“Merry-go-round” Micro-Finance keeps Kibera Residents Fed

Posted on 20 April 2010. Filed under: Economy, Microfinance |

CARE Kenya official Pauline Muhonja (left) with members of Msingi Bora when the group met on 10 April to collect contributions and disburse loans to members

Josephine Awuor, 34, always looks forward to her turn to receive “merry-go-round” contributions from fellow members of Msingi Bora (Good Foundation), a micro-finance group she belongs to in Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum.

Meeting weekly, the 23 Msingi Bora members each contribute 50 shillings (60 US cents), which is pooled for members to take loans from. At each meeting, the members also contribute 20 shillings (26 US cents) each – to be given to one member in what they term their “merry-go-round” as they draw lots to determine the order of receiving the money.

“Numbers are written on small pieces of paper and folded and each member picks one; the number you get determines your position in the order of receiving the merry-go-round money,” Awuor said. “Previously, supporting myself and my four children was really difficult; things like school fees, food and rent were hard to get but since I joined Msingi Bora, things are looking up,” Josephine said.

Without a steady income – she mostly survives by doing casual labour in more affluent residential areas neighbouring Kibera – Awuor uses the merry-go-round money to buy food and other household items.

Loans from Msingi Bora, which range from 500 shillings ($6.5) upwards, have enabled Awuor, a single mother of four, to put her children in school. Her eldest child is due to sit the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education this year and another one is in class eight, due to sit the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education at the end of the year.


With the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of people who live in Kibera lacking any kind of formal banking facilities, micro-finance groups such as Msingi Bora fill the gap, providing members with credit they would otherwise not have access to.

While some groups are initiated and established by the slum dwellers on their own, some groups, such as Msingi Bora, have the backing of national and international organizations that provide training and psychosocial support.

CARE International, through a community-based organization known as the Kibera Slum Education Programme, supports Msingi Bora and dozens of other such groups by providing training, capacity-building, resource mobilization as well as sub-granting for projects such as the education and care of orphaned and vulnerable children.

Helene Gayle, president and chief executive officer of CARE USA, when she visited Kibera on 10 April 2010

“CARE has found that the answer is not necessarily to bring banks or microfinance institutions to the poor, but instead enable and empower poor women to set up informal saving and loan groups,” Helene Gayle, the president and chief executive officer of CARE USA, said on 10 April during a visit to Kibera.

According to CARE, members of its Village Savings and Loan Associations receive intensive money management training before their groups begin transacting loan operations. Most members of these groups are women, often earning less than $2 a day.

Gayle said the savings and loans projects give women in slums economic options they often lack and enable them to afford health care, take their children to school and put food on the table.

“Although such village savings and loan programmes help to make a difference in the lives of women and children, there is room for improvement as more and more people should have access to such programmes in order to have an even greater impact,” she said. “The projects in Kibera illustrate that we can really make a difference in peoples’ lives.”

CARE also supports economic empowerment self-help groups – comprising male and female members – such as the Haki Self Help Group that operates from the Kibera Hawkers Market, making ornaments from bones.

Turning waste into profit

“We have turned waste into profit by working with the bones discarded after meals; we work with cow, camel and goat bones to make a lot of beautiful ornaments such as necklaces and bangles,” Charles Ogutu, head of the Haki Self Help Group, told IRIN on 10 April. “Our main challenge is the market for our produce; we have contacts with traders who come and buy from us and later resell on the tourist markets, but sometimes their orders are not enough.”

Ogutu said the proceeds from the project are used for members’ economic empowerment as well as the group’s community projects, which include care-giving to orphaned and vulnerable children and a justice programme aimed at community reconciliation in the aftermath of the post-election violence that hit the slum in early 2008.

Lauren Hendricks, the executive director for CARE’s Access Africa, told IRIN that since 1991, CARE has had savings and loans programmes in 21 countries, reaching 1.6 million people.

“Over this period, there has been significant improvement in household economy for those involved in the savings and loan programmes,” Hendricks said. “As you know, one of the underlying causes of poor maternal health is lack of income for many women; we can combine group savings and loan programmes with others such as education so that we use resources more efficiently.”

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Tree planting in Kenya’s Mau Complex Signals New Beginnings for a Critical Ecosystem

Posted on 18 January 2010. Filed under: Development, Economy, Environment |

Nairobi, 15January 2010 – Kenya took a step to restore its diminishing water towers and address rapid environmental degradation when it launched a tree planting drive in the Kiptunga area of the Mau Forest Complex on Friday.

20,000 tree seedlings were planted on 20 hectares at a ceremony attended by Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Deputy Executive Director, Angela Cropper.

Mau, the largest indigenous forest in East Africa and Kenya’s most vital water tower, covers some 270,000 hectares. After Mau, restoration will also take place in Mt. Kenya, Aberdares, Mt. Elgon and the rest of Kenya’s forests and water catchment areas with the aim of increasing the forest cover from the current 1.7 percent to 10 percent by the year 2020.

In partnership with the government and other stakeholders, including Kenyan NGOs, UNEP has assisted in chronicling and raising awareness about the damage and the degradation of East Africa’s largest closed-canopy forest.

Over the last two decades, the Mau Complex has lost around 107,000 hectares – approximately 25% – of its forest cover, which has had devastating effects on the country as a whole; including severe droughts and floods, leading to loss of human lives and livelihoods, crops and thousands of head of livestock.

UNEP’s contribution to the national debate that has surrounded the Mau has been based on science and the economics, and in 2009 it appointed an expert to provide technical advice to a government-led Mau task force.

One of the findings of this task force was that continued destruction of the forests will inevitably lead to a water crisis of national and regional proportions that extend far beyond the Kenyan borders.

The impetus to restore the Mau is particularly strong this year, as the world marks the International Year of Biodiversity.

So far, the international community has failed to reverse the rate of loss of biodiversity. Economies everywhere continue to dismantle the productive life-support systems of planet Earth.

The latest estimates by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study, which UNEP hosts, estimates that up to US$5 trillion-worth of natural or nature-based capital is being lost annually.

However, through Friday’s tree-planting initiative, the Mau is emerging as a possible inspiring example of how the tide can still be turned in favour of biodiversity and sustainable ecosystem management.

After planting a Kaligen Berekeiyet tree at the ceremony, UNEP Deputy Executive Director Angela Cropper said: “These first saplings, planted in the soils of Kenya, speak of new shoots and new beginnings. New beginnings for a critical ecosystem: new beginnings for the people of Kenya who depend inextricably on the services that the Mau forest complex generates.”

UNEP Spokesman Nick Nuttall planted a Podocarpus tree at the event, declaring: “This is the first tree I have planted, ever. It shows that even at 51, it is never too late.”

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What is Behind the Mau Complex Controversy?

Posted on 1 October 2009. Filed under: Economy, Environment, Food Security |

Photo: Jane Some/IRIN
Over the past two decades, the Mau complex has lost at least 107,000ha of forest cover due to irregular and unplanned settlements, logging and charcoal burning, as well as increased agriculture (file photo)

The continued degradation of the Mau complex – Kenya’s largest water catchment area – threatening everything from the spectacular annual migration of the wildebeest to pastoralism, agriculture and hydro-power generation, has dominated public debate for the better part of 2009. The government’s plan to evict the illegal settlers has added to the controversy.

The threat posed by the continued depletion of the Mau complex ties in with the increasing concerns, on a global level, over loss of bio-diversity, increased carbon dioxide emissions as a result of forest cover loss, and poor soil and water resources.

However, while climate change could be a major contributor to the current crisis in the Mau complex, the destruction of the forests has reduced the ability of the Mau eco-system to absorb or reduce the impact of climate change, increasing the vulnerability of the people to changing weather patterns.

We look at some of the issues surrounding the country’s largest closed-canopy forest eco-system:

Where is the Mau Complex?

Mainly in the Rift Valley Province, the Mau is one of the country’s five major water towers; it forms the upper catchment of the main rivers west of the province. The rivers are: Njoro and Makalia (these drain into Lake Nakuru), Sondu, Yala, Nzoia and Nyando (draining into Lake Victoria) and the Ewaso Nyiro, Kerio and Mara rivers.

The complex supplies water to many lakes in the Rift Valley, from Lake Turkana in the northwest to Lake Natron in neighbouring Tanzania – the only regular breeding site for millions of flamingos.

Historically, it is home to a minority group of indigenous forest dwellers, the Ogiek.

What is the size of the Mau complex?

It covers at least 400,000ha – as large as the forests of the Aberdares and Mt Kenya combined.

Over the past two decades, the complex has lost at least 107,000ha of forest cover due to irregular and unplanned settlements, logging and charcoal burning, as well as increased agriculture.

Photo: go2africa
The Mau Complex is in the Rift Valley Province

What is at stake if degradation of the complex continues?

The importance of the complex lies in the eco-system service it provides to the country and East Africa as a whole, including river flow regulation, flood mitigation, water storage, reduced soil erosion, bio-diversity, carbon sequestration, carbon reservoir and micro-climate regulation.

The area contributes to the water supply to urban areas and supports the livelihood of millions of people in rural areas but the widespread irregular and poorly planned settlement and illegal forest resource extraction have affected the ecosystem, from water supply for commercial and domestic use to hydro-electric power generation, tourism and agriculture.

Moreover, experts have warned that continued destruction of the complex will lead to a water crisis that could extend beyond the country’s borders.

According to a September 2009 report by the government’s Interim Coordinating Secretariat for the Mau Forest Complex on the rehabilitation of the Mau Forest Ecosystem, if encroachment and unsustainable exploitation of the eco-system continue, damage could be irreversible, with serious ecological consequences and ramifications for internal security.

When did degradation of the complex begin?

Originally divided into 22 blocks, the real devastation of the complex began in 1997 when the government allocated large plots of land to individuals in what was seen as a political bid to win votes during the general elections that year. The present government has said all land allocations in the late 1990s are illegal and wants to evict the occupants.

What is controversial about the Mau?

The government and conservationists agree that quick action needs to be taken to stop the continued destruction of the complex but Rift Valley politicians are divided over the eviction of those deemed to be illegally settled in the complex. Sections of government want the Mau settlers evicted without compensation while most MPs from the province insist they must be fully compensated.

Already, cases of intimidation have been reported in areas surrounding the forest while conflict over water points, pasture and land has been on the rise in recent months.

How many people would be affected by the government’s planned evictions?

An estimated 50,000 people are expected to be moved out of the forest once the government begins to execute its plan to save the area. Humanitarian agencies estimate up to 500,000 people could be displaced should violence follow.

Already, there are reports of communities living in the Mau arming themselves.

Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
A camp for the displaced: Humanitarian agencies estimate up to 500,000 people could be displaced should violence follow the eviction of people who have settled in the Mau complex (file photo)

What is being done to save the complex?

On 9 September 2009, the UN Environment Programme and Kenyan government launched a US$400 million appeal to save the complex, aimed at raising funds for its rehabilitation.

“The Mau complex is of critical importance for sustaining current and future ecological, social and economic development in Kenya. The rehabilitation of the eco-system will require substantial resources and political goodwill. UNEP is privileged to work in partnership with the Government of Kenya towards the implementation of this vital project,” Achim Steiner, the UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said during the launch.

What will it take to reverse the destruction of the complex?

The restoration of the Mau is a strategic priority that requires substantial resources and political will.

On 4 September, Prime Minister Raila Odinga launched an interim secretariat to co-ordinate the implementation of a multi-stakeholder taskforce’s recommendations on the rehabilitation of the complex.

The recommendations include fencing off the area, as well as relocating individuals living in the forest.

A 10-point intervention plan was identified by the 11-member secretariat to implement the recommendations of the Mau Forest Task Force for immediate and medium-term action.

The Ministry of Lands
The Prime Minister’s Office
The African Conservation Fund

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Dial M for Cash

Posted on 5 August 2008. Filed under: Development, Economy, MDGs, Microfinance |

Photo: Anne Ejakait/Concern Worldwide
Mobile phones are increasingly being used in delivering aid

NAIROBI, 4 August 2008 (IRIN) – Hard-pressed to find efficient ways of delivering aid, humanitarian agencies are turning to new technologies.

One such innovation involves mobile phones to send cash. One such project was piloted in Baringo North and Pokot East Districts of Kenya’s Rift Valley Province during post-election violence this year.

“They [local residents] were exposed to cattle rustling after security was withdrawn to deal with the post-election violence,” said Anne O’Mahony, Kenya country director for the NGO Concern Worldwide. “There were also high levels of poverty in the area after the conflict.”

The target beneficiaries selected by the community from among the most vulnerable, were women who would receive fortnightly cash transfers of KSh320 (US$4.70) per household member via short message service (SMS).

The service used a mobile cash transfer service, known as M-Pesa (mobile money), which is a joint venture between multinational giant Vodafone and Kenya’s largest mobile phone company and Vodafone affiliate Safaricom, and allows cash to be sent over the Safaricom network.

Safaricom set up Concern as a corporate user to allow for bulk transfers to the targeted beneficiaries. Normally, M-Pesa is designed for one-on-one cash transfers with a maximum transfer limit of 35,000 shillings (about $583) per transaction.

However, most potential beneficiaries were illiterate or did not have the identification documents required to collect the cash. The targeted households were, therefore, clustered into groups of about 10. Members would nominate one literate person as leader to collect the money on behalf of the group, O’Mahony said.

Market access

Of the 571 targeted households, 225 (39 percent) owned a phone. Concern provided 45 handsets to enable the clusters to share one handset between them, along with 60 solar chargers.

At the same time, Safaricom organised agents from the nearest towns of Iten or Eldoret to travel to the local Kinyach police station, which was selected as the money distribution point. The Safaricom agents were available to disperse the cash on local market days.

“This system enabled the beneficiaries to get easy access to the cash and they could buy necessary food immediately,” O’Mahony said. The cash was supposed to meet at least 50 percent of household food requirements.

Photo: Anne Ejakait/Concern Worldwide
Residents upon receipt of their money at the Kinyach Police post.

“We thought the best way of getting effective aid to these people was cash,” she said. “If the markets work, there is no point in us buying goods, taking them to the area and distributing them – we might not get the type of goods required right and there are also issues to do with trucking food … Cash made much more sense.”

In the past, O’Mahony added, Concern had bought food in Eldoret town but found it was 18 percent cheaper to give people money to buy what they needed.

“These people are mobile so they can go wherever they can get cheap food and the mobiles reduced their isolation,” she said. “If there is money the food will come … merchants will come. People suffer because they can’t buy.”

Panuel Luker, one of the beneficiaries, said the wider availability of mobile phones had also improved communication in another way: they were useful for warnings about cattle rustling.

O’Mahony said there were plans to scale up the project to reach at least 16,200 vulnerable families, depending on funding.

In future, the ratio of mobiles to families would also be increased, along with the development of a way to deal with lost SIM cards. “We found that one mobile phone per large group of people is not enough, we will need to get more phones,” she said.


“Most of the projects that have used the mobile-phone technology have been small in scale and preliminary probably due the high costs of developing and deploying mobile technologies,” according to a 2008 report by the UN Foundation–Vodafone Group Foundation Partnership, titled ‘Wireless Technology for Social Change: Trends in NGO Mobile Use’.

An evaluation of the Concern project, however, found that M-Pesa was better than food distributions, “provided the difference between wholesale and retail prices is within a certain range, local food markets are actually functioning and that the cash transfer programme is long enough to justify the costs of the equipment (phones, chargers etc.)”.

Qualitative evidence indicated that about 70 percent of the transfer was spent on food, with the remainder going on transport and other non-food essentials.

According to the evaluation, inflation and early warning data on food prices should be considered when deciding on cash transfer values as food prices rose during the Kenya pilot programme.

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Mau Forest Destruction Will Cost the Kenya Economy US$300M

Posted on 19 July 2008. Filed under: Economy, Environment |

Protecting Mau Forest in Kenya’s Economic Interest

Nairobi, 17 July 2008-Kenya stands to lose a nature-based economic asset worth over US $300 million alone to the tea, tourism and energy sectors if the forest of the Mau Complex continues to be degraded and destroyed, the UN Environment Programme said today.

The Prime Minister of Kenya, Raila Odinga, announced this week that the Kenyan government is taking steps to combat the destruction of the largest forest ecosystem in Kenya.

The Mau Complex is not only an asset of national importance that supports key economic sectors in Rift Valley and western Kenya, including energy, tourism, agriculture and water supply, but it is also the single most important water catchment in the Rift Valley and western Kenya.

“For the past few years UNEP has been documenting for the Kenyan Government and the people of Kenya the continued destruction and erosion of this vital ecosystem. It has reached a point where if no measures are taken, Kenya will lose one of its fundamental assets,” warned Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director.

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister convened a multi-stakeholder forum to collect information to determine a way forward for protection of the Mau Complex.

“The excisions and the widespread encroachments have led to the destruction of nearly a quarter the Mau Complex area over the last 15 years. Such an extensive and on-going destruction of a key natural asset for the country is nothing less than a national emergency,” said the Kenya Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

The forum highlighted the need to restore the forest of the Mau Complex. Based on the forum discussions, a high-level task force was established to address encroachments into the forests. A new enforcement structure will also be set-up to tackle rampant illegal logging and charcoal making in the Mau Complex.

“We are looking at restoring the largest ‘water tower’ of this country and all the services it provides to the nation. We are looking at securing the livelihood’s of millions of people who depend directly and indirectly on the Mau Forests Complex,” said the Prime Minister.

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New Kenya Law Could Raise Food Prices Further

Posted on 8 July 2008. Filed under: Economy, Food Security, Governance |

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Some of the products, with the standardization mark, on a supermarket shelf

NAIROBI, 4 July 2008 (IRIN) – Prices of food in Kenya, which have already risen by 50 percent since the start of 2008, could increase further following a new government regulation, a consumer watch group has warned.

From October, all food products sold in Kenya will have to bear an approval mark from the country’s bureau of standards (KEBS), which will charge a fee for this service.

“Manufacturers and producers, who have a turnover of below 200,000 shillings [US$3,125] each year, will pay 5,000 shillings [$78]. Those with a turnover of 200,000-500,000shillings [$7,812] will pay 10,000 shillings [$156],” John Abongs, the general manager of quality assurance at KEBS, told IRIN.

“Producers will be forced to pay higher prices to bring their products to the market,” Su Kahumbu, the coordinator of Consumer-Watch Kenya and an organic farmer, said on 1 July.

“The regulation does not take into account the impact on producers, particularly small scale producers, or the consumers who are the end-users of the products,” she added.

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Su Kahumbu, the coordinator of Consumer Watch Kenya

Kahumbu said the fees were too high for small-scale producers. “It should be free for them to acquire the mark, we [farmers] are already paying taxes through the nose”.

She added that the regulation could force some small-scale entrepreneurs out of business.

“This regulation will definitely increase food prices,” Eustace Kiarie, the national coordinator for the Kenya Organic Agricultural organization (KOAN) said. “Most producers are likely to factor in the costs of paying for the regulation when pricing their goods.”

Kiarie said even the lower fee for small-scale producers was too high, especially for those with more than one product line, “if I produce five different flavours of yoghurt, I will have to pay 5,000 for each flavour, that is 25,000 shillings [$390] in total. It’s not fair”.

Adan Ramata, a branch manager of a leading supermarket in the country, said some of the small-scale producers would have to withdraw their products from the shelves if they did not have the mark.

“It is an additional expense to them and it will be eating on the little they get,” Ramata told IRIN.

KEBS has warned supermarkets that they could face legal action if they sell products without the mark, Ramata said.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) had originally opposed the regulation, saying the first deadline for compliance, July 1, was too soon. A recent meeting between the association and KEBS officials led to the deadline being extended to 30 September.

Kahumbu complained that small-scale producers, who have no representative association, were not present at this meeting. She said the government’s intent to ensure quality goods in the market was laudable, but insisted should have consulted all stakeholders first.

However, some manufacturers support the new regulation.

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Janet Abilla, senior trade development officer, Ministry of Trade

“I think it’s practical. It’s time we got rid of substandard goods in the market,” Anthony Maina an official with a local beverage company, told IRIN in a telephone interview.

Janet Abilla, an official in the ministry of trade, said the government had not yet come up with a solution to the demands of small-scale producers, but that it was looking into the matter.


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Regional Budgets Expect to Ease Food Crisis

Posted on 13 June 2008. Filed under: Economy, Governance, Lifestyle, MDGs |

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
A woman sells potatoes in a city market, Nairobi

EAST AFRICA, 13 June 2008 (IRIN) – Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, in their budget proposals for the 2008-2009 financial year, announced measures to cushion their populations against soaring food prices.

“The government has zero-rated VAT [Value Added Tax] on wheat flour, milk, and maize flour,” Amos Kimunya, the Kenyan finance minister, said during the reading of the budget in Nairobi on 12 June. The budget was read concurrently with those of Uganda and Tanzania.

Kimunya said he would also be proposing to remove tax on bread and rice while reducing the import duty on wheat to 10 percent from 35.

The Kenyan government, he said, would also allow for the tax free importation of maize so as to boost the country’s strategic grain reserve to eight million bags. “This would help dampen the pressure on maize prices.”

Post election violence that especially affected the fertile Rift Valley region early in the year led to a reduced maize harvest. Additional funding had also been allocated for the resettlement of internally displaced persons.

Regional fertilizer factory?

Discussions are under way with Uganda and Tanzania on setting up a regional fertilizer factory to offset high costs and ensure long-term sustainable supplies, he said.

The cost of fertilizer has almost tripled in Kenya since the beginning of 2008.

Further provisions will be made to give farmers access to affordable credit. At least 25,000 farmers have benefited from 3 billion shillings (US$48 million) provided under an existing seasonal credit loans scheme, Kimunya said.

Other proposals included the scaling up of agricultural extension facilities for farmers, at a cost of 744 million ($12 million) along with the expansion of the wholesale fresh product infrastructure to promote business and increase agricultural productivity.

“If the prices of basic commodities such as sugar and flour, are high then the farmers also increase the prices of their fresh produce so that they can meet these costs,” Steven Karatu, a trader at the Marikiti market, the main fresh produce market in Nairobi, said.

No price controls

The price for 1kg of maize meal is now between 80 and 90 Kenyan shillings ($1.45) up from 50 ($1.29) in 2007.

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
A tomato vendor in Nairobi

While Karatu welcomed the new measures outlined in the budget, especially the tax cuts, he said he would have liked to have seen price controls introduced.

“Local retailers might not even adjust their prices downwards, or they reduce them by 50 cents, which does not really make a difference,” he said.

“If there was a control, saying that the flour will cost only 50 shillings, then we would be guaranteed that we will buy it at that price. Right now prices vary everywhere,” he said.


In Uganda, proposals were made to improve agricultural production by increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the agricultural extension service through the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) programme.

NAADS is aiming to develop a demand driven, farmer-led agricultural service delivery system targeting poor subsistence farmers, with special emphasis on women, youth and people with disabilities.

The allocation to NAADS went up by 62 percent bringing the total allocation to 97 billion Ugandan shillings ($59 million), Uganda’s finance minister, Ezra Suruma, said. The additional funding would help purchase farming inputs.

An additional 50 billion Ugandan shillings ($30 million) was allocated as credit guarantees for banks that provided loans for agriculture.

Suruma also proposed exempting income arising out of new agro-processing investments from income tax starting in July.

To mitigate the effect of soaring transportation cost on food prices, there would also be tax exemption for trucks with a loading capacity of at least 3.5 tonnes.

Commercial farming in Tanzania

In Tanzania, the finance minister, Mustafa Mkulo, said the government was encouraging investment in large-scale commercial farming. “Tanzania has vast arable land and the weather is reliable.” he said.

“Rising food prices should be used as an opportunity for the people to earn more income, rather than a curse,” he said.

''Rising food prices should be used as an opportunity for the people to earn more income, rather than a curse''

In the short-term, Mkulo said, measures aimed at addressing the global food crisis locally were being contemplated, including either the banning of exports or increasing export charges.

Kenya’s budget also allocated 1.5 billion shillings to a fund to increase job opportunities for the youth. At least four billion Kenyan shillings ($64.5 million) had also been set up for the civil contingency fund, drought relief and budget reserve for use in emergency situations.

Other key proposals in the Ugandan budget included the improvement of water storage from the current level of 48 percent to 52 percent of projected national demand, in addition to the allocation of an additional 37.2 billion Ugandan shillings ($23 million) for the Peace Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP) for northern Uganda.

The PRDP was launched in 2007 with the aim of eradicating poverty and improving the welfare of the people of northern Uganda.

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Food Crisis Prompts Diet Changes in Kenya

Posted on 13 June 2008. Filed under: Economy, Food Security, Governance, Lifestyle, MDGs |

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Lunch time at a school in Nairobi’s Mathare slums: Many Kenyans are facing food insecurity following sharp food prices, drought and post-election violence in January and February

NAIROBI, 12 June 2008 (IRIN) – A 50 percent rise in food prices in Kenya since the start of 2008 has led many people to drastically reduce their daily diets, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).

“There has been a sharp increase in food prices, especially of the staple, maize,” WFP information officer, Gabrielle Menezes, told IRIN.

A two-kilogramme packet of maize flour, currently retailing at Ksh80 (US $1.3), cost just Ksh50 earlier this year.

“The situation in the arid districts of Turkana and Mandera [northern Kenya] has especially deteriorated, with pastoralists migrating to neighbouring countries in search of pasture,” said Menezes.

She observed that the food security situation was made worse by two months of widespread violence that followed a presidential election in December and by unfavourable weather conditions. She added that the agency was running an emergency operation, currently targeting 1.2 million people affected by drought and the post-election crisis.

High food prices have caused affected communities to adapt their diets, explained Menezes, such as eating only one meal a day, cutting down on protein, such as meat and beans, and opting for cheaper vegetables such as kale.

Mother-of-four Grace Njeri, 42, who lives in Kibera, a Nairobi slum, told IRIN: “I cannot even afford the packed maize meal. I now buy maize and take it to a trader who can mill it for me. This way I spend almost half of what I would if I bought the packed unga [maize flour].”

“Meat is a luxury I cannot afford; I would rather buy vegetables with the little money that I get as a house-help,” she added. “Even eggs are too costly. I don’t know where I will get the extra cash to ensure my children have a balanced diet. Right now it is only ugali [maize meal] or githeri [a mixture of maize and beans] – they are the only meals I can afford.”

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
A vegetable trader in Nairobi: Food prices having gone up by 50 percent since the beginning of the year

On May 31, police dispersed hundreds of demonstrators in the capital, Nairobi, who were protesting the high cost of staple foods and calling for subsidies.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA-Kenya), the Kenya Red Cross Society and the Ministry of Agriculture are also discussing the provision of seeds that are quick producing, such as beans.

In a humanitarian update, OCHA said a taskforce on food security had been formed to analyze the impact of food price increases and the food security situation across the country.

“Expected on 19 June, this analysis will provide the basis for the government position on food security,” OCHA reported.

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The 1st All Africa Congress on Biotechnology 2008 – Call for Papers

Posted on 20 March 2008. Filed under: Agriculture, Economy, Food Security |

The African Biotechnology Stakeholders Forum (ABSF) through its sister network, the Agricultural Biotechnology Network in Africa (ABNETA) and the African Union’s (AU) Division of Agriculture and Food Security are pleased to announce the 1st ever All Africa Congress on Biotechnology that will be held in the Kenyan Capital Nairobi on 22nd – 26th September 2008. The theme of the Congress will be ‘Harnessing the Potential of Agricultural Biotechnology for Food Security and Socio-Economic Development in Africa’. In addition to the main theme, congress participants will listen to experiences of other countries in Europe, Asia, USA and Latin America about modern agricultural biotechnology and its applications in their economic transformation processes.

Offers of papers for presentation to any of the topics covered by the Congress are sought. You may offer your presentation as a verbal platform paper, as a free – standing display poster board, or both. Exhibitions from major biotechnology and agricultural companies and other interested entities will also be displayed at the congress.

Congress topics

A full list of Congress topics is shown below. Subject to suitable offers, each topic will consist of a platform and a complementary poster session.The title of each topic below will help you chose the most appropriate session and area of your preference and offer.

  • Biotechnology: Demystifying The Concepts
  • Genetically Modified Crops/Transgenic Crops
  • Biotechnology Applications In Livestock Development
  • Challenges In Biotechnology Development
  • Biotechnology Policy Development
  • Developing Regional Biosafety Regulatory Frameworks
  • Status of Biotechnology: Country Profiles
  • Food And Agriculture Biotechnology Policy:What Are The Linkages?
  • Linkages Of Biotechnology Policy To Other National And Global Policies
  • Understanding The Benefits And Potential Risks Of Genetically Modified Agricultural Product
  • Modern Food Biotechnology, Human Health And Development; An Evidence Based Study/Research
  • Globalization And International Governance Of Modern Biotechnology
  • The Role of African Union/NEPAD in Promoting Biotechnology Growth on the Continent
  • Role Of Regional Biotechnology And Agricultural Networks In Biotechnology Development In Africa
  • Role Of Non Public Institutions In Biotechnology Development In Africa Human and Institutional Capacity For Biotechnology Development In Africa
  • Role Of Research Institutions In Biotechnology Development In Africa – Universities, National Agriculture Research Systems, International Agriculture Research Organizations And Private Institutions.
  • Impact of Information Technology on Biotechnology Development in Africa
  • Global Biotechnology Development: Can Africa Adopt Best Practices?
    Development Partners and Biotechnology Development in Africa
  • Genetic Inventions And Intellectual Property Rights
  • Intellectual Property Rights As Applied In Biotechnology Applications
  • Intellectual Property Rights On Plant Variety Protect
  • Ethics In Biotechnology: Social Issues Of GMO Technology
  • The Interplay Of Culture, Science And Biotechnology
  • Biosafety Risk Assessment
  • Biosafety Risk Communication
  • Environmental Biosafety Risk Assessmen

How to make your offer

All authors are required to:
• Provide a 150 – 200 word synopsis of your proposed paper title;
• Specify to which area they are making their offer;
• Submit an abstract of your paper by 31ST March 2008. Abstract should contain the following:

 State the topic your abstract belongs to.
 State whether it is a lecture or a poster abstract
 The abstract must include name(s) of author(s), complete address (incl. fax and e-mail) of the contact author, title of paper, statement of objectives, principal results, and conclusion.
 Please use a common file format (word doc).
 The abstract should not be longer than 400 words
 Please submit your abstract to the secretariat addresses at the end of this announcement

All abstracts submitted will be carefully reviewed by the Congress Programme Committee team of scientists picked from the ABNETA Country Coordinators’ regions.

Book of Abstracts

At registration, participants will be provided with a book of abstracts and a detailed programme.
• Complete and submit your offer (full papers) by 20th June 2008
• There will be a poster session with short presentations. Deadline for poster submission is 20th June 2008
• The official conference language will be English.


All full paper offers must be received by 20th June 2008 and will then be reviewed by the Congress Programme Committee. Authors will be advised if their presentation has been accepted by 23rd July 2008. The Congress Programme Committee reserves the right to redirect an offer from one topic to another, if deemed appropriate.

Each key biotechnology topic will be managed by Topic Organizers (subject matter specialists) who will become the author’s main point of contact. Topic Organizers will liaise with authors regarding the production, in the desired format, of their scripts for publication in the proceedings.

Special registration concession for authors

One author from each platform and poster presentation will be able to register for the Congress. Attendance at the event, and the inclusion of each paper in the proceedings, is dependent upon payment of a fee. Check of of this announcement for registration fees and related congress attendance costs.


To be able to attend Biotechnology Congress, you will need to register as a delegate, which will entitle you to attend the Scientific Seminars and the Exhibition.With about 25 platform sessions on a wide array of biotechnology topics and fully supported by complimentary poster sessions and an exhibition, this Biotechnology Congress promises to be an essential event for all parties interested in modern biotechnology applications and related topical issues.

Registered delegates are entitled to:

• Attend sessions of the Congress for which they have been booked
• A set of Congress abstract proceedings
• Access to the list of Conference delegates; available prior to the event
• Access to the Exhibition
• A peer reviewed “Scientific Proceedings” manual that will be published after the congress.

Delegates may register for the full 5 days (Or partially). Please contact the Congress Secretariat for further details on how to do so.

Post-graduate student posters

Post-graduate students (MSc and PhD) are invited to present the results of their academic research in biotechnology related fields and to benefit from the considerable networking opportunities this exposure presents. Subjects may be from any biotechnology topic relevant to the Congress. Accepted presentations will be entered into the Post-graduate student poster competition.Each ABNETA member post-graduate student accepted into this session will receive free Congress registration and related entitlements. Non ABNETA member students will pay a subsidized fee to be registered as a delegate.

Congress Programme

Running over five days (22nd – 26th September 2008), the Congress Programme will include about 25 platform and poster sessions and an exhibition. The Congress opens with Congress keynote lectures to be presented by an eminent scientist, policy & governmental representatives and a biotechnology farmer from Africa. Scientists from the AU, EU and USA will also present a keynote lecture.


Global companies and other regional companies dealing with biotechnologies relevant to Africa’s development needs are encouraged to exhibit at the congress. Those interested should contact the Congress Secretariat for fee requirements and more details.


Congress participants will have an opportunity to visit the world famous Nairobi National Park which is the ONLY National Park facility in the world to be located within the precincts of a city. The park has an array of wildlife including Lions, Giraffes, Leopards, Gazelles, Zebras, and an array of other impressive wildlife. Seeing – is – believing!!


Arrival for the event will be from 21st September 2008 and departure after the event will be from 27th September 2008. Late arrivals and or early departures will be arranged by the travel office secretariat and the appointed travel’s agent.

Congress Sponsorship

Delegates who wish to be considered for sponsorship are asked to inquire with various development agencies in their countries or African region, National research institutions, biotechnology research organizations, biotechnology companies, governmental agencies, international agricultural research institutions, international biotechnology NGOs, international sponsorship bodies and organizations. You should make early applications to be factored into their respective sponsorship programmes within 2008. If you require endorsement or obtaining referee documentation from the congress organizers, feel free to contact us for assistance and direction. The Biotech Congress will also make available a few sponsorship deals for scientists who submit important biotechnology papers for presentation at the Biotechnology Congress. To be considered, you will have to make early submission of abstracts and full papers. Further details can be obtained at the link below.

Full information related to:

• Congress Programme
• The 2008 Biotechnology Congress Exhibition
• Congress Delegates Registration
• Congress Sponsorship
• Visa Applications
• Advertising & Promotional Opportunities
• Hotels In Nairobi
• Important Contact Points/addresses

For more information visit or

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Hawkers: A Blight or Shrewd Businessmen?

Posted on 19 March 2008. Filed under: Economy, Governance, Poverty |

Hawkers go about their business

In developing countries the informal economy sector comprises one half to three quarters of non-agricultural employment. Specifically, these figures amount to 48% of non agricultural employment in Africa, 51% in Latin America, 65% in Asia, and 72% in Sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa. Employment in this sector operates without contracts, worker benefits, social protection and unionization.

In Kenya, within the CBD of Nairobi, 6,000 street vendors with a daily capital stock worth $1 million line the streets and alleys. According to the Socio-Economic Survey on Street Vendors in Nairobi’s Central Business District carried out by USAID and NCBDA, most of the informal traders are young adults (age 25-34) in the most productive period in life. Almost 70% of them are male. Almost all of them (98.2%) have some level of formal education with more than half (51.7%) having secondary (equivalent to Grades 8-12) level of education. Slightly above 5 % have post-secondary education.

Street vending operates, in most countries, outside the regulation and protection of the state. Also referred to as hawking, it is legal according to the by-laws that govern Nairobi City. While there is revision for street trading laws, another by-law, the General Nuisance by-law, is often used to supersede this provision. Created during the colonial administration, the General Nuisance by-law allows city inspectorates to arrest any individual deemed to be creating a ‘general nuisance’ in public spaces. City inspectors invoke this by-law to harass street vendors, even those who have paid their daily license.

The perspective that street vending is a temporary phenomenon has contributed to the neglect of local and national development planners in consciously integrating the subsector into development plans. Relocation attempts reflect this mindset. Between 1980 and 2005, seven relocation attempts have been made by Nairobi’s City Council. Street vendors however consistently return to the Central Business District (CBD) as it offers a ready and lucrative market for their goods. Relocation efforts have not been successful because the new locations have lower pedestrian traffic and/or customers with lower purchasing power than in the CBD.

According to Dr. Winnie Mitullah (Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Nairobi) informal sector activities, such as street vending, provide sustenance for many citizens and contribute substantially to the economy. At the city-level, resolving this tension between the desired modernization of the city and the “non-modern” activity of street vending is critical as part of a larger economic development strategy. In trying to attract foreign businesses and investment and boost tourism, Nairobi’s administration has been seeking the sleek, modern look. It however ignores the fact that street vending and other economic activities provide 70% of Nairobi’s employment while 60% of Nairobi’s population lives below the poverty line. Bridging the gap between modernization and development is imperative.

When stakeholders are ignored in policy formulation, they react at the implementation stage. The skirmishes with the city officials on the streets of Nairobi are the physical manifestation of this reaction to policy. In the light of this, the city council has been reviewing its archaic by-laws as a means of removing regulatory barriers that obstruct business. On the other hand, Parliament is currently debating a Small and Medium Enterprises Bill which if passed, will create a governing council that will oversee the regulation of all formal and informal small and medium enterprises. In both cases, the voice of the street vendors is being brought into the discourse.

Struggling for the right to trade

The UN-HABITAT in its theme Inclusive City argues that an inclusive approach must be used for balancing, reconciling and trading off competing interests and priorities. In most cities, the interests of micro and small enterprises such as street and informal traders are competing with those of medium and large-scale enterprises, with the former being disadvantaged. All types of enterprises in urban areas should have the right not only to the Central Business District (CBD) but to all urban goods and services. The campaign urges actors to discuss the question of ‘who’ in a particular city is excluded from ‘what’ and ‘how’.

Concepts such as participation, empowerment, and social inclusion have become buzzwords that do not make sense to the poor who are engaged in informal economic activities. In the usage of these concepts, emphasis is often placed on participatory development, and participatory political processes, rather than participatory market processes. The Bellagio International Declaration of Street Vendors of November 1995 urges governments to develop national policies for hawkers and vendors by making them part of the broader structural policies aimed at improving their standards of living by giving them legal status, issuing licenses and providing appropriate hawking zones in urban areas. The declaration further calls on governments to integrate vendors into urban development plans.

Legal reform

Clearly the biggest problem so far encountered in most developing countries is the lack of or inconsistencies in the legal framework caused by internal factors such as organizational weaknesses and the workers’ ignorance of their rights. Other factors include undermining by public authorities; negative social attitude towards informal economy; corruption and political manipulation.

Ghana, Uganda, Zambia, South Africa and India guarantee the rights of their citizens to earn a livelihood. In most countries, this legislation has not yet extended to workers in the informal economy. Regulation of informal trade is usually administered through local government bylaws which are sometimes administered in contravention of the constitutional rights of the street vendors.

In a meeting by Streetnet International on collective bargaining in the informal economy and Laws and litigation strategies in street vending sector held near Dakar, Senegal, 26 – 30 march 2007, participating organizations resolved to fight for the adoption of new laws, or reform of existing laws, containing the following elements:

• recognition of informal workers (including street vendors|) as workers, and recognizing their workplaces (e.g. the streets);
• specification of basic constitutional rights of informal economy workers (including street vendors) which are protected in terms of this law;
• formal recognition of the freely-chosen organizations of workers in the informal economy, and their elected representatives;
• statutory representation of workers in the informal economy at local Council level and at national/Parliamentary level;
• formal dispute procedures to be invoked when negotiations in statutory forums reach deadlock;
• clear definition of the role of different national Ministries in relation to workers in the informal economy;
• System of social protection for workers in the informal economy (including street vendors).

The informal economy makes an important contribution to the economic and social life of the city. It also offers diverse opportunities for absorbing the people who are unemployed and for the new entrants into the economy, which include the school leaving youth who are unable to further their studies because of financial constraints.



By Brenda Marangu
Law Student, Catholic University of Eastern Africa

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MDGs: Africa Has No Excuse

Posted on 19 March 2008. Filed under: Development, Economy, Governance, Government, MDGs, Poverty |

Can Africa fulfill the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015?

That’s a question that is often asked anytime there is a discussion about MDGs. It was on many lips during the celebration of the International Women’s day last Saturday as people assess the gains and continuing challenges in ensuring gender equality around the world. Behind the question, of course, is a lot of cynicism by the questioner(s). There is doubt that the MDGs may not be met on schedule in a majority of African states. Official reports and anecdotal evidence suggest that at the current pace even by 2050 the goals may still remain unmet by these states.

The situation is not helped by the fact that most of the reports available are usually aggregated. Hence the negative conclusion is that Africa’s progress is at best very slow and patchy. Like all generalizations and aggregated statistics, they hide the specific, more positive picture of steady progress on a number of the goals in quite a few countries across Africa. It also panders to the fashionable Afro pessimism that caricatures events in Africa promoting embedded attitudes of ‘Hopeless Africa’. A ‘helpless people and continent’ that needs the help and handout of everybody else except its own peoples and leaders.

The truth is mostly to the contrary but ‘good stories’ are boring, they do not make headlines. Without bad stories from Africa, how can the hordes of humanitarian agencies and organizations, local and foreign, who operate as latter day missionaries or mercy mercenaries make their fund raising successful? How can the compassion industry survive without the backdrop of Kwashiokored children, diseased mothers and other suffering Africans?

It is rather late in the day to be asking if Africa can meet the MDGs or not. Still more pointless are the criticisms of the goals as being too minimal. All of them are more than 7 years out of date. We are halfway through and those questions are unhelpful especially among campaigners who are committed to holding their governments to account for these commitments. The problem with asking the wrong questions is that you get the wrong answers that may divert you from the tasks in hand. A more proactive way of looking at this is to ask what can be done to fill the obvious gaps that still exist that may prevent countries from meeting the goals. The desirability of the goals is no longer debatable. Meeting them will not hurt anyone. If you can half poverty nobody will stop you from eradicating it.

Answering the more proactive type of questions also requires one to look at the progress that has been achieved instead of just looking for the challenges. An appreciation of progress so far will then open one’s eyes to the challenges of what remains to be done. Then we will ask what more needs to be done to make sure that there are no excuses for not meeting these goals and even surpassing them in many cases.

In almost all African countries, there has been remarkable progress in education in terms of enrolment in schools. There is universal access to education across many countries that have allowed millions of girls and boys who would not have seen the inside of classrooms to do so. Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and others are good examples of the rapid enrolment in schools. On child mortality, Malawi is only second to Costa Rica in the dramatic drop in child deaths (over 30%) in the past three years. The same Malawi that used to rank as the ‘poorest country in the world’, a country that was recipient of Food Aid a few years ago, has now become a food donor to some of its poorer neighbours including Zimbabwe. On controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS, Uganda used to be a lone star but a few other countries have become even more aggressive in fighting the disease.

Huge numbers of African children today have better chances of survival than 10 years ago. More and more are likely to live beyond their 5th birthdays and have hopes of going to primary school and even better chances of going on to higher education as countries upscale their investments in education and move beyond universal primary education to secondary education.

It is not all smooth sailing. There are issues around quality, retention in schools and drop out rates between boys and girls among others. However, quantitative changes are important steps as countries deal with the issues of quality. We cannot say that more children should not go to school until all schools are of the same quality. Both go hand in hand.

The external environment is also changing as international partners are held to more scrutiny and challenged to walk the walk as fast as they talk the talk. Debt relief has not been universal and a majority of African states have not become beneficiaries, but the minority (Uganda, Mozambique, Ghana, Rwanda, Malawi, Zambia, etc) that have got it are generally transforming the gains into meaningful dividends on a number of MDGs.

Those not qualified like Nigeria, but who have renegotiated discounts on their National Debt, have not only increased the country’s financial credibility but also Nigeria now also has a virtual fund of more than 1 billion Dollars that is devoted to MDGs. In many countries the MDGs are being localized with targets that are more ambitious than those of the Millennium Declaration.

So the question is not whether we can meet the goals or not, but why country X is doing well on a number of goals and country Y is not performing. By concentrating on ‘can’t meet,’ we are letting political leaders off the hook of accountability for commitments they made voluntarily to their own citizens. Seven years may not be long but it is certainly long enough for all the countries to change their policy direction and resource allocation that prioritize the needs of the poor and marginalized and accelerate the fulfillment of the MDGs.

African citizens have a duty to remind their leaders about these commitments and be vigilant in demanding that they are met and even go beyond them where possible. If the goals are not met it will not just be because of government insensitivity but also citizen complacency or indifference.

By Dr. Tajudeen Abdul
Deputy Director, Africa, for the UN Millennium Campaign based in Nairobi Kenya. He writes this weekly column in his personal capacity as a Pan Africanist and a Director of the London-Based Justice Africa

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Kenya Crisis Affects Entire EA Region

Posted on 20 February 2008. Filed under: Development, Economy, Governance, Insecurity, Politics, Refugees/ IDPs |

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
A demonstrator in Nairobi with a message for former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan who is mediating talks to resolve the Kenyan political crisis

NAIROBI, 19 February 2008 (IRIN) – “We are all affected”

While world attention has focused on the fallout from Kenya’s post-election crisis in the country itself, the region, which is highly dependent on the east African state for goods, transport links and services, has felt the effects too.

Before violence erupted after the disputed December 2007 election, Kenya was the region’s hub, with many people in neighbouring countries travelling frequently to the capital, Nairobi, for medical treatment, holidays, trade and education. IRIN spoke to a cross-section of people in Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, Uganda and Tanzania and Sudan to gauge how the crisis was affecting them:

“Most consumables in Rwanda are imported, so delays in delivery from Kenya mean shortages, which translate into price hikes, which of course have an effect on our pockets,” a young Rwandan executive, who requested anonymity, told IRIN. “The sooner Kenya can return to a normal state of affairs, the better for us all in the region.”

A retired Burundian diplomat said Burundi had suffered as the country depends on Kenya’s coastal port of Mombasa for most of its imports. “Personally, the irregular Kenya Airways flights are a matter of concern as I can no longer travel to Nairobi as frequently as I want,” he said. “A lot of people are being inconvenienced in this way and also prices of imported goods have gone up.”

Fuel crisis

Uganda, perhaps more than other countries in the region, has felt the impact more acutely, given its landlocked status.

“We were severely affected when the fuel trucks couldn’t get across the border – prices of petrol went as high as US$7 per litre and so suddenly,” said Caroline Mbote (not her real name), who runs tourist accommodation on an island in southwestern Uganda’s Lake Bunyonyi.

“We use diesel to fuel our boats to ferry tourists and goods to and from the island. Because of the high prices of fuel, although it was the high Christmas season, we made very little money,” she said.

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Irate youths demolish a wall in Nairobi during a protest against the election outcome

Mbote said many Ugandans had children at school in Kenya but were now too afraid to send them back, especially after hearing that some Kenyans were hostile towards Ugandans.

“The medical facilities here are far inferior to those in Kenya, so if Kenya is at war or having security issues, it poses a big problem for us in that way as well,” she sad. “Whatever it takes, we all need peace in Kenya for this region to be stable.”

A retired businessman in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, said: “Our President [Yoweri Museveni] has been castigated for quickly endorsing [Kenyan President Mwai] Kibaki’s government, but one has to understand where he was coming from. People in southern Uganda have a deep mistrust of leaders from the ethnic Luo communities, whom they associate with the ethnic communities in northern Uganda that produced presidents like [Milton] Obote and [Idi] Amin, who presided over the deaths of close to one million Ugandans between them.

“The fear among many in the south here is that a Raila [Odinga] presidency would strengthen ethnic Luos here and also in Southern Sudan, creating a regional Luo powerbase that would threaten the status quo, especially in Uganda,” he said. “There is even a fear that it could strengthen the rebel LRA [Lord’s Resistance Army] movement.”

Somali view

A Somali aid worker, who declined to be named, said: “The Kenyan crisis has scared us all. Kenya is the only safe haven for this region and it must be preserved at all costs.”

He said many aid agencies that cover Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and other countries in the region were based in Kenya. “What will happen to their work and the people they help? If things get out of hand it will be a disaster not only for Kenya but for the greater sub-region.

“As a Somali I am even more affected by the current problem than many others. Kenya has been home to many of us and we love it. I honestly don’t even want to think about or contemplate the possibility that they will not find a solution to the problems Kenya is currently facing.

Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
Many Kenyans have been displaced by post election violence

“There has to be a political solution because the alternative of all-out disintegration is too horrible to contemplate. Every day I pray that the politicians will learn from history and from their neighbours and realise that greed and intransigence will lead to doom for them and those they claim to represent.

“Look at Somalia – because so-called politicians could not find a common ground, millions of Somalis are refugees in their own country or outside, living miserable lives. Kenya is too good to be lost because a few politicians could not find a compromise. Kenya is the only house in our neighbourhood that is not on fire, let’s keep it that way,” he added.

Some benefits

Mathias ole Kissambu, a Tanzanian economist and businessman based in the northern town of Arusha, said some businesses in the town had benefited from the influx of Kenyans fleeing violence at home, but “the disadvantages far outweigh the advantages such as this”.

Kissambu has a son studying at Moi University in Eldoret, a town in Kenya’s Rift Valley Province, which bore the brunt of the post-election violence.

“I fear for my son’s safety when the university re-opens but what do I do? He is in his final year, I am caught in a dilemma, to withdraw him or to put him at risk completing his studies,” he said. “I know many Tanzanians who have withdrawn their children from Kenyan primary and secondary schools, what about us with children at university level?”

Regarding business, Kissambu said some sectors, such agriculture, had suffered. “The price of maize, for instance, has gone up here in Tanzania from 20,000 shillings [$20] to 35,000 [$35] per bag since January,” he said. “I would have sourced maize for sale here in Arusha from Eldoret but I dare not risk sending a truck on the Kenyan roads any more, it might be burnt or destroyed.”

Kissambu had spent six years in Kenya and advised the country’s leaders to realise that “Kenyans are Kenyans regardless of their different tribes. Insisting on a president coming from one community should stop because Kenyans are Kenyans; how can one person be accepted by all other tribes except one?” Kissambu opined.

''The solution to Kenya’s problems no longer lies with Kenyans alone…Kenya’s ruling clique should understand that Kenya will never be the same and major legal and constitutional reforms are absolutely necessary''

“Look at Tanzania; the current president and the immediate former president come from small communities but they are accepted by all Tanzanians; when in office, they don’t favour their tribes, they serve all Tanzanians equally. Kenya should emulate us so that it does not degenerate into a situation like the one in Rwanda a decade ago.”

“Kenya must take advice”

A Somali businessman, who wished to remain anonymous, told IRIN: “Kenya is sick, very sick today. A sick person cannot choose the type of medications for his/her illness and will depend on the advice of others. The advice of Somalis to Kenya is to listen to all those who are genuinely trying to help.”

He said Somalis had not had the world attention like Kenya has had, and, “although the current situation in Somalia has no parallel in the world, no one is talking about it.

“The solution to Kenya’s problems no longer lies with Kenyans alone and those Kenyan leaders who are dismissing the good advice of others should know that Kenya has been offering solutions to the conflicting parts in Sudan, Somalia and others. Kenya’s ruling clique should understand that Kenya will never be the same and major legal and constitutional reforms are absolutely necessary to change the course Kenya is taking now.

“Let’s all pray that the leaders will come to their senses and stop the country sliding into the abyss,” he said. “Unlike Somalia and Sudan, Kenyans cannot sustain a long drawn-out conflict. If the current mediation efforts fail, Kenya will be much worse than Somalia. More likely it will become another Rwanda and that is something I never want to see.”

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Kenya Crisis Ripple Effects Felt Across The Region

Posted on 6 February 2008. Filed under: Economy, Governance, Insecurity, Refugees/ IDPs |

Photo: WFP
Aid deliveries to the region are under threat from insecurity in Kenya

NAIROBI, 6 February 2008 (IRIN) – Unrest in Kenya threatens humanitarian and commercial operations throughout the Great Lakes region, potentially affecting more than 100 million lives, according to analysts.

Southern Sudan, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have experienced shortages of fuel and other essential supplies because of insecurity along the Kenyan section of the Northern Corridor, one of the most important transport routes in Africa. It runs from the Kenyan port of Mombasa westwards through Uganda and the Great Lakes.

Among aid agencies, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) faces the greatest challenge, feeding seven million vulnerable people in East Africa and the Great Lakes.

“WFP is extremely concerned because Kenya is not just supplying Kenya. It’s supplying much of east and central Africa, both with commercial trade and food and also humanitarian assistance. It’s a very worrying problem,” WFP spokesman Peter Smerdon told IRIN.

“We need to feed seven million people every month and that includes 250,000 [internally displaced by the post-election violence] in Kenya on top of our normal caseload. We need a continuous supply line.

''We need to feed seven million people every month and that includes 250,000 IDPs in Kenya since the election''

“If the roads are closed for a week or two weeks, then we get into real problems. We might have to start postponing food distributions. You could see people [going] hungry if the road network is knocked out for weeks,” he said.

Covering more than 1,400km, the Northern Corridor is the largest in Africa, used by 4,000 light vehicles, 1,250 trucks and 400 buses per day. It carries more than 10 million tonnes of cargo a year.

WFP moves more than 1,000 tonnes of food out of Mombasa every day of the year, according to Alistair Cook, the logistics co-ordinator. “WFP has to keep the corridor in operation or else we will lose hundreds of thousands of refugees through starvation,” he said.

Alternative supply routes

Cook had been investigating alternative routes, trucking supplies from Mombasa to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. From here, goods travel 980km by rail to Isaka, near Mwanza in northwestern Tanzania, where WFP has storage facilities and milling plants.

Supplies can then be taken north by boat across Lake Victoria to Port Bell in Uganda, from where they can be trucked to Southern Sudan and the DRC. Alternatively, they can be driven west from Isaka to the Rwandan border crossing of Rusomo. From here, there is road access to Burundi and the DRC.

“There are measures being put in place to strengthen components of this alternative corridor. It’s complicated and takes a great deal of co-ordination but it’s workable,” Cook said.

Because rail transport is cheaper than road, Cook said these alternative routes would not be much more expensive for WFP.

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, has redirected some of its supplies through Uganda, rather than waiting for security to improve in Kenya. It is importing steel from Dubai for a bridge it is constructing at Enyau in Ajumani District in northern Uganda. The bridge will help Sudanese refugees to return home.

Using the Tanzanian route “will roughly cost 20 percent more because of extra fuel and logistics”, according to Roberta Russo, spokeswoman for UNHCR Uganda.
UNHCR’s Southern Sudan programme has been heavily reliant on Kenya for supplies and as a transport route. There are 20 trucks used for repatriation waiting for the all-clear to be driven from Nairobi to Uganda.

“If the situation doesn’t improve, Southern Sudan will start to be affected because they won’t be able to make purchases for reintegration projects,” said Millicent Mutuli, UNHCR’s regional spokeswoman. UNHCR is already looking for Ugandan suppliers to replace the Kenyan ones.

Protecting the convoys

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Post-election violence in Kenya has pitted rival groups against each other

However, many aid agencies and businesses do not have the financial or logistical muscle to switch routes and suppliers. After a visit from Uganda’s First Deputy Prime Minister Eriya Kategaya, the Kenyan government agreed on 31 January to provide military escorts to trucks travelling from the capital, Nairobi, westwards to the Ugandan border. The first convoy was a success, with 400 trucks arriving safely on 1 February under the protection of Kenyan army helicopters, jeeps and lorries.

However, for WFP the convoy system may be insufficient to meet their needs. WFP uses convoys of up to 800 trucks. “It’s a question of capacity. We are concerned the convey system may affect the amount of food we can move,” said Smerdon.

There is also the danger that security in Kenya will deteriorate.

“If we go back to an escalation of events like Tuesday [unrest on 29 January after the killing of opposition MP Melitus Were in Nairobi] it’s going to be quite impossible even with army presence,” said Cook.

Three WFP trucks have been damaged or looted by mobs at impromptu roadblocks, mainly in the Rift Valley. In the most recent case, a truck was attacked at a roadblock south of Eldoret on 31 January. Its windscreen was smashed and food stolen.

Fuel supply lines

Aside from food aid, fuel is the most critical item for Kenya’s landlocked neighbours. Crude oil is shipped to Mombasa, where it is refined, and then piped to Nakuru, Eldoret and Kisumu. It is then trucked to Uganda and on to other Great Lakes countries.

Uganda needs 35 truckloads of fuel from Kenya each day to provide the 1.75 million litres of diesel and petrol it consumes daily. Shortages have driven up fuel prices and these increased costs have been passed on to consumers.

''Most industries in Uganda use generators … An increase in the diesel price hinders production''

Andrew Luzze, policy officer at the Uganda Manufacturers’ Association, told IRIN the fares charged by taxis and buses had doubled since fuel supplies from Kenya were disrupted. He said prices of basic foodstuffs like matoke [bananas], fish, potatoes, maize, flour and beef were up by about 15 percent.

“We are concerned, especially in transport sector. Roads are the main mode of transport in Uganda. The internal distribution of goods in the market is really hindered. Ugandan manufacturers sell to Rwanda, [DR] Congo and Sudan. They can’t reach their customers because of fuel,” he said.

The increased cost of diesel, from USh1,800 (US$1.05) to USh2,400 ($1.40) per litre on 31 January, was also pushing up the cost of manufacturing.

“Most industries in Uganda use generators because power is rarely reliable and of poor quality. Any increase in the diesel price hinders production,” said Luzze.

Those relying on raw materials such as wheat and plastics from Kenya had been worst affected. “Some manufacturers have stopped because of the raw material shortage. You end up paying labour which is doing nothing,” said Luzze.

Agricultural exports, mainly coffee, as well as tea and fish, account for 30 percent of Uganda’s GDP. Hardly any of these perishable products has been able to leave the country, particularly as insurers had refused to provide cover for transporters going into Kenya.

Across the region, farmers producing for domestic markets will suffer if the Kenyan crisis is not resolved.

“These are agricultural countries and need to transport people and goods from one place to another. To say crops are already rotting in fields is to overstate it but if [the fuel shortage] goes on for another six to eight weeks, it might be a possibility,” said Kwame Owino, an economist at the Institute of Economic Affairs in Nairobi.
Like Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi are heavily reliant on agricultural exports, particularly coffee.

“They have a pile of goods to come to Mombasa to be shipped. Certain industries, especially those that deal with fish and other perishables, have basically had to stop,” said Steven Smith, chairman of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, which has been putting pressure on the government to restore order to the country.

Impact on Somalia

Photo: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN
The Kenyan crisis is taking international attention off Somalia’s conflict, which is daily resulting in more IDPs

While the delivery of aid to Somalia has not been disrupted because supplies arrive by sea, projects have still been affected because most agencies run their Somali operations from Nairobi.

“A lot of our staff is Kenyan and this is having an impact on everyone’s morale, not to mention the fact that some of our Kenyan staff have been directly affected and have had to relocate to safer areas. Also, in the midst of a continuous emergency situation in Somalia, we have to think about contingency plans for our office in Kenya. This adds a strain to our already stretched human resources,” said Paul Daniels, assistant country director for CARE Somalia.

The international focus on Kenya had also lowered the profile of Somalia and other regional hotspots.

“We have a major crisis in Somalia. We have a situation that is quite tense in Burundi and eastern Congo and northern Uganda. We’ll have a problem in terms of advocacy to keep up the profile of the other countries. Some [donor] money may also be diverted from other countries to Kenya,” said Pierre Gelas, regional disaster response adviser for the UN.

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KENYA: Jobs Another Casualty in Post-Election Violence

Posted on 31 January 2008. Filed under: Development, Economy, Governance, Insecurity, Poverty |

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
More than 800 people have been killed and 250,000 displaced in the Kenyan post-election turmoil

NAIROBI, 31 January 2008 (IRIN) – George Kose, 30, a graduate of Moi University, Eldoret, lost his job at one of the leading firms in Nairobi just days after the election results were announced on 30 December 2007.

“I could not get to work on time from Kajiado [about 100km south of the capital] on 2 January as there was a transport problem due to the skirmishes that were being experienced in the city; my supervisor issued me with a stern warning about my lateness,” Kose said.

“With the transport problem persisting for the next two days I ended up being late again. I was then fired, despite my explanations,” he said. “I think my supervisor was just looking for a reason to fire me as we did not get along well. There wasn’t much for me to do but leave; your employer has the final word.”

''As the first-born in my family, I was the breadwinner but now I’ve almost been rendered useless''

Kose, who had worked at the company for more than a year, earning about 30,000 shillings [US$428] per month], regrets not being in a position to provide for his parents and siblings in Kajiado.

“As the first-born in my family, I was the breadwinner but now I’ve almost been rendered useless,” he said. To keep busy, Kose has been volunteering as an HIV/AIDS peer counsellor in his home town.

“I hope to get another job soon as I’ve been busy giving out my CV to potential employers,” he said. In the meantime, Kose, who is neither an ethnic Kikuyu, Kalenjin nor Luo, the main groups at the centre of the conflict, has joined thousands of Kenyans who have become jobless due to the prevailing insecurity in the country.

Tourism badly hit

Most sectors of the economy have been affected due to insecurity and transport disruptions. The tourism sector has been badly hit, leading to massive job losses.

John (not his real name), a former hotel employee in Kilifi, at the coast, along with about 200 of his colleagues, has been jobless for the past month. As a casual labourer, he was laid off due to low bed occupancy at the hotel where he used to work.

The father of two said his main concern was providing for his family and dependants. Besides his wife and two children, he looks after three other people. “At least the children, who are in primary school, are not paying school fees,” he said.

Photo: Anthony Morland/IRIN
Kenya’s tourism sector has been severely affected by the post-election violence

John used to earn 7,000 shillings ($100) a month as a casual labourer. “Right now there is nothing for me to do but just wait and see what will happen in the country,” he said.

At least 120,000 people are expected to lose their jobs in the tourism sector, according to a spokeswoman for the Kenya Tourism Board, Rose Musonye-Kwena, who said there would be direct and indirect losses.

The industry employs hundreds of thousands of people directly in the hotels and lodges and as tour guides, while indirectly benefiting sectors such as agriculture, which supply the businesses, and small-scale industries such as curio dealers.

“It is also important to consider the multiplier effect of these job losses,” she said. “In a typical Kenyan family, when one person earns a living, they support about 10 other people so about a million people will be affected in this sector,” she said.

Musonye-Kwena said the sector was involved in social activities to directly help those affected by the post-election crisis while providing daily updates to tourism markets to help restore confidence in consumers.

“Later on, we will need to rebuild our image [as a tourism destination],” she said.

Blow to horticulture

The horticultural industry, which is a major employer, has also been hard hit. “There is fear all over with vehicles being burnt. Most of our clients are also not placing orders for our products,” Gerrison Wachira, a grader with the horticultural farmers and exporters’ organisation, said.

“We rely on produce coming in from some of the worst-affected areas, such as Eldoret, for passion fruits,” Wachira said.

He said the organisation, which had already laid off casual workers, had been on the verge of closing. “We are going to ship our produce for the first time this month next week,” he said.

The organisation normally ships its produce three times a month and employs at least 80 casual workers who earn 300 shillings ($4) per day. Other horticultural organisations employ hundreds of casual workers.

“Most firms have reduced their manpower,” he said.

The organisation, which mainly relies on road transport by night, has been hit by the insecurity, with most stakeholders considering using local airports, which are more expensive, to transport their produce.

“The government should ensure that there is security for everyone,” Wachira said. “The leaders should talk together and preach peace; they are the ones who have not communicated with the people.”

According to the Secretary General of the Kenyan chapter of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU), Francis Atwoli, the crisis will have hit the broader economy.

Photo: IRIN
An ODM supporter wears a hat with the portrait of Raila Odinga in the run-up to the disputed 2007 presidential elections

Already, at least 60,000 people lost their jobs in tea farms in Kericho, 20,000 in Nandi hills, and 10,000 in Limuru, Atwoli said. Another 40,000 workers were let go in Naivasha, with the government providing security in the horticultural farms in the area, he said. Hundreds more had lost jobs within commerce, in banks and supermarkets, for example, after finding it unsafe to continue working in some areas, he said.

At least 400,000 people are expected to lose their jobs if the crisis continues, with a knock-on effect in neighbouring, landlocked Uganda, which relies heavily on Kenya’s transport network for its imports.

Some industries in the country were not functioning as they should, with employees being laid off, Uganda’s deputy prime minister, Eriya Kategaya, said on local television on 30 January. “Factories are being forced to retrench workers,” Kategaya said.

Resolving the crisis

According to Atwoli, the only way out of the crisis was for President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader, Raila Odinga, to listen to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Annan is leading the mediation team to find a lasting solution to the crisis.

“What legacy does Kibaki want to leave behind and does Raila want to inherit a shell?” Atwoli asked.

The crisis had not only led to death and destruction but also increased food insecurity in towns and cities such as Kisumu, Mombasa, Eldoret and Nairobi, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Kenya.

In Kisumu, many businesses had been burnt down or looted, with a high proportion of the working population no longer having income-earning opportunities, the report said. The hardest-hit group was casual labourers and daily wage earners where prolonged closures of industrial factories and other businesses served as shocks to already fragile livelihoods, the report said.

According to the report, the restoration of production to pre-election levels was unlikely in the short term, in turn expected to further exacerbate food insecurity.

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Donors Suspend Aid to Kenya

Posted on 31 January 2008. Filed under: Development, Economy, Governance, Insecurity, Politics |

The post-election violence that has gripped Kenya for the last one month has started taking toll on the economy. The Scandinavian countries namely Norway, Sweden and Finland have already suspended aid worth millions of euros to one of the key government programmes-Government Justice Law and order Sector Reform (GJLOS) programme being implemented by the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. The programme was initiated in 2005. Government departments to be affected by this move include the judiciary, the police, prisons, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission.

The suspension of aid comes as a protest to failure by the government to solve the violence that has rocked the country following the December 2007 general election, which the opposition felt was rigged in favour of incumbent president Mwai Kibaki. According to Jacques Cartens, the chief technical co-ordinator of the programme, the decision to suspend aid was short term and could be reviewed regularly depending on the prevailing circumstances. The decision comes in the wake of threats by other major donors-the European Union, the US and the UK to withdraw funding to Kenya if the crisis is not resolved immediately.

Sweden, the major donor to the programme has confirmed the suspension awaiting current peace initiatives being spearheaded by the African Union. “We are not going to enter into new contracts with the government following the current political crisis”, said Swedish ambassador Anna Brandt, expressing concern at the violence that has taken an ethnic dimension. Several donors have also declared that it will not be business as usual in Kenya as long as the chaos persist. It may be recalled that only President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has so far congratulated Kibaki over his controversial win of a second presidential term.

Meanwhile, Britain has shipped back its military equipment that had arrived at the port of Mombasa for the UK military training. Every year, British soldiers come to Kenya for military drills following an agreement with the government. “We have a memorandum of understanding with the British government where its soldiers come to train in the country. The equipment they had brought was to replace the older ones”, said military spokesman Bogita Ongeri. For the last 50 years, the British Army has used the eastern Kenyan towns of Archers Post and Dol Dol for military training with about 3000 soldiers arriving in the country annually. But following the post-election crisis in Kenya, the British government has decided to recall the equipment.

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    A blog created to cover environmental and political information in Kenya with a view to promoting POVERTY ALLEVIATION through creating awareness of the Millennium Development Goals


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