School teacher in Mashaba, Gwanda, Zimbabwe. He is 44 years old and married with five children; two boys and three girls. When we met him at the Mashaba Health Clinic, he had brought one of his sons with him who was being treated for ringworm and needed a check-up.

    While Thandolwenkosi and his son were there, he told us what life was like without electricity:

    “When my wife delivered one of our children, she delivered here, well before electricity. She delivered in the morning. She was in labour during the evening, she came here at midnight. She had to bring candles.

    I can just see the nightmare of delivering when there is no electricity, vividly I can see it.

    With electricity, their services will be excellent, so we were very excited when they came to tell us about the project”

    Now, thanks to donations from our kind supporters a solar mini-grid has been installed, supplying electricity to the clinic – which serves 6,000 people in the community. The difference this has made is incredible – by bringing light and power, doctors and nurses are able to treat people safely at night, patients and pregnant women feel much safer and vaccines can now be kept in the fridge so they last longer.

    Want to make a difference this Father’s Day?

    Buying a Practical Present not only shows how much you care, it will also mean a lot to people like Thandolwenkosi and his family.

    Click on this link to find the perfect present thank you!

    Sustainable Energy for Rural Communities project

     

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  • MasterCard Young Africa Works Summit


    May 26th, 2017

    Earlier this year I attended the second annual Young Africa Works Summit in Kigali, Rwanda hosted by MasterCard Foundation. The theme of the summit was built around shifting discussion from how to engage youth in agriculture, to youth as drivers of agricultural transformation. The summit explored three sub-themes that contribute to agricultural transformation, gender, technology and climate-smart agriculture.

    Almost a third of participants were young people from across the continent of Africa.  They shared their experiences, successes, challenges and innovations in agriculture related businesses. First of all, I was impressed by the confidence displayed by the young people presenting  in front of an international audience and how they challenged some of the ‘norms’.

    Key from all the presentations was how technology can act as a huge incentive to attract youth to take up agriculture as a business. Rita Kimani, Co-founder and CEO, FarmDrive uses new data­ driven technology to increase the availability of capital. Her work focuses on leveraging technology to enable smallholder farmers in Africa to achieve sustainable livelihoods.

    Alloysius Attah, CEO and Co-founder of Farmerline from Ghana, founded Alloyworld, a photography and video production company, and iCottage Networks, a Web and Mobile startup. Brian Bosire, Founder of UjuziKilimo, an agricultural technology company that brings affordable precision farming to smallholder farmers in Kenya, enabling them to produce more from their farm, curbing hunger and food insecurity. UjuziKilimo uses sensors to analyse soil and farm conditions to provide real-time, precise, actionable recommendations over mobile phones to rural farmers who lack access to extension services and information on weather and markets.

    On gender Pilirani Khoza is the Founder of Bunda Female Students Organisation (BUFESO), an organisation that supports disadvantaged university students at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) in Malawi. Concerned with the lack of women participating in higher education, she empowers young girls to pursue studies in science and agriculture by helping to fund their tuition and other fees.

    My key takeaways from this summit were;

    • Let youth lead development of agri-business by creating an enabling business environment for them to exercise their innovativeness and experimentation
    • Technology plays a very important part in providing incentives for youth to participate in agriculture
    • Government is key to creating an enabling environment for youth-led agri-business to grow (very few African governments are doing this)

    Here are some inspiring quotes from the event.

    “We are all leaders and the role of leaders is to connect the problem to solutions.”

    “Technology is our mother tongue.”

    “If you are not in love with a farmer, raise your standards.”

    “If you can’t fly you can run, if you can’t run you can walk, if you can’t walk you can crawl, if you can’t crawl whatever you do keep moving!!”

    Learn more about the event on the Young Africa Works website http://youngafricaworks.org/resources/

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  • Margaret Kariuku — A self-established businesswoman


    March 10th, 2017

    Margaret Kariuku is a Kenyan woman who has not had the easiest path to success. As a mother of four, she has struggled to find a stable income to provide for herself and her children.

    “Three times, I have had to start again. Three times, I have had to rebuild my livelihood. It all begun in 2005, when I stopped working as a secretary in Nakuru town. I thought that I would get my life sorted, but as fate would have it, this would not be.MargaretKariuki2 (002)

    After she finished working as a secretary, she moved to her father’s farm, hoping to re-establish herself as a farmer. At first, her maize crops yielded well. However, as the days passed, her crops went down. By the third year, there was nothing left to harvest, and Margaret needed to decide what to do next.

    “I picked up the pieces and decided to set up a milk collection centre. I bought milk from the farmers and sold it to the residents. I also decided to buy a motorcycle. When it was not used to collect milk, it would be a taxi. That way, I had two income streams.”

    In the beginning, Margaret’s new business did well. Two income streams guaranteed a stable income. Sadly, after couple months, she realised that her employees were embezzling money from her. She needed to close the business. “I almost got disoriented when I lost my second business. But I collected myself again and set up once more.”

    This time, she decided to establish a business on her own. She opened a grocery store which provided just enough income to keep her going. One day, she overheard her neighbour talking about a new source of energy called briquetting. This sparked her interest. She participated in a conference, organised by Practical Action Eastern Africa and SCODE (Sustainable Community Development Services), where she saw a demo of the production process. After the conference, her neighbour suggested a visit to the briquetting production site in the neighbourhood.

    Although reluctant at first, she accompanied her neighbour to the site – pretending to be an entrepreneur. At the site, she quickly learned, that she could earn better income as a briquettinbriquettesg entrepreneur than owner of a grocery store. Meanwhile, the costs and availability of the raw materials made it easy to enter the market. She went back home feeling energised and thoughtful.

    “My hope was that even if my grocery store was not performing well, I had briquettes. I knew that if I’d start producing them, I would be able to make a better income. So I started to produce them manually. I thought to myself, this is really hard! However, Practical Action and SCODE helped me. They rented me a machine to aide production. I had found my salvation.”

    Margaret launched her briquettes business in 2015 and has increased her sales ever since. She has also participated in Practical Action’s training programmes, aimed to enhance women’s energy enterprise opportunities in Kenya. In 2017, she won the Energia Women Entrepreneurship Award – A prize that recognizes individuals that have done outstanding work in the sector.

    In the future, Margaret wants to further expand her business and create jobs in the community. “Many young people are jobless, and many women are frustrated because they have no way of getting income. So I can use the prize money to give them a chance, to teach them, and to give them skills so that they can benefit the way I have.”

    Did you enjoy this story? If yes, go to our Mother’s Day site  and meet other inspiring women just like Margaret!

    Want to help women like Margaret this Mother’s Day? Our Practical Presents Charity Gift shop offers some amazing Mother’s Day gifts that are designed to transform lives. More information here.

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