Kenyan Eco-town: From the Slums to a ShiningTown on the Hill

Posted on 28 May 2009. Filed under: Environment, Food Security, Poverty |

A woman tends to her crops in Kaputei, a town built to help people escape Nairobis slums

A woman tends to her crops in Kaputei, a town built to help people escape Nairobi's slums

In Kenya a little bit of money and a can-do attitude go a long way. Daniel Howden sees how Kaputei has transformed the lives of the country’s poor

Clarice Adhiambo was looking for the usual things when she moved. Safe streets, more space, a guest room, maybe even a view of something green. More than anything she wanted a place to call her own. Her wish-list would be familiar to first-time buyers anywhere in the world. What would be less recognisable is the place from which she was moving.

Clarice left behind a 10ft by 10ft tin shack that she shared with eight others in the Nairobi slum of Soweto. Unlike the iconic South African shanty town of the same name, there is no electricity, running water or flushing toilets and no prospect of getting them. Kenya’s capital offers some of the most appalling urban poverty to be found anywhere in the world. It was in places like Kibera, Mathare and Soweto that the term “flying toilet” was invented. It describes the desperate people who cannot afford to use pit latrines and have to defecate into plastic bags and hurl them on to a nearby roof.

In her new home in Kaputei, an eco-town rising from the plains south of Nairobi, she has a flushing loo for the first time in her life and understandably she’s delighted. “This place has fresh air,” the 53-year-old says, almost unbelievingly.

Clarice is part of one of 50 families who have bought into a startling experiment that it is hoped will change the nature of microfinance and banking for the poor. The practice pioneered by the Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, of offering tiny loans to the some of the world’s bottom billion living on less than $1 a day, is flourishing. From six million borrowers worldwide in 1987, microfinance groups now lend to 150 million people. And while the rest of the banking industry has been in meltdown, microfinance has been a rare pocket of stability and growth. The sector brings together an unlikely, eclectic mix of people from frustrated charity workers to entrepreneurs, to those who have already made their fortune and come to microfinance with the evangelical zeal of the reborn.

Ed Bland falls into this last category. In his past life as a Microsoft executive he was the man who launched the X-Box. Today he is the president of Unitus, an American non-profit group in a hurry to make a big difference to global poverty and intent on using microfinance to do it. Mr Bland explains his credo as “the ability to use common business principles to make people’s lives better in a way that development has shown it can’t do”. In the future, he believes there will be an “opportunity for enterprising banks to focus on the bottom and not just the top”. “Look what happened when we just focused on the top,” he muses.

Seattle-based Unitus uses its capital, connections and corporate credibility to persuade mainstream banks to loan to, or underwrite, microfinance institutions (MFIs). It then uses its know-how to identify and support innovative microfinance outfits it believes can make a dramatic impact on alleviating poverty.

Mr Bland rates Jamii Bora, Kenya’s oldest and biggest MFI, among the most innovative organisations in the world. When Jamii Bora – Swahili for “better families” – found that micro loans and repayments could take the poorest only so far, it decided to do something new.

“As long as you are living in the slums, you will never climb out of poverty,” says Ingrid Munro, the founder of Jamii Bora. “Families of course need economic opportunities to rise out of poverty but what good are they if you are still living in hell?” The solution they came up with was to build an entirely new town, a Milton Keynes of microfinance.

The result is Kaputei with its neat rows of clay-tiled roofs. From a distance, it looks like the shining town on a hill, only this one is set among Maasai grazing lands and the occasional polythene flower farm. “We are seeing something that we haven’t seen anywhere else in the world,” says Mr Bland, bumping along the dirt track towards it in a mini-bus.

When Jamii Bora found that the Kenya power corporation wanted a fortune to connect the town to the grid, their attitude was “we’ll do it ourselves”. So they built their own renewable power station. When builders’ merchants wanted to overcharge for breeze blocks and tiles, they built their own factories which now provide jobs as well as materials. Kaputei’s houses are powered by solar panels and its water will be processed by one of the first ecologically sound recycling plants in Africa.

The question is whether Kaputei is scaleable. Even if it succeeds in getting 2,500 families to move from the slums, it is a pressure release that will be barely felt in the likes of Kibera, with its one-million plus residents.

Relaxing in an armchair in her sitting room, Clarice gives the former Microsoft whizzkids her take on where Jamii Bora’s ferocious can-do mentality comes from. It is an organisation she knows well, having joined at the “ground level”.

Born into poverty near Lake Victoria, Clarice had a hard life. She was badly beaten by her husband and the father of three of her four children. He eventually threw her out and she drifted from friend to relative before ending up a street beggar in Nairobi.

While living rough she was raped, conceiving her only son. Clarice and her fellow beggars struck up a relationship with a kindly worker of a non-government organisation they knew as Mama Ingrid. As well as a little money, the Swede would take the time to talk to the women, Clarice remembers.

Despite this friendship, the women were deeply suspicious when Mama offered to help them learn how to save money. The women thought “she’d been sent from Sweden to come and eat our money” and hatched a plan to beat her up. Ingrid Munro persisted and persuaded a few dozen of the beggars to trust her. Clarice’s face contorts with remembered shock when she recalls the day Mama told her she had saved 1,000 Kenyan shillings (£8).

There were more surprises to come as Mrs Munro offered to lend her the same amount again to set up a business. “Don’t give me a headache,” was Clarice’s initial response. “What is a loan? What business can I do? I don’t even know how to write my name.” The Great Lakes girl put her 2,000 Kenyan shillings in fish. With each loan repaid she would borrow more.

By her sixth loan, there was too much money for fish and she expanded into market stalls. By her 10th, she was borrowing £1,200 and opening a string of slum businesses. The first group of 50 beggars a decade ago has swollen to a membership of 225,000.

Clarice’s latest loan is a mortgage on her home in Kaputei with monthly payments of £23. She is “overpaying” at the moment to settle the loan early.

From the window of Clarice’s kitchen, the green of the grasslands is only interrupted by the black and white lines of a herd of zebra. But it is the sink tap that holds her attention. She turns it on. “So much water,” she says with infectious wonder.

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Kenyan Slum-dwellers Priced into Hunger

Posted on 28 May 2009. Filed under: Food Security, Poverty |

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Women selling fish in a Nairobi market (file photo): Slum-dwellers have been hard hit by the food price crisis

NAIROBI, 27 May 2009 (IRIN) – Millions of people who live in Kenya’s sprawling slums are among those worst hit by the food price crisis, yet they receive far less humanitarian attention than other demographic groups, according to officials, who pointed in particular to the plight of malnourished children in such settlements.

“While there are also very serious food crises elsewhere in Kenya – for example, in the north – they at least get some attention from governments and donors, whereas the crisis in the cities is often completely forgotten or ignored,” Alun McDonald, the regional media and communications officer of Oxfam GB, told IRIN.

“In Kibera [Nairobi’s largest slum] alone, there are over 5,000 children under five years old who are suffering from malnutrition – more than 1,000 of them suffering from severe cases,” McDonald said. “Severe child malnutrition should not be happening in a modern capital city.”

Food insecurity has been exacerbated by drought, rising food and non-food prices and poor harvests. “In the past 12 months… essential foods such as maize more than doubled in price… Oils and vegetables are also much more expensive now than they were a year ago,” he said.

The price of maize has risen by up to 130 percent in Nairobi and 85 percent in Mombasa over the past year. Cooking fuel prices have risen by 30-50 percent and the cost of water by 90-155 percent, according to the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

“It’s not just food that is more expensive – people cannot afford as much water now, which means children use dirty water and get sick more easily… It is getting much more expensive just to survive,” he said.

School feeding

According to Gabrielle Menezes, WFP information officer, high food prices have affected the urban population considerably, “as these are people who depend on markets to buy food, and do not really grow their own”.

WFP is feeding 145,500 urban children under the School Feeding Programme, which covers 195 schools in the Nairobi slums and the coastal town of Mombasa. “In response to high food prices, WFP began feeding in the Mombasa slums at the beginning of this year,” Menezes said.

“School feeding becomes even more important at times of crisis, as people resort to drastic coping measures, pulling children out of school to beg or work,” she said.

She noted that subsistence farmers in the southeastern and coastal areas were also hard hit by the failure of the October-December 2008 short rains.

''having hundreds of thousands of increasingly poor and hungry families could well lead to further instability on the streets of Nairobi -and potentially other cities''

“They experienced almost total crop loss, and many families will need food assistance,” she said, adding that WFP was providing general food distributions to 2.5 million people in the country.

According to Sylvia Khamati, acting head of the health department at the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), the need for proper nutrition in Kenya is huge. “Generally, most children are malnourished, it does not matter in what setting they are,” she said.

In March, the Kenya Food Security Steering Group called for food price controls, provision of food aid and the creation of employment opportunities to stop more Kenyans going hungry.

Khamati said attention should be paid to special needs groups such as children younger than five and pregnant women. “When there is a food crisis there is more focus on supplementary and therapeutic feeding as the goal is to save life. But this is expensive compared with providing nutrition education on integration of readily available local foods for a healthy diet,” she said.

According to Oxfam’s McDonald, hundreds of thousands of people in Nairobi already live in serious poverty and are just surviving. “They simply can’t afford to pay any more for food,” he said.

“But the urban crisis is not just about poverty – it is also about governance,” he said. “Citizens need to have affordable access to basic services such as water and healthcare.

“Given the political tensions in Kenya at the moment, having hundreds of thousands of increasingly poor and hungry families could well lead to further instability on the streets of Nairobi – and potentially other cities.”

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Lake Victoria Communities Could Be Key to Millions of ‘Climate’ Dollars For Poor Around the World

Posted on 18 May 2009. Filed under: Environment, Poverty |

Carbon Benefits Project Will Assess Levels of Carbon Stored Via Sustainable and Climate-Friendly Land Management

Village communities in Western Kenya alongside ones in Niger, Nigeria and China could become the key to unlocking the multi-billion dollar carbon markets for millions of farmers, foresters and conservationists across the developing world.

Catchments in and around Lake Victoria have been chosen as a test-bed for calculating how much carbon can be stored in trees and soils when the land is managed in a sustainable, climate-friendly ways.

The initiative, known as the Carbon Benefits Project, was launched today by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Agroforestry Centre, along with a range of other key partners. The project is being funded by the Global Environment Facility.

Under the United Nation’s climate convention and its Kyoto Protocol, developed countries can offset some of their greenhouse gas emissions by paying developing economies for implementing clean and renewable energy projects such as wind, solar and geothermal power.

In December 2009, at the crucial UN climate convention meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, nations may decide to also pay to tropically-forested countries for maintaining standing forests under a scheme known as Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD).

This is because up to 20 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions linked with climate change is coming from deforestation—more than from cars, trucks, planes and ships combined.

UNEP, along with the Food and Agricultural Organization and the UN Development Programme, is working with nine developing nations including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Papua New Guinea and Panama in preparation for the inclusion of REDD in a future agreement on climate change in Copenhagen.

By some estimates a country like Indonesia, for example, could earn $1 billion a year if it manages to reduce its rate of deforestation by one million hectares annually, with revenues calculated on the basis of the price per tonne on the carbon markets at the time.

If REDD is agreed as part of a post-2012 climate regime, this could open the door to carbon storage payments for other kinds of nature-based management covering ‘ecosystems’ such as grasslands, pasturelands, peatlands and mangroves.

It could also open the door to more environmentally-friendly kinds of agriculture from agroforestry to conservation farming, as they too can store large amounts of carbon in vegetation and soils.

The missing link, however, is a way to evaluate the precise amounts of carbon each kind of system and management regime is actually locking away.

This key issue must be resolved if farmers, conservationists, communities and land owners are to be paid per tonne of pollution removed from the atmosphere.

This is where the Carbon Benefits Project (CBP) comes in: scientists will closely study projects in Western Kenya, Western China, Niger and Nigeria and develop a system for measuring, monitoring and managing carbon in a diverse range of landscapes.

The UNEP-GEF project is utilizing the skills and know-how of a range of partners including Colorado State University and WWF.

Other partners include the International Soil and Reference Information Centre, the Overseas Development Group of the University of East Anglia, and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute.

Also involved are the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, the Asian Development Bank, Centro de Energia Nuclear na Agricultura, the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Michigan State University, the Centre for International Forestry Research, and numerous local farming communities.

As part of the Carbon Benefits Project, researchers will work with project managers in Kenya, China, Niger and Nigeria to set up carbon and greenhouse gas prediction systems.

The project scientists will assemble ground measurements of vegetation, soil carbon and greenhouse gas emissions at a test site in Western Kenya to calibrate satellite images and test the measurement and monitoring protocol.

Case studies will be carried out in several catchments of the Kenya Agricultural Productivity and Sustainable Land Management Project, starting with the Cherangani Hills and followed by the Bogoria, Taita Hills and Kinale alongside Nzoia, Yala and Nyando catchments of the Lake Victoria basin.

Four demonstration projects will also be carried out in different areas of northern and western China. The project is also operating in several catchments spanning parts of both Niger and Nigeria: Maggia-Lamido, Gada-Gulbin Maradi, Tagwai-El Fadama and Komadugu Yobe.

The measurement and monitoring protocols will be available in 18 months and the modelling and capacity building work will go on up to three years when the project ends.

Quotes from Some of the Partners in the Carbon Benefits Project:

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “Farming carbon alongside farming crops is just one of the tantalizing prospects emerging as a result of the world’s urgent need to combat climate change. Some industrialized countries are considering investing tens of billions of dollars in capturing carbon off the smoke stacks of power stations and burying underground.”

“However, managing the land and its vegetation in more intelligent and climate-friendly ways may generate multiple benefits from stabilizing soils, securing water supplies, conserving biodiversity and generating much needed income for poor and low-income communities. Governments thus need to Seal the Deal at the crucial UN climate convention meeting in December,” added Mr Steiner.

Monique Barbut, CEO of the GEF, said: “The CBP will save money and time by streamlining land cover analysis. Project managers that use the methodology will be able to engage communities in measurement efforts and help them benchmark for better results.”

Dennis Garrity, Director-General of the World Agroforestry Centre, said: “The consortium of partners, from Africa, Asia, and South America, involved in the Carbon Benefits Project is developing a cost-effective and scientifically rigorous system, making use of the latest remote sensing technology and analysis, soil carbon modeling, ground-based measurement, and statistical analysis”.

“The knowledge gained from study sites around the world, including Lake Victoria, will help enable some of the world’s poorest people – in the most vulnerable places – to obtain the benefits of carbon sequestration,” added Mr Garrity.

Ginette Hemley, WWF’s Senior Vice President for Conservation Strategy and Science, said: “This project will offer a set of tools to help farmers, forest managers, and others better protect their land, increase productivity, and do this in a way that will help fight climate change.”

Eleanor Milne, Colorado State University, said: “The Carbon Benefits Project will provide a standard way for Global Environment Facility and other sustainable land management projects to measure, monitor and project Carbon benefits. We believe the project has the potential to produce a world class protocol which could be used by all sustainable land management projects in the future to show the impacts they have in terms of reducing or mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.”

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Seize Opportunities In Carbon Markets, Experts Urge Africa`s Private Sector

Posted on 18 May 2009. Filed under: Environment, Poverty |

Africa’s private sector should realign itself strategically to benefit from a windfall presented by investments in the carbon markets.

As the move towards low carbon economy gathers pace, African Countries must create a conducive policy environment as well as legislative and regulatory safeguards, to anchor a robust carbon credit market.

The proposals were made during the Inaugural Africa Green Business Summit held in Nairobi recently. “Investment opportunities created by the carbon market are tenfold.

African countries can seize the moment by directing more investments towards this endeavor in order to cover a milestone in carbon offsetting as well as lifting economies and livelihoods of the population” says Gregory Pfeifer, Senior Consultant, Africa Practice.

The global carbon market created through Kyoto Protocol enforced clean development mechanism (CDM) is worth US$ 64 billion.

Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is one of the three flexible mechanisms created by Kyoto Protocol to facilitate trading of credits for carbon emissions reduction. It is the only mechanism available to African Countries, which have no commitment to reduce emissions under the Kyoto Protocol.

Pfeifer says that Africa accrues a partly 2% share of the benefits derived from a range of projects in renewable energy, biomass and reforestation.

Asia and the Pacific have 76% of total CDM projects in the global South.

According to Pfeifer, various hurdles that includes limited technical capacity, limited funds and wanton destruction of forest ecosystem, have dwarfed efforts to strengthen carbon trading in Africa.

“Governments must scale up development of sound policies to enable private companies undertake tree planting, restoration of degraded water catchments and other ecosystems, to boost uptake of carbon”, says Pfeifer.

The private sector should as well invest in biodiversity conservation and activities geared towards reversing land degradation. He says the benefits are legion.

“Private sector investments in carbon offsetting projects will not only broaden economic base, it will assist communities adapt to climate change”, adds Pfeifer.

He challenged utilities in energy, water and conglomerates involved in mining and agribusiness to invest more in carbon offsetting projects and grab a slice of the pie in the 40 billion Euros worth carbon market in Africa.

Betty Maina, CEO, Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), called on the government to provide incentives for small and medium sized companies to enable them actively participate in offsetting carbon emissions.

“The government should provide clear policy guidelines, increase budgetary allocation towards energy efficiency programs and reduce taxation and duties levied on energy saving equipments” she told Africa Science News Service.

Kenya’s manufacturing sector has grappled with the challenge of climate change mitigation through development of sound and cost effective energy efficiency measures.

“Demand for energy in Kenya is growing at a rate of 6% and is largely driven by investors in manufacturing sector”, said Maina.

The manufacturing lobby is encouraging companies to implement “energy efficiency programmes” and document their carbon footprint as a starting point to improved environment change. The industrial sector in Kenya is as well being encouraged to shift over reliance on fossil fuels to agro fuels.

The CEO says that Kenyan industries are presented with 30% energy saving potential and can save an estimated US$ 40 million if they implement these programmes. She however maintains that green investments should reflect on a Company’s bottom lines.

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High Cost of Living Hinders Kenya’s Effort at Poverty Reduction

Posted on 27 November 2008. Filed under: MDGs, Poverty |

Nairobi, Kenya – Efforts by the Kenya government to halve extreme poverty by 2015 as envisaged in the Millennium Development Goals may not be achieved, owing to high poverty level and rising unemployment rates.

The Minister for Planning and Vision 2030, Wycliffe Oparanya, sounded optimistic but noted that key challenges stand in the way of the effort to help bridge the widening gap between the rich and the poor in the country.

According to a 2006 study, poverty levels dropped to 46 per cent.

However, following the post-election violence that gripped the country early in the year coupled with a poor weather that resulted in low agricultural produce, the statistics might change.

“We currently do not have up to date figures on the number of people living below the poverty line, however, a census earmarked for 2010 will assist in giving the probable number of those living in extreme poverty.” Oparanya said in an inter v iew after launching the popular version of the African Peer Review Mechanism – APRM, Kenya Progress Report at the KICC.

The APRM progress report indicates key challenges facing Kenya in its effort to achieve economic growth, including youth unemployment rates and that of female youth as high as 27 per cent of the total population, while national unemployment is pegged at 12.7 per cent.

According to the minister, government efforts to reduce the high poverty levels are also being undermined by cartels in the business community bent on ensuring that the cost of living remained high.

He cited the fuel prices that are being maintained high by oil marketing companies, which in effect is pushing up the cost of living.

“The government is putting a lot of resources into the National Oil Corporation (NOCK), to import petroleum products directly in order to regulate the high fuel prices,” Oparanya said.

During the launch of the report, UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya Aeneas Chuma reiterated the body’s commitment to work with the Kenya government in dealing with the challenges but called for the implementation of Agenda 4 of the National Dialogue and Reconciliation Accord in order to achieve social harmony and economic growth.

Oparanya at the same time took a swipe at weak legislation in the formation of the Poverty Eradication Commission (PEC) that has resulted in the slow pace at which poverty eradication measures are being addressed.

Kenya acceded to the APRM in March 2003 and was the third country to be peer-reviewed after Ghana and Rwanda.

President Mwai Kibaki was reviewed by his peers at the APRM heads of state forum in June 2006 in Banjul, Gambia.

The report launched Tuesday, will be discussed next January at the Africa Peer Review Forum to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Nairobi – 26/11/2008

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Millions Take Action Against Poverty Worldwide

Posted on 17 October 2008. Filed under: MDGs, Poverty |

Over the next three days, more than 1 percent of the global population — 67 million people — will participate in mass rallies, sports events, concerts, and other actions around the world to promote the poverty eradication Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

To browse events worldwide and get involved in your part of the globe, visit the Stand Up and Take Action Web site.

More than one percent of global population to stand up and take action for MDGs

From: UN Millennium Campaign

Halfway to the deadline in 2015, the UN Millennium Campaign and Global Call to Action Against Poverty have planned diverse events on October 17-19 across the globe to spearhead action on MDGs. Mass rallies, sports events, concerts would be held urging nations to put in place pro-poor development policies.

New York: The United Nations Millennium Campaign and Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) have announced details of some of coming week’s events aimed at mobilising more than one percent of the world’s population – over 67 million people – on October 17-19 to demand that world leaders deliver on their promises to eradicate extreme poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

“The global movement in support of the Millennium Development Goals is growing, and on October 17-19 more than one percent of the people on earth will send a clear message to their leaders that they will no longer stay seated while promises to end extreme poverty remain unfulfilled,” said Salil Shetty, Director of the UN Millennium Campaign.

“It’s incredible to see that in times of economic instability people are even more motivated to show their leaders that they want poverty eradication to remain at the top of the agenda. From the smallest villages to city streets, sports events and political lobbies, the sheer diversity of actions is staggering. We are showing the power of our growing movement in an unprecedented way this year,” said Kumi Naidoo, Co-Chair of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP).

Amongst the tens of millions of people standing against poverty are individuals with compelling stories to tell, such as activist and journalist Jenerali Ulimwengu, who has dedicated his life to exposing and fighting bad governance in Tanzania.  As the result of his hard-hitting reporting, his citizenship in Tanzania was temporarily revoked.

During Stand Up and Take Action this year, Ulimwengu will spearhead demands for the government to fulfill the MDGs by ensuring that poor people have access to clean portable water, improving access to healthcare (particularly for women and children), putting in place pro-poor development policies and improving service delivery in all key sectors.

James Njoroge Gitau, who lives in the Kariobangi slums in Kenya, surviving on less than one dollar a day has mobilised more than 100 schools and churches to Stand Against Poverty and is organising a medical camp to care for sick people in his community. Gitau is calling on his government to put in place pro-poor policies, stop corruption and allocate resources for programs for the poor.

In Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal, India, Yogesh Jain will once again Stand Against Poverty. Last year, Jain mobilised more than 200,000 people to Stand Up in protest of the districts’ lack of healthcare, clean drinking water and resources for education.

As a result of the massive mobilisation, government officials conducted surprise inspections which resulted in the allocation of funding for infrastructure repairs and the allotment of government land for school construction.

In Badarpur Khadar, a village 15 km from Delhi with no electricity, water, sanitation or health facilities, members of the National Conference of Dalit Organisations will open a school in a tent on October 18, providing local children with the opportunity to attend school in their village for the first time.

“Stand Up and Take Action” events include:


In Lagos, Nigeria, 100,000 people are expected to gather on October 17-19 for a concert by Femi Kuti to commemorate the life of renowned Nigerian Musician Fela Kuti and demand that the government pay closer attention to the country’s pro-poor development programs.

In Pretoria, South Africa on October 17, an expected 5,000 campaigners led by the workers’ trade union COSATU and the South Africa Council of Churches will march to Union Buildings, the official seat of government in South Africa, to demand guaranteed state social security schemes covering all children under eighteen. They will also call for the abolition of the value added tax on basic foodstuffs, the abolition of user fees on water, and the ratification of the UN Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

In Harare, Zimbabwe, 5,000 people are expected to gather when Pastor G and Victor Kunonga perform at “Do the Right Thing” on October 18 to call on the government to improve service delivery in health, water and sanitation.

In Togo, caravans will travel around the country to towns and villages, with each visit focusing on a specific MDG. The tour will culminate at a beach where 5,000 people are expected to gather to Stand Up together on October 19.

In Nairobi, Kenya on October 18, several top artists including Sarah Mitaru, Jua Kali and Jaky Malley Ringtone will join hands to host a concert aimed at protesting rising costs and reminding world leaders that Africans will not accept a new slavery through retrogressive trade policies such as the Economic Partnership Agreements.


In Delhi, India, members of the National Conference of Dalit Organisations and Amnesty International, India will meet with Parliamentarians on October 17 to demand resources for the most vulnerable and socially excluded groups. Also in Delhi, celebrities and more than 10,000 people are expected to gather for a mass mobilisation on Parliament Street.

In Daltonganj, Jharkhand, India more than 30,000 people from 600 villages and 18 districts are expected to gather on October 17 and 18 to demand poverty alleviation measures from the government and the achievement of the MDGs. The gathering, called Mahapanchayat, will be addressed by the Chief Minister of Jharkhand.

In Indonesia on October 17, Muslims will Stand Against Poverty at more than 400 mosques in a statement of solidarity to encourage the government to commit to more pro-poor policies.

In the Philippines, the National Anti-Poverty Commission and other civil society actors are expected to mobilize more than 10 million people at events including a National People’s Day on October 18, which will offer medical services and a job fair.  Also in the Philippines there will be a “Stand Up and Take Action” Rap Contest for community youth groups in metro Manila on October 17 and a bike run on October 19.

In Thailand, at least 180,000 people living below the national poverty line are expected to participate in poverty reduction clinics organised by the Ministry of Interior, which will encourage domestic and individual savings, health promotion, and empowerment of the poor.

In China, a Poverty and Migration Forum hosted in Beijing will include large numbers of people Standing Up.

In Singapore, bands including Vertical Rush and Jack and Rai will play at Youth Park on October 18 to express their demands to end world poverty and a new 2015 Countdown Clock will be launched to show leaders how much time – person by person, second by second – is left to achieve the MDGs.


In Italy, 80,000 people are expected to take part in 10 simultaneous Stand Up events in 9 cities including Venice, Bologna, Florence, Milan and Rome on October 18. Nine huge chairs without seats will be installed simultaneously in 9 squares to signify that people will not remain seated until their government delivers more and better aid. On October 19, 300,000 supporters are expected to Stand Up at the Italian Premier League football match. Also on October 19, sea dolphins will Stand Against Poverty at the Oltremare Park in Riccione.

In Portugal, members of the Star Trackers group will parachute over Évora, a UNESCO World heritage site, on October 17 to raise awareness of the MDGs and demand more and better aid.

In Scotland, UK, the Glasgow City Council has passed a motion to recognise the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and will call on all Glaswegians to “Stand Up and Take Action” against child poverty in Scotland.  A march from Glasgow Cathedral to Glasgow’s George Square aims to mobilise 3,000 people.

In Spain, thousands of people are expected to gather to march against poverty in Madrid on October 17 under the “Rebélate contra la Pobreza” initiative. Simultaneous anti-poverty mobilizations will occur on October 17 and 18 in more than 20 cities, including Palma de Mallorca, Sevilla, Zaragoza, Donosti, Bilbao, A Coruña, Badajoz, Cuenca and Valencia.

In Germany, video messages from members of the World Future Council who received alternative Nobel prizes will be shown at the Sony Center in Berlin on October 17 to demand more and better aid.  At the end, the pop group Culcha Candela will lead the Stand Up moment.

In Belgium, at the beginning of nine football matches on October 18-19, tens of thousands of fans will be asked to recite a pledge and Stand Against Poverty.

North America

In the United States and Canada, students will join campus programs and challenges to build political will to end extreme poverty by hosting teach-ins, Stand Up rallies, and other campus events.

Faith groups across these two countries are organising Sabbaths, Sevas, and Sadaqas to rally believers of all faiths – Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and others – to learn about and take action on behalf of people living in extreme poverty and dying from preventable diseases.

Middle East

In Palestine, 500,000 pupils are expected to Stand Up in schools. Students in 15 university branches will organize media debates to demand a lending fund for poor students.

Latin America and Caribbean

In Santiago, Chile there will be a walk between Arms Square and Constitution Square on October 17 featuring a moving wall on which people can take action by writing messages. At the event, citizens will ask municipal candidates to sign a commitment against poverty.

In El Salvador, citizens will Stand Up at a Presidential Candidates Forum on October 17.


Members of the Art of Living Foundation, one of the largest spiritual movements in the world, will mobilise to plant more than 100 million trees around the world.

Screenings of the independent film “The End of Poverty?” by Cinema Libre Productions will take place in about 15 locations worldwide including the Sao Paulo Film Festival, London, Sydney, Washington DC,  and Brussels.

For more information about events planned to celebrate and promote the Millennium Development Goals, visit the UN Millennium Campaign.

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Kibera: From Rubbish Dump to Cabbage Patch

Posted on 4 September 2008. Filed under: Agriculture, Environment, Poverty |

Photo: Julius Mwelu/IRIN
This organic farm in the sprawling Kibera slum is providing residents with a source of income

NAIROBI, 3 September 2008 (IRIN) – Rubbish is everywhere in Kibera, Africa’s largest slum, just a few kilometres from the centre of Nairobi. It lies not just between the ramshackle dwellings, but often underneath them, rendering them vulnerable to collapse in times of flood.

But the face of the slum is beginning to change as fresh vegetables spring up where trash once lay rotting.

The youth in Kandimiru, one of the villages within the slum have, through a self-help group, established the first organic farm on what was once a garbage dumpsite.

“We wanted to keep the area clean so we saw it fit to have a garden,” Augustine Oramisi, the chairman of the Kibera Youth Initiative for Community Development, a local umbrella body for self-help groups in Kibera, told IRIN.

Most of the youth involved in the project were involved in the post-election clashes that rocked the slum earlier in the year, Oramisi said.

“They were the most vibrant group during the skirmishes,” Oramisi said.

Since crime and disease is rife and unemployment is rampant, the project is seen by many as helping reform the behaviour of the youth in the slum. “Most of the members were criminals who have chosen to reform,” Mohammed Abdullahi, an official with the group, said.

“I have seen many people dying here,” Abdullahi said. At least 10 of the group members have been killed in crime-related activities, he said.

“No one could pass here,” Hussein Hassan, a member of the group told IRIN as he tended to a crop of spinach growing in the quarter acre garden located against a heap of garbage. Besides tending to the farm, Hassan also has a job collecting garbage in the area. The cabbages, tomatoes, spinach, kale, pumpkin and sunflowers grown on the farm are sold locally within the slum.

Recently, the group had their first cabbage harvest.

Besides providing food and income, the farm is also being used as a pilot project to teach local students how to carry out land reclamation.

The sprawling, unregulated slum originated during World War I, when the land was a temporary residence to the Nubian (Sudanese) soldiers from the King’s African Rifles. The name ‘Kibera’ comes from the Nubian word ‘kibra’, meaning forest or jungle.

Other prevailing conditions in the slum include the lack of basic water supplies, sanitation, solid waste management, power problems, poor roads and high population densities.

According to Eric Agoro Simba, a coordinator of the youth group, residents in Kibera require a forum where would-be donors and aid agencies can consult with them first to address the various challenges facing most of the slum’s inhabitants.

“The problems [in the slums] might be big but we also have the solutions,” Agoro said. “What these people need is a push, not pity.”

Agoro’s sentiments were echoed by Claire K Niala, a doctor mobilising funds to support the farm project and other development projects in the area. “They [slum dwellers] need empowerment more,” she told IRIN on 2 September.

There was a need to ensure that donor funding for slum projects actually benefited the local residents, they said.

“Anything with the word ‘Kibera’ sells, but the money ends up in the wrong pockets,” Agoro said.

According to UN Habitat, a community-based financial framework for accessing credit for housing and related services, such as water and sanitation, would enable communities in the area to access finance for improving their living conditions and enhance their capacity for self governance and decision making.

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Give Women Land Rights and Make Poverty History

Posted on 12 August 2008. Filed under: Affirmative Action, Poverty |

The recent statement by the Minister for Lands, Hon. James Orengo that the National Land Policy is ready for cabinet deliberation and final approval is something that is overdue.  But for the majority of Kenyan women who wallow in poverty and are destitute, the announcement has generated a lot of excitement as they have for a long time been culturally prohibited from inheriting this critical factor of production and source of wealth. This is because the Land Policy recognizes gender equity as a principle.

Such a provision is what women have been advocating for, for donkey years. Because with it, our society can begin to start seeing women not as bystanders and passive actors, but those who can contribute immensely to economic growth by owning and controlling how this important asset is used.  An asset that will determine whether they will remain submerged in poverty or excel in life. This was eloquently put by South African activist, Maureen Mnisi, that “the struggle for rights to land is bigger than the struggle to alleviate poverty.”  Indeed, no one group understands this better than women, who are reputed to produce at least 80 percent of Kenya’s food and with at least 90 percent of their labour being channeled towards food production and processing.

But because they do not own land, they are never beneficiaries of their sweat. Their men are instead the real winners: they walk to the bank, pick the money, and take-off for holiday with their mistresses. Indeed, the fact that it is very difficult, if not downright impossible, to put a finger on precise data on how women are affected by lack of land ownership. That is why the proposed draft on Land Policy is welcomed. Secondly, this policy is vital because it addresses the linkages between HIV/AIDS and poverty and land ownership.

I know there have been a lot of cultural barriers around women and land ownership in Kenya. This is not withstanding that a lot of discussions have taken place on issues around women and land tenure. The experience from the past, especially during the 2005 referendum proved how emotional and culturally sensitive these issues can be, and sent a message to women that the struggle will not be easy. The policy might be in law, but in practice, they will have to go an extra mile. Some of the arguments made during the referendum included: How can a woman inherit land at her birth place; at her matrimonial home; why would a married woman think of having her own piece of land when her husband has not approved it.

Since women’s rights to land is either through marriage or through a male relative, this makes them virtually invisible when it comes to benefits, services and earnings from land. They are also absent from the statistics that would make a difference in planning. Like in the rest of Africa, even where laws have been put in place allowing women to own land, customary practices at times dictates that ownership, making relatives often subvert the official policy. But I believe that, if the Land Policy becomes a reality, we should not give it narrow interpretation.

As proposed within the draft, there should be what I would call: “Land laws menu,” that will raise critical questions such as “How would you like yours done Ma’am?  It is going to be joint ownership, co-ownership; consent from both partners when one of them sells land; or the right to be present when your man buys land. If the Land Policy is in place, can we then start thinking about alternative  forms of land tenure that cater for the realities we are trying to address as a nation. But for Kenya, it should be recognized that discussions around food security, sustainable development and achieving vision 2030 does not make any sense if the question of land rights is not addressed comprehensively. They are the managers of the land; and custodians of indigenous knowledge that ensures sustainable management of our environment. They work the land, know precisely what to plant; and how their families are to be fed throughout the year.

Every time a government fails to take into account women’s knowledge and experiences in land and agriculture, we condemn the earth.  Putting women at the centre of land rights is the first step towards sustainable development and alleviating poverty and the Kenyan women will be waiting with bated breath on the outcome of the cabinet’s decision on the draft Land Policy Bill.


*The African Woman and Child Features Service (AWC) is a Nairobi-based media organisation
with an African regional outlook

AWC has been active in training journalists and other media practitioners as well as NGOs in the region in the area of gender, media and development. It has assisted in the production of training manuals for organisations, gender mainstreaming policies and content for media houses and training women on how to access and effectively use the media for development.

*The writer is the Executive Director of AWC Features

This article was also published in the Saturday Standard on July 26 2008.

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Insecurity Heightens Poverty in Northwest Kenya

Posted on 31 July 2008. Filed under: Insecurity, MDGs, Poverty |

Photo: Ann Weru/IRIN
Residents often have to rely on police reservists and have organised local security to safeguard their livestock

LODWAR, 29 July 2008 (IRIN) – John Lochimoe used to own several heads of cattle that his grandfather left him, until raiders from the neighbouring Pokot District of northwestern Kenya took the animals.

“All the cows my grandfather left me have been stolen, driving me deeper into poverty,” he said. Today, Lochimoe, a single parent of two, who also cares for his mother and mother-in-law, can hardly cope thanks to the insecurity that has robbed him of his livelihood.

“At night the dogs bark all the time and people are always on the look-out. It seems as if the peace and reconciliation efforts do not work,” Lochimoe, a former teacher living in Oropoi village, Turkana North District, said.

Like Oropoi, many areas of the mainly arid northern Kenya experience resource-based conflicts, livestock theft and a lack of access to infrastructure such as roads, schools, communication and health facilities.

The situation has particularly affected the pastoralist communities that dominate the region. The major causes of conflict include cattle-rustling, proliferation of illicit arms, inadequate policing, and competition over control and access to natural resources, according to a report by the NGO Practical Action Eastern Africa report. The NGO implements peace programmes in northern Kenya.

“The pastoralists cannot access water and pasture because of the insecurity,” Turkana Central District Commissioner George Ayonga said. Residents rely on seasonal rivers and water pans, and rising fuel costs have also reduced access to motorised water schemes.

The insecurity, he added, had caused population displacement, especially in areas such as Lokori and Lomelo, south of the main town of Lodwar.

To cope, residents often have to rely on police reservists and have organised local security to safeguard their livestock. Boys, some as young as 14, carry guns while herding livestock.

According to a drought bulletin for Turkana, June was particularly bad for conflicts in all cross-border zones of Turkana North, Central and South districts.

The problem was attributed to resource-based battles after the failure of the long rains. The region borders Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and the areas of Baringo, Marsabit, Samburu and West Pokot in Kenya.

The bulletin recommended strengthening early warning and rapid response systems, in addition to holding peace meetings and encouraging dialogue.

Health issues

According to Sarah Wanaswa of the Oropoi dispensary, many cases of assault and gunshot wounds were reported during the months of peak conflict. “When there are no peace and reconciliation efforts, there are also many raids,” Wanaswa said. “We get targeted more when the herds move.”

Apart from insecurity, the region experiences other health problems. Low awareness of personal hygiene, she added, had also often led residents to suffer preventable diseases such as diarrhoea, skin and eye infections. The dispensary, which treats between seven and 10 people each day, relies on supplies flown in by the government and NGOs.

Photo: Ann Weru/IRIN
John Ichom, a teacher at a Catholic mission nursery school in the Kaeris area of the Turkana North district.

The other problem was low latrine coverage. “Most people use the ‘cat method’,” she said. “Those [residents] who are mobile see no value in erecting latrines which they will not use for long.

“Some say the soil is rocky and are therefore reluctant to dig latrines,” she said. “Waste disposal depends on personal knowledge.”

Wanaswa said community health workers were conducting outreach services. “We are educating the people on the consequences of not having a toilet.”

The dispensary at Oropoi also lacks HIV prevention services while most women deliver at home, seeking medical help only in case of complications. At the same time, the population movements had also contributed to low immunisation coverage of childhood diseases such as measles.


While enrolment in nursery and primary schools is high, transition to secondary education is low due to the tradition of early marriage for girls and boys dropping out of school to take care of livestock.

High enrolment in the lower classes is boosted by the school-feeding programmes. “For most children this is their main meal,” John Ichom, a teacher at a Catholic mission nursery school in the Kaeris area of the Turkana North district, said.

There are few boarding schools and in some, the classrooms double up as dormitories at night.

“It is as if we are not part of Kenya,” said a resident of the lack of infrastructure and rampant insecurity, which had also restricted access to key markets within and outside the region.

In a bid to develop the northern regions, the government has established a ministry of state for the development of northern Kenya and other arid lands.

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Linking Sport and the Environment to the Peace and Poverty Agenda in Kenya

Posted on 19 June 2008. Filed under: Environment, Governance, Lifestyle, MDGs, Media, Poverty, Sports |


UNEP and Underprivileged Children and Youth Kick Off New Reconciliation Initiative

Nairobi, 18 June 2008–More than 300 children and teenagers from across Nairobi will gather on 21 June for the launch of a three-month event to promote peace and reconciliation.

The ‘Play for the Planet: Play for Peace’ initiative, organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has received about $40,000 of support in cash and in kind from UNEP, the International Olympic Committee and sports-goods maker PUMA, as well as the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) and ABC Bank. It will run until 21 September to coincide with World Peace Day.

The event aims to use the power of sport to promote peace and reconciliation among Kenyans, and to provide a positive environment for interaction for young people affected by the recent post-election conflict in Kenya.

The 21 June launch at the Kenya Cultural Centre will include theatre performances, acrobatic shows, peace and environmental messages and a live concert, as well as an exhibition of paintings by internally displaced children.

A series of events for children and youth aged 6 to 24 will then take place in schools and communities across the parts of Nairobi most affected by the recent unrest: the informal settlements of Mathare, Huruma, Mathare North, Kibera, Dandora and Korogocho.

Activities in schools and at community level will include talks, drama workshops, tree planting and a clean-up of the Nairobi river, as well as weekend sports tournaments. Community-based organizations will help implement the activities, and youth peer counsellors trained by UN-HABITAT will also provide counselling to the affected and traumatized children.

Kenyan sports personalities such as world-famous marathon runners Paul Tergat and Catherine Ndereba will attend some of the events.

Based on the success of the event, UNEP may consider extending the initiative to other parts of the country which were affected by the unrest.

Notes to editors

This is the first edition of UNEP’s sports and peace initiative. The aim is to use sport as an avenue to promote and foster peace, in line with UNEP’s long term strategy on Sport and the Environment endorsed by UNEP Governing Council in 2003.

Homeboyz radio will provide live coverage for the opening event on 21 June.

For more information, please contact:

Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson, Office of the Executive Director, on Tel: +254 20 762 3084; Mobile: 254 733 632 755 or when traveling +41 795 965 737; E-mail: nick.nuttall@unep.org

Or Anne-France White, Associate Information Officer, on Tel: +254 20 762 3088, Mobile: + 254 728600494; E-mail: anne-france.white@unep.org

Or Theodore Oben, Chief of UNEP’s Outreach Unit, on Tel: +254 724 255 247; E-mail: theodore.oben@unep.org

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Inventor of Kenya’s ‘MoneyMaker’ Irrigation Pumps Wins $100,000 Award

Posted on 23 April 2008. Filed under: Agriculture, Development, MDGs, Poverty |

The inventor of manual irrigation pumps used by peasant farmers in Africa has won the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability.

Martin Fisher is the co-founder and CEO of the nonprofit KickStart, which develops and markets tools such as the pumps that can help small-scale rural farmers.

Nearly 62,000 people in Kenya, Tanzania and Mali are running profitable businesses by using KickStart’s MoneyMaker pumps.

Joshua Schuler, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program, says Fisher’s inventions have helped harness the entrepreneurial drive of many Africans.

The Lemelson-MIT Program will announce the winner of its $500,000 prize in June.

Additional resources:

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Growing More Potatoes to Improve Food Security

Posted on 18 April 2008. Filed under: Development, Food Security, MDGs, Poverty |

Growing more potatoes could help countries like Kenya to improve their food security at a time of high cereal prices, an agricultural expert said.

Potatoes are a more efficient food source than maize or rice, requiring less land and water than the cereals.

About 80 per cent of the potato crop can be used for human consumption, significantly more than for cereals.

It is estimated that tropical farmers can produce about 20-25 tonnes of potatoes per hectare within 50-90 days of planting, said NeBambi Lutaladio, in charge of tuber crops at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.

“The same area would yield only 10 tonnes of cereal after a longer period of time,” he told Business Daily.

FAO is organising a series of events and conferences this year, which it has designated the International Year of the Potato, to boost research on more productive varieties of potatoes and ways of incorporating them into the food chain.

High cereal prices have already triggered government initiatives to substitute cereal-based foods with potato products.

In Peru, consumers are being urged to eat bread made with potato flour in a bid to reduce food price inflation driven by expensive wheat imports.

Production of potatoes is also growing faster than grains. By 2020, the average annual growth rate of potatoes will be 2.7 per cent, predicts the FAO, compared with 1.8 per cent for corn, 1.5 per cent for wheat and 1.3 per cent for rice.

The growth is particularly strong in developing countries. These accounted for half of the global crop – 320 million tonnes – in 2007, compared with a mere third in 1990.

China has become the world’s biggest potato producer, doubling its output in the last 10 years to 72 million tonnes last year.

But although the potato is easy to grow, making it a valuable cash crop for many farmers, getting access to added value sectors remains challenging. The knowledge on incorporating potato flour into foods is clearly far behind that of wheat flour, said Mr Lutaladio.

More work also needs to be done on linking small-scale sub-Saharan growers to domestic and regional commodity markets and improving the planting material available to farmers.

“We’re encouraging developing economies to create committees to discuss what needs to be done to make the crop more sustainable,” said Mr Lutaladio.

Kenya is the fifth biggest potato producer in Sub-Saharan Africa, with an output of 790,000 tonnes in 2006, according to FAO.

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Get Ready To Stand up and Take Action for the MDGs: October 17th -19th 2008

Posted on 2 April 2008. Filed under: Development, Governance, MDGs, Poverty |

Last year, more than 43 million people all over the world stood up and spoke out sending a clear and powerful message to governments: Keep your promises to end poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

This year we are inviting you to Stand Up and Take Action, to be a part of the growing global movement determined to stamp out poverty and inequality.

We have reached the halfway mark to 2015, the target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. There has been some progress, but there is still a long way to go. We need to take urgent and inspired action now, to remind our governments we expect them to deliver. That’s why this year we’re focusing on country-specific actions in support of the achievement of the Millennium Goals. Millions will be Standing Up and Taking Action, locally, nationally and globally.

The scope of actions is broad and depends on what is relevant for each national or local context. Whether by a signed petition, a text message campaign, phone calls to local government representatives, face to face meetings with parliamentarians, local and national leaders – What’s most important is that we Stand Up and take Action to make our demands heard loud and clear.

In poor countries, Campaigners will be reminding their governments to implement time-bound MDG-based national development strategies, plans and budgetary allocations; to improve MDG implementation and delivery mechanisms with a strong focus on poor and excluded groups particularly women; to produce concrete plans to enhance domestic resource mobilization that will be earmarked for MDG achievement; to create and implement plans for increased transparency and fighting corruption, more systematic and on-going monitoring and reporting of progress towards the achievement of the MDGs and greater accountability on MDG planning, implementation and reporting to elected officials (Parliaments, local Governments etc.) and key non-state stakeholders including the media, faith groups, citizens groups and civil society organizations.

In rich countries, delivering on Goal 8 commitments continue to be important and at the national and global level. Specific commitments from these Heads of State should include, setting and meeting time-tabled commitments on not just aid volume and debt relief, but aid quality and effectiveness; breaking the impasse in the trade negotiations at the WTO, particularly on elimination of agricultural subsidies and market access for developing country goods and services and to stop pushing through WTO plus agreements on a bilateral or regional basis.

Stand Up, Take Action 2008 will be held over a three day period from October 17th -19th.
By starting on a Friday and concluding on a Sunday, everyone, whether at home, at work, at school, university or in a place of worship will have the chance to take part.

We will once again be aiming to break the world record for the most number of people to Stand Up Against Poverty. But even more importantly, you will be building on the momentum created over the last two years, a momentum which has already contributed to real progress. Thank you for all you have done to make Stand Up a strong movement and powerful force in the fight to end poverty and see the Millennium Goals achieved and exceeded. Let’s resolve to make Stand Up and Take Action even more impactful in 2008.


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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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    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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