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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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  • Women at the heart of the development agenda – interview with Farida Bascha


    March 7th, 2017

    Farida Bascha joined Practical Action as Eastern Africa Regional Director in January 2017 and is a strong advocate for Gender equity and women’s rights. We caught up with her prior to the International Women’s Day to learn more about her and her thoughts about women and development.

    Hi Farida, farida profile

    Congratulations and welcome to Practical Action! Can you tell us little bit about your background?

    Thank you, I’m really excited about this opportunity! My mother once joked that my faith and beliefs are human rights – I don’t think she was wrong as that perfectly sums up my background! With my first degree in law and human rights, my career has been embedded in the principles of dignity, equality and accessibility of human rights. That continues to be my drive and also led me to my position today.

    What inspired you to join Practical Action?

    It is a great time to be part of Practical Action as the organization is embarking on a new Strategy. Being part of this change, and leading the change in East Africa, inspired me to join the organization. Practical Action’s ‘small is beautiful’ approach means that we get to work with those communities who are often left behind. This is an approach I want to be part of.  The new Strategy also puts women and climate change at the centre of our work which is something that I am excited to drive within the region.

    What are your thoughts on current state of women’s rights?

    At the global level, the influence of women has become more and more visible. Women’s rights are being discussed again as human rights and this has escalated the need to understand the marginalisation of women in society and decisions that affect them. Women are more educated and work more, however, the social dynamics haven’t changed in many societies. Could this be the time to address the structural causes of discrimination against women, and social gender norms and perceptions that act as barriers to an equitable society?

    Farida and bellyWhy women and girls should be placed at the heart of the development agenda?

    With the adoption of the SDGs, the need to place women squarely within the development agenda has never been stronger. The targets under the SDGs look at enhancing the opportunity towards equal access to work and reducing the different dimensions of discrimination. To understand these needs and realize sustainable solutions, we need to involve women in all these discussions. Practical Action’s new Strategy puts the needs of women at the centre of our work which is in line with the SDGs, and provides an exciting opportunity to address the barriers to gender parity.

    What are your thoughts on women in leadership positions?

    We need more women in leadership positions. Leadership to me means being competent and confident to make and uphold decisions. It is extremely important to have women in these decision making positions. That might be the biggest challenge yet but very possible. Women in decision making positions sets the pace for change for millions of women who strive for the same. No one better than a woman herself to understand the change that is needed and be in a position to make this change.

    What advice would you give to aspiring women leaders?

    Stay driven and keep your dreams and ambitions alive. It might not be an easy road, but every moment wasted looking back stops us from moving forward. Women are the most untapped resource and talent in society. If we can inspire more women leaders, we can achieve an equitable society.

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

    Want to help empowering women 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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  • Providing food security through appropriate technology


    October 4th, 2016

    Technological advances have increased the quality of life expectancy, productivity and income. However, as technology advances, developing countries have consistently missed out on the opportunities to increase their production potential in the varied development fields. Appropriate technological solutions are not easily accessible to poor people who need them most. Food production, for example, offers a clear distinction between technology justice and injustice. The lack of appropriate technology to improve systems denies vulnerable populations off sustainable food production. There is technology available for enhanced food security when appropriate resource management systems are employed.

    IMG_1894It therefore behoves development practitioners to review access rights and supply needs with a bias to safeguarding human rights. Practical Action is leading in maintaining the challenge to the world to see technology ‘as the bringer of consumer gain’ and its potential as a world changer – ‘a lever out of poverty.’

    Practical Action Eastern Africa focuses on areas that impact the poor through an integrated – approach, taking into consideration the unique demands in society realizing that each individual requires solutions customized  to their needs. The overall aim is to ensure that communities gain sustainable livelihoods that create a food secure society and we shall illustrate how.

    Sustainable food production technologies

    Access to adequate and nutritious diet is a major challenge among pastoralists’ communities in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL’s) in East Africa. The region remains highly dependent on food aid. The persistence for this is not a lack of potential but rather a misconception of policies and reluctance to invest in sound agricultural technologies that are responsive to the changing climatic patterns. The persistence of this challenge requires urgent attention and adoption of more practical options to secure sustainable food production.

    Practical Action’s work in Northern Kenya (Mandera and Turkana) is geared towards ensuring food security (increased availability, access and utilization) to the most vulnerable groups; women and children through increasing their access to appropriate technology, knowledge and skills for equitable and sustainable use of natural resources. Through participatory processes, Practical Action engages with the communities to undertake activities and approaches that touch on all aspects of their livelihoods from agriculture, environment, governance and social equity.

    In order to achieve this, Practical Action has adopted the vulnerability to resilience (V2R) framework. This holistic approach assesses the needs of the resource poor communities and identifies skills and opportunities for them to build more secure and resilient livelihoods. This is to empower the communities to meet their food security and nutritional needs. It also enhances their capacity to cope with the recurrent hazards; drought, floods, livestock disease outbreaks and resource conflicts that are endemic in Northern Kenya.

    Improvements to pastoralist production systems

    Practical Action through the Food Security, Agriculture and Disaster Risk Reduction programme makes sustainable improvements in pastoralist and agro-pastoralist production systems through providing simple technology solutions and promoting ecological utilization of the natural resources.

    This has been achieved through direct and people centered technical assistance on rain water harvesting (sand dams, earth pans, rock catchments) and water lifting technologies (foot pumps, hand pumps and solar water pumping systems),micro-irrigation systems for food cropping (Drought Tolerant Crops) and environmental conservation measures (agro-forestry, contour bands and trapezoidal bands). Practical Action also empowers the pastoralists with skills needed to increase the productivity of their livestock assets through improved animal health and husbandry practices, through the Pastoralists Field Schools (PFS). We use our unique approach; Participatory Market Systems Development (PMSD) to improve the marketing of livestock and livestock products and generate profit and incomes for the pastoralists.

    SAMSUNG CSC

    FrancisMuchiri@Practicalaction

    Over the years Practical Action has undertaken to promote equitable use of natural resources through interventions such as; Land Use Planning and Management, Pasture Management/Grazing Patterns, Soil and Forest conservation. This has enabled the creation of wet and dry season grazing zones to cushion pastoralists against climatic shocks and provide opportunities for diversification of livelihoods into other dry land production systems; aloe vera cultivation, beekeeping, poultry rearing, and agro-pastoralism as alternative options for pastoralists.

    In order to reach impact at scale Practical Action is working with partners and policy makers in developing policies that promote, sustain and create an enabling environment for pastoralism and dry land production systems. Specifically, Trans-Boundary Animal Mobility and Trans Boundary Animal Disease surveillance policies are key for ensuring enhanced productivity of pastoralist systems and have been Practical Action’s priority areas of influence. Due to the changing land use needs, expansion of extractive industries and the demographic surge, Practical Action is leading in influencing adoption of favorable Land Use and Natural Resource Management policy aimed at responding to the threats to pastoralism and their livelihoods by the emerging land use demands.

    The overall goal of Practical Action’s intervention in Northern Kenya is to establish productive and disaster resilient systems for food production and improved livelihood security for the well-being of the communities. This will be measured through increase in food availability, access and utilization, strengthened marketing systems and improved management and governance of natural resources.

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  • Juliet – the water entrepreneur


    September 7th, 2016

    “I’m so glad that Practical Action didn’t look down on me like everyone else. They picked me up and dusted me off.”

    Juliet lives in Kajiado, Kenya and Practical Action supported her by helping her to access a loan to start up her own water business. Juliet no longer has to struggle to earn a living by making charcoal which was back-breaking and dangerous work.

    In the mountains and forests where she used to burn charcoal to make her hand-to-mouth living, she encountered wild animals and bandits. She was once bitten by a snake and came close to standing on a poisonous viper. Her most frightening experience occurred when she was pregnant: she went up the mountain and was confronted by a man in a mask. She fled and he followed; “he wanted to rob and rape me”. Hungry and expecting a child, Juliet had to stop running. Fortunately, when she stopped she noticed three other men sat down – “they were my salvation”. The men stood up and ran after the attacker.

    IMG_2109

    Just before Juliet had her baby, she could not make it up the mountain to get her charcoal and it got stolen. After she had her baby, her husband brought the charcoal down from the mountain for her and Juliet then sold it. But it was not making Juliet enough money and so she had to supplement her income. She washed clothes for her neighbours but she still struggled to afford enough food to feed her family. “I reached my end. I’d even decided to buy poison and kill myself because I’d reached my end! No-one wanted to associate with us. I was dirty; I was so black [from the charcoal].” Juliet could not afford water to clean herself and local people said that she would “die soon” as she was so thin. The day after she gave birth to her youngest son, Juliet went out to sell charcoal. No one helped her and no one knew she had had a baby because she was so malnourished.

    Juliet recounts having a premonition that she should come back to her local town and start selling water. A friends’ mother told Juliet about a local mentor who was creating awareness of a loans scheme. Juliet carried on living in the bushes for a month burning charcoal as well as doing other jobs alongside to earn enough money for a loan. She stayed in the forests for days on end, to ensure that people didn’t steal her charcoal. She made 200 Kenyan Shillings (KSH) per day – equivalent to around £1.50. When Juliet went to clean for people, she took her baby with her and would have to leave him outside the house, making somewhere comfortable to lay him. Through her constant work, Juliet managed to save 2000 KSH to access the loan. Juliet built a savers group of 10 people – which was hard to build due to her status – and each member had to contribute: their group loan was 50,000 KSH.

    Juliet and her youngest son show off the water containers that have made their life comfortable

    Juliet and her youngest son show off the water containers that have made their life comfortable

    Juliet said: “There was no connection from the water company, so I couldn’t fill my tank before I bought it. My daughter and I saved money and we didn’t tell my husband. We got the connection and I surprised him! We managed to buy the water storage tank.”

    Once the water tank arrived, Juliet began to sell a lot of water which ensured that her local community had access to safe and clean water. The money she made from the water enabled Juliet to go back to the bank and ask for another loan to buy another tank. However, when they received the loan, Juliet’s husband took 12,000 KSH (almost £1,000) of it, as he wanted to go back to his home town to sell some land. He told Juliet he would buy a motorbike and set up a grocery shop for her to run, but he left her with his debt. “He was away for 2 months and he called me. He asked me for 2,000 more. I helped him because he was supposed to be setting up a better life for us.” Juliet did not hear from her husband for a further month and found out through his son that he had sold the land. When he did call, he was in a disco and told Juliet she was too old for him now. “He is 67 and has no teeth!” Juliet exclaimed.

    Juliet’s husband had received money from the land he sold and instructed the new land owner to call Juliet and warn her not to look for him. He went to Tanzania for a 2 week holiday and “surrounded himself with beautiful women because he had money. I continued running the business and saved enough money to buy the second tank”. Julia repaid the loan and now has her own savings.

    Juliet with her water storage tanks

    Juliet with her water storage tanks

    Her estranged husband found another woman and told her that he had a successful water business, that it belonged to him and that his ex-wife had stolen it. They arrived at Juliet’s home to take the business, but Juliet “chased them away with a machete.” The husband went to the police and reported the business stolen. Juliet went to the police station armed with her documents and explained what had happened. Her husband was told to go and never come back.

    Despite her struggle for money and being accused of stealing the business, Juliet is determined to succeed. She has even set up another new business, rearing poultry. “It was good that my husband left. I have gone to hell and back. He tried everything to make my life hell; he even tried to sell my water tanks… My husband left me with debt. He left me with a baby. But I am free, I am happy and I will not stop! I want my own land; I am working hard and praying hard.”

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  • Clean water and toilets for Nakuru school


    July 20th, 2016

    Jack Owino is the Headteacher of a school in Nakuru, Kenya. He has worked there since 2012 and has worked with Practical Action and the Umande Trust to improve access to clean water, toilets and hygiene training for his 765 students.

    The students come from the nearby slums and Jack explains their home life as ‘difficult’. Most have little or no access to clean water and decent sanitation at home so it is important to Jack and his staff that the children do not have to worry about going to the toilet and can drink clean, safe water when they’re at school.

    Jack knows that having no access to water and sanitation at school affects attendance and he was determined to change this.

    Jack Owino Nukuru

    “In 2012, it was bad. We had one block of boys toilets and one block for girls. They were in a bad state. We now have two blocks each. Before, children had to run back home to go to the toilet, in the bush. They would run home and never come back. 

    “Bad sanitation at home meant that children were sick a lot. We now monitor their cleanliness. Water at home is contaminated but they are safe here. They are encouraged to go back to their communities and pass on their knowledge. They are agents of change.” 

    Water and sanitation is absolutely vital to keeping children in school and it has been amazing to see the change in the students at Jack’s school, they are happier, healthier and many are now going on to further education.

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  • Practical Action’s top Dads!


    June 6th, 2016

    The 19th of June is Father’s Day, so I thought what better time to share some stories of some amazing fathers that Practical Action has worked with around the world, only made possible because of our kind and generous supporters.

    5. Anthony Ndugu, Kenya

    IMG_1606Before Practical Action began working with Anthony, a pit latrine emptier in Nakuru, Kenya, he was shy and felt ashamed of the job he did. He didn’t feel respected by his community and would often come home covered in waste. He even felt too ashamed to tell his son what his job was. Now, Practical Action has provided him with protective clothing and the tools to carry out his vital role safely, he is proud of his job and feels that the community finally recognises how important it is.

    “The family are so happy, they are fed and my children can get an education.”

    By buying a Practical Present today, you could help Fathers just like Anthony.  Sweeper Safety Kit could help sweepers like Anthony, from a similar project in Bangladesh, to stay safe from disease whilst they carry out the important task of protecting their community.

     

    4. Richard Tlou, Zimbabwe

    Richard is 46 years old and lives in Mphaya village in the Gwanda district of Zimbabwe. He has been blind for 5 years. Life is tough for Richard and his wife. They have three of their own children and also care for his brother’s children. For as long as he can remember, he hasn’t had access to clean and safe toilet facilities. This means that they have no other choice but to relieve themselves in nearby bushes causing health risks for the community and a lack of dignity for all. For Richard, this was especially hard.  Having lost his sight, he had to rely on someone to take him and he could not see if there were people passing by. But Richard now has regained his dignity. Through Practical Action’s support, he is the proud owner of his own clean and safe toilet and his family are now protected from the risk of disease.

    “It has given me my dignity and will improve the health of my family.”

    By buying a Practical Present today, you could help fathers just like Richard. A gift of Marve-loos training from you could help train toilet builders, enabling families in Zimbabwe to earn a living to provide for their children as well as ensuring they and their communities are safe from disease.

     

    3. Winnie Sebata, Zimbabwe

    Winnie is 67 years old and lives in Mashaba, a rural village in the Gwanda district of Zimbabwe. All of his children are grown up but he is now caring for his 3 nieces who are orphans. Up until his retirement, Winnie was a primary school teacher, but now he works in his wife’s shop in the business centre of Mashaba. This shop is now benefitting from being connected to Zimbabwe’s largest off-grid solar plant, built by Practical Action, in an area that previously had no access to electricity. Not only does the shop now provide local members of the community with an opportunity to access electricity, Winnie and his wife have now also been able to expand their business, providing employment to local people and generating additional income with which he can care for his orphaned nieces.

    “We really hope this project will change the lives of this community and change the lives of people of Zimbabwe.”

    By buying a Practical Present today, you could help Fathers like Winnie. Energising Education could help provide energy to a school in Zimbabwe, giving children a brighter future.

     

    2. Adam Ibrahim Mohamed, Sudan

    IMG_2832Adam is a farmer in North Darfur, Sudan. He is 52 years old and married with children. He lives in Zam Zam village, an arid area of Darfur  where farmers struggle to grow their crops because of the lack of water. But that has all changed. Practical Action has helped Adam and others like him by constructing a dam, which provides vital water to enable him to grow his crops. He can now grow enough to feed his family and even has enough to sell, so he can generate an income and send his children to school.

    As fathers, we have responsibilities; feeding our families, sending our children to school. Our life has improved and our children will continue to get an education.”

    By buying a Practical Present today, you could help Fathers just like Adam. A Super Sapling could help farmers in this drought-prone area to re-build their communities and plan a brighter future for their children.

    1. Your Dad!

    untitledOrder a Practical Present from Practical Action today and tell your Dad why you think he is number 1! When you order a Practical Present, you will be making a real difference and changing the lives of people around the world and at the same time, you can let your Dad know how special he is to you.

    www.presents.practicalaction.org

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  • Wellbeing, water and sanitation – community led solutions in Kenya


    May 27th, 2016

    In order to support our understanding of ‘wellbeing’ Practical Action is supporting doctoral research at University College London, Development Planning Unit. Stephanie Butcher is looking at the connections between urban services and citizenship, to support wellbeing in informal settlements.

    Stephanie Butcher is a PHD candidate at University College London’s Centre for Urban Sustainability and Resilience and Development Planning Unit. These reflections emerged as a part of a wider project conducted by the MSc Social Development Practice programme at the DPU.

    What do we mean by wellbeing?

    Wellbeing is a golden thread which weaves its way through all our work at Practical Action, but what do we mean by ‘wellbeing’?

    Critically it’s about people getting their basic material needs met. Our work in areas such as food security and access to energy and clean water, are all key to improving material wellbeing. But wellbeing is more than this. It’s about the degree of control people have over their lives and the quality of relationships within their communities. What this means for Practical Action, is that it’s not just what we do that’s important, but also how we do it as well. People participating in decisions and taking control of their own development is critical and central to the way we work.

    What innovations can address the next generation of urban water challenges?[1]

    Collecting water from a protected spring, in Kisumu, Kenya. This counts as an 'improved water source', but could still be contaminated.

    In 2015, I spent time with residents of the Kondele neighbourhood, one of the many informal settlements of Kisumu, Western Kenya. This community benefitted from an innovative type of water service delivery, called the Delegated Management Model (DMM), implemented as part Comic Relief funded work, and delivered by Practical Action under the  2008-2013 ‘People’s Plans into Practice’ programme in Kisumu, Kenya, with local partners Shelter Forum and Kisumu Urban Apostolates Programme.

    In Kisumu, the Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company (KIWASCO) agreed to begin working in informal areas, providing cheaper water to a ‘master meter’ in the settlement. The responsibility for this meter was given to a managing community group, who use a network of small pipes to deliver to individual houses or community kiosks. For the utility, this creates incentives to work in hard-to-monitor informal areas, as it no longer has to police illegal connections and leakages. For Kondele residents, both the master meter and community kiosks are new business opportunities, as water can be sold down the network at a small profit.

    What was most striking in Kondele was that the managing water meter group was linked with an elected body of representatives, called the ‘Neighborhood Planning Association’. Practical Action used participatory planning tools to support these associations in agreeing and voicing their priorities for service improvements. Practical Action’s intervention also particularly encouraged women, people with disabilities, and youth to participate as kiosk operators and in the planning association.

    Conversations with residents demonstrated a range of positive outcomes of this model.

    It helped the growth of the water network, generated employment and income opportunities for entrepreneurial residents.  It allowed for more flexible service delivery.[3]

    Residents experienced many positive contributions to their wellbeing, including perceived health benefits; greater community interaction; improved quality and quantity of water; and economic benefits from subsidised tariffs.[4]

    Yet I was also struck by how this model was working in the wider Kenyan environment, especially given the shifts towards the commoditization of services, and decentralization of service delivery.

    In Kisumu, an emphasis on cost-recovery in the Kenyan water sector meant that some of the most vulnerable residents were less likely to access the services. Master meters were most often placed in areas of higher economic potential, so that they could run as sustainable businesses. This meant they tended to be located in denser, wealthier, or roadside locations, leaving behind some of the poorer interior areas of the settlement. Tenants especially noted the rapid increase in rents with the improvement of services, creating real trade-offs in whether to live closer or farther to improved services.

    Second, while decentralization allowed for coverage in informal areas, the old risks from leaks and illegal tappings suddenly became the concern of the community group. While leaders expressed a sense of ownership, this increase in responsibility did not always come with an increase in authority. Ongoing disputes made it clear that the Kondele association did not feel they could fully hold the utility accountable in partnership agreements.

    Finally, gender aspects were improved but there’s more to be done. For many, the emphasis on women’s participation created options to participate in extra income-generating activities and water forums. However, where gaps did exist in coverage, it was still largely women and young girls that bore this burden as ‘household managers’, walking farther distances to collect from DMM sources, or squeezing household resources to pay more from private vendors.

    Some reflections on the Delegated Management Model

    1. collecting water in Kisumu 23493The DMM was possible because of a supportive policy environment in Kenya, which encouraged spaces of citizen participation.
    2. Emphasizing cost-recovery might prevent access for the most vulnerable. The location of master meters, household income, and rental status meant that not all residents benefitted equally. This suggests that some master meters might need to be placed in less economically viable areas to reach lower-income residents. Likewise, reaching agreements with landlords to maintain rental prices plays a crucial role in supporting tenants.
    3. Practical Action’s support linking the water group with the elected Neighbourhood Planning Association supported ownership and democratic practice.  This was critical. As in other neighbourhoods of Kisumu meter management has been opened to private individuals, potentially moving away from management by a community-based organisation.[5] While this is intended to stimulate competitive service delivery, there is a critical difference between the empowerment of savvy entrepreneurs, and that of an elected community body.
    4. Capacity building measures for both utility staff and community groups remain key. The experience in Kondele demonstrated the wider benefits experienced through the trainings of Practical Action’s ‘People’s Plans into Practice’.  Yet there is also still room for engagement with utility staff—and particularly in establishing clear channels of accountability
    5. Social and cultural norms continue to influence water services. This calls for further research on  the different ways water management occurs at the neighborhood and household level for women and men, addressing perceptions which reinforce identity-based inequities.

    What are your experiences? Feel free to get in touch and post comments below.

    [1] This was a key question posed by the 2015 Reducing Urban Poverty Student Paper Competition, hosted by the Wilson Centre , World Bank, Cities Alliance, and IHC global, at which I presented these reflections.

    [3] Castro and Morel 2008; Schwartz and Sanga 2010.

    [4] Frediani et al. 2013

    [5] Castro and Morel 2008.

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  • Eva’s inspirational work in Kitale


    March 17th, 2016

    Eva Nyamogo lives in Kitale in Kenya. She is a Community Mobiliser who works with her local community to improve their access to water and sanitation.

    Eva in KitaleThree years ago, Eva received training from Practical Action on good hygiene practices, solid waste management and administration and management skills. This training has changed her life as she has the power and skills to work with her community to change their lives forever.

    For the past three years, Eva has worked tirelessly to improve the conditions for her community. Before, they had no access to safe and clean drinking water. She said that people would have to walk 4 miles, every day; just to collect water from the stream, which was unclean and unsafe. People were often unwell and she explained that “they thought it was normal to be sick.”

    The community now have access to a water kiosk, which provides clean water- for a small fee – every single day. Not only this, the time they spent collecting the water put immense strain on the women who would have to carry it back. The hours it took to collect water could have been spent getting an education or starting a business.

    “I want women’s work to be easier. I want them to get a better education by reducing the time they take to collect water.”

    Women, men and children would also be forced to defecate outside because there were no toilets, but Eva has managed to change this. Not only do the community now have access to clean water, they also have a toilet block, complete with showers. Eva has been instrumental in establishing the facility, which has grown to provide a laundry washing service to the local mechanics and it even has reliable energy.

    Access to water and sanitation has completely changed life for people in Eva’s community, their health has dramatically improved because they are no longer drinking unclean water, they have a better understanding of good hygiene and they no longer have to defecate outside, which has brought dignity to the community members.

    Thanks to your support, Practical Action has been able to work with Eva to empower her and help her to transform lives. She added “When you change people’s lives, you feel happy and because of Practical Action, we now talk to the county government.”

     

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  • Nairobi’s informal water vendors: heroes or villains?


    December 30th, 2015

    Nairobi’s informal settlements are places of startling juxtaposition. Holding 60% of the city’s population on only 5% of the total land mass, they house some of the nation’s poorest citizens and immigrants at the edge of Eastern Africa’s most developed city. Change has flooded in in some respects, contrasting with persistent socio-economic divides. While almost all residents have access to a mobile phone network, for example, very few have access to clean drinking water.

    buying water in NairobiThe statistics available on poverty levels are deceptive of the economy within the informal settlements, which is highly functioning and complex. Frequent water shortages and the absence of a public water supply throughout the settlements have created a competitive market space for water vendors, many of whom sell by illegally tapping into water lines or, if they are some of the fortunate few to have a residential water connection, sell it on the side for supplementary income. In Nairobi, it is expensive to be poor. There are complaints among the residents of extortion, with many water vendors inflating prices. Those that purchase city water do so for between Ksh 18 (12p) per 1,000 litres, and resell it from Ksh 3- 10 per 20 litres.  The price rises during shortages.  This leads many to view water vendors as ‘villains’, cashing in on one of life’s most basic necessities.

    IMG_0144 (2)But are the vendors villains, or merely good business men taking advantage of an opportunity to earn income for their own daily needs? Narayan and Petesch (2007) identify informal settlements as places of “hidden and invisible battlegrounds where poor people strive to realize their aspirations”, part of a “hidden symbolic world of competing values and norms that shape what people believe and do not believe and what they perceive they can and cannot do” (13). Many water vendors are pragmatists, justifying their actions based on opportunism (I have a water source, I might as well sell it to earn a living), social coherence (other people with a water source are selling it, so I should too) or as redeemers of a broken social system (if we don’t provide water, who will?). As one vendor said, “We wouldn’t be doing this if the city just did their job. Don’t blame us; blame them (the city).”

    Within the settlements, those who posses the technology of pumps, pipes and tanks control the access to flowing water, and divide the ‘haves’ from the ‘have-nots’. But even the owners of technology have their limits; their businesses are wholly dependent on the city releasing the water supply, which only occurs 2-3 times a week in most settlements. The water sector has become a frontline for the power plays between the informal and formal and the rich and the poor, all occurring within a spatial-social divide, the remnant of colonial-era segregation.

    water vending So are informal water vendors the villains or the Robin Hoods of Nairobi’s informal settlements? They are the former, the latter, neither and both. The answer lies within one’s position within the water supply chain. That the question should even be asked signifies a failure at state level to reconcile the gross inequalities of access to life’s most basic needs, with access determined by one’s geography rather than the right to it as a human being.

    Informality and illegality is a spectrum here. The beauty and the challenge of the informal economy is that people constantly defy generalisation into neat boxes of being ‘this’ or that’. Morality battles with pragmatism, and innovation is born from human resilience in a context of deeply imbedded inequalities, injustice and corruption.

     

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  • COP21 – some progress and some unanimity


    December 9th, 2015

    It’s been a busy time at COP21 for the Kenya (and Africa) delegation. We had the African CSO’s ‘demonstration’ demands on adaptation finance – a push informed by the apparent exclusion of adaptation financing from the ADP negotiation text and the obvious lack of commitment from annex 1 countries’ commitment to adaptation.

    This was followed by a high level side event on opportunities and actions in developing countries where Prof Judy Wakhungu presented on lessons from Kenya.

    On Africa Day, A host of MP’s, Governors and senior government officials from Kenya attended and key highlights include:

    • Norway, USA and UK have signed an MoU to cooperate on private sector engagement in addressing climate change issues
    • All sectors (agriculture, water, education, transport etc.) are required to mainstream climate change and all sectoral financing is required to be climate smart.
    • There is a likely to be a financing gap on adaptation. We will need to leverage on other finance instruments to meet adaptation needs (this is still a big debate here)
    • Kenya finally passed the National Climate Change Bill last week – it is awaiting presidential assent.
    • Kenya government focus on improving forest and land use management

    So far the greatest achievement has been to pull some of the developed nations into the 1.5° C warming target and the acknowledgement of climate smart actions across all sectors is indeed a big plus.

    There is progress and (dare I say it!) some unanimity on low carbon and climate resilient development pathways at COP21.   The biggest hurdles remain clarity on climate financing instruments and mechanisms for supporting adaptation and other means of implementation.

    Africa reiterated their position for parity between Adaptation and Mitigation on Africa Day.  The demand was for operationalization of their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) through clear and binding means of implementation, technology transfer, finance and capacity building.

    Of direct importance to us is the commitment by the African Development Bank (AfDB) to prioritize renewable energy and agriculture and establish a transformational budget of at least $5 billion a year for the next five years to support implementation of the African INDC’s. There is a likelihood of great opportunities for co-investment with private sector ‘and governments’  in exploring and taking advantage of this financing instrument.

    children in school with solar lightingThere’s also a big plus in having 53 (out of 54) African countries to have submitted their INDCS  (only Libya have not).  These are expected to re-define the national development plans and more specifically sectoral investments especially in agriculture, energy, forestry, transport and infrastructure. This fits well within our Agro-ecology and renewable energy aspirations. The EAC actually gave a commitment of setting up an East Africa Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency under the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative  and modelled around such a centre within the ECOWAS.

    It was also a big day for the Adaptation Fund, with the commitment and pledges of financing from:

    • Sweden: 17 Million Euros
    • Germany: 50 Million Euros
    • Italy: 2 Million Euros
    • Belgium : 1 Million Euro

    This is a positive shot at addressing the increasing adaptation needs and enabling more effective delivery of adaptation programmes considering that the sustainable future of the Adaptation Fund is not yet assured. Next week we will be meeting under the Adaptation Fund NGO network to provide suggestions to the Board on how to make this fund more accessible and effective. The mechanisms so far in place have made it very obscure thus relegating its importance in the climate finance negotiations and commitments.

    Later today I will be attending the Green Climate Fund side event to pick on the plans for 2016 and also the AMCEN meeting to review the draft agreement text and hope to feedback tomorrow.

     

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