Robert Magori

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Posts by Robert

  • Practical Action working to light Africa

    Nairobi, Kenya, Nairobi
    January 10th, 2018

    A blog authored by Elizabeth Njoki and Robert Magori

    Access to modern energy services is a basic prerequisite for socio-economic development. Its effects extend far beyond the energy sector, such as poverty eradication, access to clean water, improved public health, education and women empowerment. The World Bank’s State of Electricity Access Report 2017 shows that countries with the highest levels of poverty tend to have lower access to modern energy services – a problem that is most pronounced in Sub-Saharan Africa, where a large share of the population depends on traditional biomass for cooking and heating and lacks access to electricity. It is estimated that 1.6 billion people worldwide do not have access to electricity. In Kenya, electricity access stands at 40% of which the majority of those served reside in cities and urban areas while less than 20% of these households in the rural areas are connected to the national power grid. In response to this challenge, Lighting Africa, a joint World Bank/IFC program, aims at helping people in Sub-Saharan Africa gain access to non-fossil fuel-based, low-cost, high quality, safe, and reliable lighting products. Practical Action was contracted by Lighting Africa II Kenya programme to facilitate deeper penetration of solar lighting products in to the most remote areas through training and mentoring women last mile entrepreneurs with the goal of meeting the lighting needs of rural, urban, and sub-urban consumers who lack electricity access; predominantly low-income households and businesses.

     

    Children doing their homework using a solar lamp in a household in Western Kenya.
    Photo by Sven Torfinn

     

    Women remain disadvantaged politically, socially and economically due to traditional stereotypes on the roles of women and girls. They are underrepresented in decision making positions and they have less access to basic needs such as education, energy, safe and clean water, health etc. Typically women’s economic activities are; heat intensive with food processing being a common source of income, and because women’s lack of energy access, their capability is hampered negatively affecting those around them and prevents from living desired life. Initial assessment of solar products value chain indicated that women are underrepresented and yet are great influencers especially at bottom of the pyramid. Building on Practical Action’s extensive experience in enhancing women’s participation in energy markets, the assignment embarked to strengthen the role that women play in the supply chain for off-grid lighting products in rural Kenya, helping them in the development of sustainable business models and empowering them to effectively participate in local energy markets, and therefore increasing the availability of quality clean energy products to consumers in rural Kenya. In this assignment, Practical Action recruited and trained 403 women entrepreneurs on entrepreneurship development.

    The support to women entrepreneurs was non-intrusive but concerted; it was sustained through practical working tools for day-to-day business management such as toolkits and remote training using podcasts. The use of podcasts to train micro entrepreneurs is an innovative approach to stimulate pro-active learning and allows flexible access to learning material by entrepreneurs. Furthermore, Practical Action allocated full time mentors to the women entrepreneurs to ease access and expeditious resolutions of major business challenges experienced by the women entrepreneurs through executing mentoring plan involving targeted one-on-one mentoring sessions based on LMEs identified needs. The mentors followed up LMEs on time bound action points and provided technical advice and motivation in areas of difficulty. Ultimately mentors facilitated the development of business acumen and self-confidence of the entrepreneurs in management of the business over the engagement period. During the course of the assignment 240 active women entrepreneurs were retained and collectively sold 27,875 solar lighting units worth an estimated value of US$1.4 million. In addition, overall entrepreneurs’ business performance has been positive with an average growth rate of 30% per entrepreneur.

    One such entrepreneur is Catherine Mumbi who hails from Sofia area in Kakumeni ward, Machakos County where kerosene lamps are the main source of lighting in most households. When she started the solar business, Catherine used to sell only 2 units per month but currently sells an average of 10 units per month. She gives credit to Practical Action for impacting her with business skills and product knowledge. Ms. Selina; another active entrepreneur thanks Practical Action for helping her manage stage fright. She narrates that before the training and subsequent mentorship she couldn’t communicate properly with customers because she was afraid, but currently she can approach anyone and get to sell a lamp or come out of it with a prospective customer. She is grateful for the mentorship as she terms it as a source of knowledge, encouragement and motivation to the business. Since the training and commencement of mentorship, Selina has acquired more networks which include other entrepreneurs and customers. In conclusion, solar lighting industry continues to grow and reach rural households without access to modern energy services.

    The programme has demonstrated that more women entrepreneurs can be integrated in the solar lighting value chain and more efforts should be geared towards such engendered initiatives as a measure of not only addressing energy poverty but also improving women’s economic positioning. Practical Action is highly conscious of the contribution of this work overall objectives of ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for, and by extension the global sustainable development goals.

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  • Energy and forced displacement

    September 25th, 2017

    A blog authored by Anna Noëlle Okello and Robert Magori

    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.

     

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  • Championing sanitation in Kisumu

    Kisumu, Kenya, Kisumu
    August 24th, 2017

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

    Nairobi, Kenya, Nairobi
    July 6th, 2017

    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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