Category Archives: Kenya

Traditional crops puff hopes for climate resilience in Kenya

Screenshot_2020-01-09 Traditional crops puff hopes for climate resilience in Kenya
Workers wash millet to prepare it for popping in Embu, Kenya, September 9, 2019. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Wesley Langat

EMBU, Kenya,  Two years ago, Michael Gichangi launched a business he hopes will help his rural community better cope with climate change stresses: making puffed cereal from climate-hardy traditional grains.

Using a $1,000 machine he bought, he pops millet – a drought-tolerant grain, but one not as widely eaten as staple maize – and turns it into a popular snack.

Over the last two years he has sold about $1,500 worth of the popped grain, and is the first in the district to have one of the machines, he said.

“I started popping millet to produce very delicious snacks, by mixing it with groundnuts, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon powder and simsim (sesame) oil”, he said.

The combination has won particular approval from students looking for an after-school snack, he said, and is now sold at the local Embu market.

As many households in sub-Saharan Afria struggle with poverty and food insecurity, climate change is hitting harvests and making life even harder.

But finding new markets for hardy grains that can better stand up to extreme weather and changing pests, and produce a reliable harvest, can help, agricultural scientists say.

Gichangi’s effort began when he joined a women-led agribusiness group in his village and started buying and selling traditional cereals such as millet, sorghum and green gram, all more drought-resilient alternatives to maize.

Previously, maize dominated farming in the area – but that dominance is gradually declining as weather extremes linked to climate change make getting a harvest more difficult, he and others said.

Patrick Maundu, an ethnobotanist at the National Museums of Kenya and an honorary fellow with Bioversity International, an organisation that promotes agricultural biodiversity, said millet is a traditional Kenyan crop – just one that, over the years, lost ground to maize.

The change came as a result of the intense promotion of maize production by governments, research groups and multinational companies selling products in Africa, he said.

“Millet is well adapted to dry parts of Africa but has been neglected because of … key policies focused on maize, taking over indigenous cereals,” he said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

But in the recent years, wilder weather linked to climate change and the high cost of farm inputs – which farmers can struggle to pay if harvests fail – has made maize farming less reliable, particularly for small-scale farmers like those in Embu, Maundu said.

That has pushed many farmers to diversify back into drought-resistant traditional crops.

The amount of farm acreage planted with maize in Kenya has fallen by about a quarter in recent years, according to data from Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture.

Still, finding a ready market for crops like millet – and getting people to resume eating them – can be a challenge.

Gichangi, an entrepreneur and millet farmer, said he realised that the key to making the new crops pay was adding value to what was harvested – hence the popping machine.

MORE JOBS, MORE RESILIENCE?

The puffed millet, besides being tasty, has boosted employment opportunities in Embu and helped reduce food waste because it can be stored longer, he said.

Stella Gathaka 30, who formerly worked as a food vendor, is now one of four workers at Gichangi’s small factory.

She said that, besides earning a salary, her new job allows her children to eat the millet snacks, which are more nutritious than their previous snack of sweet wheat biscuits.

These days, “I’m very knowledgeable on the importance of millet as a nutritious crop,” she said.

Daniel Kirori, operations director at DK Engineering Ltd., which assembles the popping machines, said his company had sold about 15 of them so far to women’s groups and other entrepreneurs around Kenya.

According to a 2017 United Nations report on the state of food security and nutrition, climate change pressures, from worsening droughts to floods, heatwaves and storms, are a key reason about 800 million people still lack access to enough food.

Liz Young, a senior researcher with the International Food Policy Research Institute noted in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation that Africa’s farmers urgently need help to adapt to the threats and grow enough to feed the continent’s rising population.

Producing more millet and other traditional hardy crops, and finding ways to process them to produce more income, is one way of doing that, Young said.

Emily Wawira, a small-scale millet farmer in Embu who sells her produce to Gichangi, said she sells 10 to 20 sacks of grain each year, each weighing 90 kilos, and earns $25 to $30 per sack.

That income “is enough to pay school fees,” she said – and an improvement on her former loss-making maize farming.

Gichangi’s millet snacks are slowly gaining ground on traditional favourites such as sugary wheat biscuits, his sales team said.

“It wasn’t easy popularising the products,” admitted Lucy Njeru, one of Gichangi’s saleswomen – though free samples helped.

Now, however, Gichangi has partnered with four local schools and an agricultural show to offer his healthier snacks.

Anthony Sawaya, Embu County’s director of trade and chief executive of the county Investment and Development Corporation, said his office is keen to help innovators like Gichangi access markets.

The county government, for instance, is promoting local foods at nearby and international trade fair exhibitions, he said.

 

Kenya’s finance minister, top officials arrested for corruption

7F53A2FB-2375-496E-949D-49B63F12A11EHenry Rotich and his co-accused face eight charges, ranging from conspiring to defraud and financial misconduct [File:Baz Ratner/Reuters]

Kenya’s Finance Minister Henry Rotich and other treasury officials have been arrested on corruption and fraud charges related to a multimillion-dollar project to build two massive dams, police said.

Rotich, his principal secretary and the chief executive of Kenya’s environmental authority handed themselves in to the police on Monday, hours after the country’s chief prosecutor ordered the arrest and prosecution of Rotich and 27 other top officials.

“They are in custody now awaiting to be taken to court,” police chief George Kinoti told AFP news agency.

“We are looking for [the] others and they will all go to court.”

Rotich’s arrest marks the first time a sitting Kenyan minister has been arrested on corruption charges, in a country where graft is widespread. The charges against him stem from a police investigation into the misuse of funds in a dam project overseen by the Italian construction company CMC Di Ravenna.

Rotich denied any wrongdoing in a large newspaper advertisement in March. The company has also denied any wrongdoing.

Noordin Haji, Kenya’s Director of Public Prosecutions, said the finance minister and the co-accused would face eight charges, ranging from conspiring to defraud and financial misconduct.

“They broke the law on public finance management under the guise of carrying out legitimate commercial transactions, colossal amounts were unjustifiably and illegally paid out through a well-choreographed scheme by government officers in collusion with private individuals and institutions,” Haji told a news conference earlier on Monday.

‘Nothing to worry about’

According to the contract, the project was to cost a total of $450m, but the treasury had increased this amount by $164m “without regard to performance or works”, he said.

Some $180m has already been paid out, with little construction to show for it.

Another $6m was paid out for the resettlement of people living in areas that would be affected by the project, but there is no evidence of land being acquired for this, he said.

“I am satisfied that economic crimes were committed and I have therefore approved their arrests and prosecutions,” said Haji.

Rotich’s arrest will send shockwaves through the political elite, who are accustomed to corruption scandals resulting in little official action.

Earlier this year, the finance minister’s questioning by police provoked an angry reaction among politicians from his powerful Kalenjin ethnic group.

Rotich’s arrest may also be seen as further evidence of growing distance between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto. Ruto had requested Rotich’s appointment.

On Monday, Ruto’s allies played down the charges.

“There is nothing to worry about. Relax,” Kipchumba Murkomen, the senate majority leader and a Ruto ally, told reporters.

Many charged, few convicted

Critics have accused Kenyatta, who was re-elected for a second term last year, of failing to deal with corruption despite his promises to do so.

“We’ve seen the president coming out very strongly over the years saying he wants to make this issue a priority, he wants to leave behind a corrupt-free country, but a lot of Kenyans are disappointed,” Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi said, reporting from Samburu County in Kenya.

“Over the years we’ve seen major scandals involving public money, millions of dollars, involving public figures as well … arrests have been made. But then people are saying that beyond that nothing happens, they have not seen any convictions,  those who are found culpable haven’t seen their assets frozen, or their money returned to taxpayers,” she said.

“Thirty percent of government expenditure is lost to corruption and mismanagement .. a lot of Kenyans are saying that they need the president to do more if this fight against corruption is to be won.”

Rotich’s arrest was a “significant” step on a very long road, said Samuel Kimeu, the head of Kenya’s chapter of Transparency International.

But he added: “I would not be celebrating arrests. We need to see people in jail and we need to see what has been stolen recovered.”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/07/kenya-finance-minister-top-officials-arrested-corruption-190722103920663.html

 

Kenya teacher from remote village crowned world’s best, wins $1m

Teacher photoPeter Tabichi gives away 80 percent of his salary to support poor students [Jon Gambrell/AP]

A maths and physics teacher from a secondary school in a remote village in Kenya’s Rift Valley has won the $1m Global Teacher Prize for 2019, organisers have said.

Peter Tabichi, who is giving away 80 percent of his salary to support poor students, received the prize at a ceremony on Saturday in Dubai, hosted by Hollywood star Hugh Jackman.

“Every day in Africa we turn a new page and a new chapter … This prize does not recognise me but recognises this great continent’s young people. I am only here because of what my students have achieved,” Tabichi said.

“This prize gives them a chance. It tells the world that they can do anything,” he added after beating nine finalists from around the world to claim the award.

The Dubai-based Varkey Foundation, which organises the event and handed out the prize for the fifth time, praised Tabichi’s “dedication, hard work and passionate belief in his students’ talent”.

All this combined, it said in a statement, “has led his poorly-resource school in remote rural Kenya to emerge victorious after taking on the country’s best schools in national science competitions”.

Tabichi, 36, teaches at the Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani village, in a remote, semi-arid part of Kenya’s Rift Valley, where drought and famine are frequent.

Around 95 percent of the school’s pupils “hail from poor families, almost a third are orphans or have only one parent, and many go without food at home,” the statement added.

“Drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, dropping out early from school, young marriages and suicide are common,” the statement read.

To get to school, some students have to walk 7km along roads that become impassable during the rainy season.

The school, with a student-teacher ratio of 58 to 1, has only one desktop computer for the pupils and poor internet, but despite that Tabichi “uses ICT in 80 percent of his lessons to engage students”, the foundation said.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta congratulated Tabichi in a video message, saying “your story is the story of Africa, a young continent bursting with talent”.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/kenya-teacher-remote-village-crowned-world-wins-1m-190325054958871.html

The Adolescent Girl Holds the Key to Kenya’s Economic Transformation and Prosperity

Kenya photo
Dr Natalia Kanem, Chief of UNFPA, “We are steadfastly committed to our three goals: Zero preventable maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning, and the elimination of harmful practices including violence that affect women and girls”. Credit: UNFPA Tanzania

By Siddharth Chatterjee

NAIROBI, Kenya, Teenage pregnancy in Kenya is a crisis of hope, education and opportunity.

The New Year has begun. Can 2019 be a year of affirmative action to ensure hope and opportunity for Kenya’s adolescent girl?

Consider this. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says that when a young adolescent girl is not married during her childhood, is not forced to leave school nor exposed to pregnancies, when she is not high risk of illness and death nor suffering maternal morbidities, when she is not exposed to informal work, insecurity and displacement; and is not drawn into an insecure old age-she becomes an asset for a country’s potential to seize the demographic dividend.

So what is the demographic dividend?

It means when a household has fewer children that they need to take care of, and a larger number of people have decent jobs, the household can save and invest more money. Better nutrition, education and opportunities and more disposable income at the household level. When this happens on a large scale, economies can benefit from a boost of economic growth.

One of the goals of development policies is to create an environment for rapid economic growth. The economic successes of the “Asian Tigers” during the 1960s and 1970s have led to a comprehensive way of thinking about how different sectors can work together to make this growth a reality. This helps explain the experience of some countries in Asia, and later successes in Latin America, and optimism for improving the economic well-being of countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Republic of Korea is the classic example of how its gross domestic product (GDP) grew over 2,000 percent by investing in voluntary family planning coupled with educating the population and preparing them for the types of jobs that were going to be available.

With over 70% of Kenya’s population less than 30 years of age, the country’s favorable demographic ratios could unlock a potential source of demand and growth, Kenya is currently in a “sweet spot”. Fertility levels are declining gradually and Kenyans are living longer. There is reason for optimism that Kenya can benefit from a demographic dividend within 15 to 20 years. It is estimated that its working age population will grow to 73 per cent by 2050, bolstering the country’s GDP per capita 12 times higher than the present, with nearly 90 percent of the working age in employment.

The key to harnessing the demographic dividend is enabling young people and adolescent girls in particular, to enjoy their human rights and achieve their full human potential. Every girl must be empowered, educated and given opportunities for employment, and above all is able to plan her future family, this is the very essence of reaping a demographic dividend.

Each extra year a girl stays in high school, for example, delivers an 11.6 per cent increase in her average annual wage for the rest of her life.

The UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem has said: “We are steadfastly committed to our three goals: Zero preventable maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning, and the elimination of harmful practices including violence that affect women and girls”.

So what can be done?

First, end all practices that harm girls. This means, for example, enforcing laws that end female genital mutilations and child marriage.

Second, enable girls to stay in school, at least through high school. Studies have shown the longer a girl stays in school, the less likely she is to become pregnant as an adolescent and the more likely to grow up healthy and join the paid labour force.

Third, reach the marginalized and impoverished girls who have traditionally been left behind.

Forth, make sure girls, before they reach puberty, have access to information about their bodies. Later in adolescence, they need information and services to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Finally, take steps to protect girls’ – and everyone’s – rights.

As we countdown to 2019, let us prioritize the development of every girl’s full human potential. Our collective future depends on it. We must do everything in our power to ignite that potential-for her sake and for the sake of human development and humanity.
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/adolescent-girl-holds-key-kenyas-economic-transformation-prosperity/

Deadly flash floods hit east African countries already in dire need

by Samuel Okiror
The Guardian – Global Development
May 8 2018

In Kenya, Rwanda and Somalia death toll reaches 300, with hundreds of thousands more people displaced, adding to crisis in region stricken by drought…

East Africa - Kenya-Rwanda-Somalia Flash Flooding
Floodwaters in the coastal Tana Delta region of Kenya. Torrential rains have caused severe flooding across 32 of the country’s 47 counties. Photograph: Andrew Kasuku/AFP/Getty Images

Heavy rains and severe flash floods have left more than 300 people dead and displaced thousands of others across parts of east Africa, with Kenya and Rwanda being the worst hit.

“We are concerned about the flooding that has displaced so many people in Somalia, Kenya and Rwanda,” said Farhan Aziz Haq, deputy spokesman for the UN secretary general in a statement to the Guardian.

“Our hearts go out to all the people who have been harmed by the rains and flash floods,” he said.

In Kenya ongoing torrential rains have damaged infrastructure, preventing or limiting humanitarian access to many of the affected areas and cutting off people’s access to markets in several places.

“Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that heavy rainfall in Kenya has caused severe flooding in at least 32 counties, out of 47, across the country. An estimated 100 people have lost their lives and 260,000 others have been displaced,” said Haq.

Euloge Ishimwe, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said it is a “double jeopardy” for the affected communities, as many of them are already struggling to recover from the devastating drought in 2017, after which more than 2.6 million Kenyans were in urgent need of food aid.

“The livelihoods and resilience of the affected communities had already been weakened… With the flooding, we are worried that these communities will be further rendered more vulnerable.”

The extreme weather has compounded a cholera outbreak in the country as well as an epidemic of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus, and is increasing the risk of large-scale outbreaks.

The number of cholera cases reported since the beginning of 2018 stands at 2,943, with 55 deaths, according to the UN’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Unocha).

In a statement, Unocha said education and health facilities have been damaged in the flooding, and the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) said roads and train lines had been destroyed. Extensive damages and losses have been reported to fields and livestock, with at least 8,700 hectares (21,5000) acres of farmland destroyed and more than 19,000 animals killed.

Continue Reading: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/may/08/deadly-flash-floods-east-africa-dire-need-kenya-rwanda-somalia

 

Kenya’s opposition leader vows court challenge over election loss

KENYA-ELECTION-opp leader 2017
Opposition leader Raila Odinga arrives at a news conference in Nairobi on Wednesday. (Thomas Mukoya/Reuters)

By Kevin Sieff
The Washington Post

August 16 at 10:30 AM  | NAIROBI — Kenya’s opposition leader doubled down Wednesday on his claim that this month’s presidential election was rigged in favor of President Uhuru Kenyatta, saying he would take his allegations of fraud to the country’s supreme court.

Raila Odinga, 72, lost to his longtime rival Kenyatta in the Aug. 8 vote, according to the official results, but Odinga has refused to concede after his fourth electoral loss. His followers took to the streets in the wake of the official announcement, and more than 20 people have been killed in clashes with police.

Odinga amplified his charges Wednesday, saying that the country’s election commission carried out widespread fraud bigger than in “any democratic election, anywhere in the world.” He told his supporters that he would take his case to Kenya’s supreme court.

“For the third time in a decade, the candidate who lost the election has been declared the president,” Odinga said. He has not shown any evidence of fraud.

Odinga said his supporters “won’t accept it until they have answers to the disturbing questions that have been raised.”

In a news conference, Odinga encouraged continued opposition to the election results and Kenyatta’s presidency, saying those who accept the outcome are “prepared to live under autocracy.”

Kenya is the wealthiest country in East Africa and has emerged as a pillar of stability in a fragile region, which includes war-torn neighbors Somalia and South Sudan. But Kenya remains riven by tribal rivalries that come to a head in every election cycle, largely between Kenyatta’s Kikuyu tribe and Odinga’s fellow Luos.

That rift predates the country’s independence in 1963, and some worry that Odinga’s refusal to concede will further complicate reconciliation efforts. In his reelection speech, Kenyatta urged the nation to “remember that we are brothers and sisters.”

But in the wake of the 2007 elections, the International Criminal Court accused Kenyatta of fostering the wave of ethnic violence that left more than 1,000 people dead. Those charges were later dropped for lack of evidence. In his first term, however, Kenyatta did little to assuage tribal tensions, leaving many of Odinga’s supporters feeling excluded and angry.

When Kenyatta was declared the winner last Friday, some young men set fire to tires in the streets of Nairobi slums and threw rocks at police. The Kenya National Human Rights Commission accused security forces of using “excessive force which is unlawful and unacceptable” against demonstrators.

Although international election monitors said last week that they saw no sign of rigging or manipulation, Kenya’s election commission has not published the official result forms online, fueling speculation among Odinga’s supporters that the panel is covering up some form of fraud.

On Wednesday, the European Union called for the release of those forms, saying in a statement that they “would enable all stakeholders to examine the accuracy of the announced results and point to any possible anomalies.”

Meanwhile, Kenyan tax authorities attempted to raid the office of the Africa Center for Open Governance, a nongovernment group that was critical of election preparations. Officials had said that the open governance organization and the Kenya National Human Rights Commission were being suspended for not formally registering with the government. But within hours, the Interior Ministry reversed that suspension.

In a letter, the ministry said it would give the two groups 90 days to resolve “any outstanding noncompliance issues,” without specifying what those issues were.

Michelle Kagari, deputy director of Amnesty International for the region including Kenya, called the suspensions “a cynical attempt to discredit human rights organizations.”

But after a week of paralysis, with businesses closed and streets empty, Nairobi had come back to life. On television, tourism officials said reservations were steady. Traffic jams had returned to the city center. Even in Kibera, the sprawling slum where much of last week’s violence occurred, Odinga supporters said they were ready to move on. Packed minibuses streaked through the slum’s main arteries.

“We just want our lives to go back to normal,” said David Kinara, 60, an Odinga supporter and a Kibera resident. “There is nothing much we can do.”

“Life has to go on because if it does not, everyone is vulnerable,” said Owino Kotieno, another Odinga supporter and Kibera resident. “You are vulnerable from police brutality and hooligans.”

In 2013, Odinga also claimed that the election was rigged and took his case to the supreme court. After several months, he lost his case.


Rael Ombuor contributed to this report.

 

Conference on Women and Migration in the African Context: An Informative and challenging experience

By Elizabeth Chinamo, SNDdeN

Elizabeth Chinamo-1
Sister Elizabeth Chinamo, SNDdeN

I was privileged to have participated in a two-day conference on women and migration in Africa, held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 6-8 June. The conference was sponsored by six Catholic Religious Congregations, accredited as non-governmental organizations to the United Nations. Over 90 participants from about 10 African countries attended the conference. Some of the participants were currently engaged in work with migrants, some were migrants, while others were interested in learning more about migration issues. Seven Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur from Kenya, Congo-Kinshasa and Zimbabwe/South Africa provinces participated in the conference. Sister Joan Burke, SNDdeN (Kenya) was among the local organizing team. I personally found this conference both informative and challenging.

We had input from representatives from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, International Organization for Migration, Kenyan Government, Kenyan Bishop Conference, and other organizations and individuals (including refugees and migrants). It was moving to hear from refugees who are now volunteers. I was also very impressed to hear the delegate from the Kenyan Government commend the efforts of Catholic Religious women and men in providing services to migrants and refugees, and their work against human trafficking. He expressed the interest of the government collaborating with them in future.

Elizabeth Chinamo-2Input from the different presenters stimulated discussions among participants on issues such as providing adequate protection to migrants and refugees, victims of human trafficking, as well as addressing some of those factors that force people to migrate. During the conference, we went into working groups and worked on different topics for example: environment and migration, migration and public health, human trafficking, and advocacy. I joined 24 other participants to form a group centered on “Countering Trafficking in Person.” The group came up with a 7-Point Action Plan through which we were challenged to continue to work on, within our networks, as we return to our respective countries or regions.

Read more: About the Nairobi Conference.  [ http://nairobi2017.weebly.com/ ]

Reprinted with permission from SND at UN Newsletter, July 2017. Download:  SNDatUN NewsBrief July 2017