Monthly Archives: March 2017

Celebrating International Literacy Day

According to the latest data from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics, 750 million adults – two-thirds of whom are women – still lack basic reading and writing skills. The global adult literacy rate was 86% in 2016, while the youth literacy rate was 91%.

In Kenya, data from the Kenya Commission of Revenue Allocation ranks Narok 42 out of the 47 counties in Kenya with regard to women literacy levels. The county’s average literacy level is 56.3%, and only 0.4% of the population has attained university level education and 8.9% a secondary education. Those who can read and write are 41.4% of the population, which is lower than the national level of 66.4%.

One of the factors affecting education in Narok is culture. For a long time the community did not encourage their children to go to school. Boys are left to look after livestock at a very tender age while girls are circumcised and married off at an early age, some as young as 12. The predominantly pastoralist Maasai community have for a long time valued livestock and land and attached little importance to education. The nomadic way of life they lead makes it difficult for learners to complete educational programmes. This has resulted in a high primary school dropout rate. Another factor contributing to school dropout is teenage pregnancy, standing at 40% in the county, surpassing the national average of 18%. Additionally, it has been challenging encouraging elderly people to join adult learning classes. The stigma associated with adult education is exemplified in the use of words such as ‘ngumbaru’. The illiterate adult population view education as a disruption to their nomadic way of life. The problem is further compounded by a current deficit of having at least one teacher for every location in Narok county. At least 200 more teachers are required to fill this gap.

From 2017, Action Africa Help International (AAH-I) is supporting the Narok county government to reduce illiteracy rates. Under the Mara Community Livelihood Improvement project funded by Bread for the World, we are supporting women in the Mara to access formal education and skills to enable them attain necessary skills to conduct small businesses, to participate in community projects and to support their households with ease. These alternative basic, adult and continuing education classes are conducted using the REFLECT methodology. REFLECT is a training technique that provides a space for a group of people to meet and discuss issues relevant to them. Participants choose the topics themselves, according to their own priorities and are supported by a facilitator. It uses a range of participatory methods.

In June and July 2017, AAH-I’s Kenya programme trained 11 adult literacy REFLECT methodology facilitators in Naikara ward. The facilitators underwent induction to improve their skills in curriculum delivery and the overall REFLECT methodology, to ensure professional delivery of functional adult literacy content. Participants are divided into literacy ‘circles’. The current enrollment stands at 200 women in 8 literacy circles spread over Naikara ward.

Our approach is linked to the global approach to literacy, which has a shift from the traditional reading, writing and arithmetic to include literacies such as interpretation and application, use of computers, innovation and other digital technologies for lifelong learning.

These efforts by AAH-I are geared towards meeting the targets set in sustainable development goals 4 and 5, quality education for all and promoting gender equality and empowering women, respectively.

Refugee-turned-employer

When Shukurani Hota Biclere arrived at the Kakuma Refugee Camp as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2012, she had little prospects about living a meaningful life. Little did she know that the tailoring skills she had acquired from her home in Uvira, south of Kivu, would come in handy.

Biclere at her tailoring shop in Kakuma

“When I arrived at Kakuma, I initially felt hopeless but made up my mind to adapt to my new situation. To keep my mind off my troubles, I took up tailoring for other established tailors around the camp. I would receive a small commission but soon realized that I could earn a better living by running my own tailoring shop.”

Biclere is one of the 4,385 beneficiaries of AAH-I loans for business start-ups for self-reliance, under the Kakuma Refugee Assistance Project (KRAP) supported by UNHCR. She responded to a call for loan applications and qualified for an advanced loan of KSh100,000 (approximately $1,000) in June 2016. Besides the loans, beneficiaries also received training in entrepreneurship, and were given guidance on business market opportunities. She has been repaying the loan from her business proceeds at KES. 8,300 per month.

Biclere’s business is steadily growing. Almost one year later, she now boasts an average of 40 clients per month, and has employed 7 staff, all refugees, 6 from the Democratic Republic of Congo and 1 from Burundi.

The objective of KRAP is to increase the percentage of the working group (18-59yrs) of refugees, asylum seekers and the host community with their own source of income. The project is supporting financial inclusion for refugees. Under the KRAP to date, at least 4,385 people have been provided with entrepreneurship/business training and given guidance on business market opportunities.

“I am using the business skills I learnt during the training by AAH-I, and I can now make simple weekly and monthly reports. I am happy that I can take care of my family’s basic needs”, she says.

This is what it looks like when development works!

Joint music gala to promote peace in South Sudan

AAH South Sudan’s Capacity Building for Post conflict Reintegration (CAPOR) Project in collaboration with the State Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports Maridi State, with funding from Bread for the World, organized a one day joint Music Gala under the theme, Defy Hate Speech Now, Encourage Peace. The event brought together all the local musicians from Maridi County, who converged at Maridi Bus Park to participate in the event.

Maridi County in West part of South Sudan is one of the counties negatively affected by the current socio-economic and political unrest, which had its roots way from the December 2013 conflict that erupted in South Sudan. The unrest has led to the loss of innocent lives, abuse of human right, rape, abductions of people by unknown armed groups, internal displacement of people, people living on tribal sentiments or groups, fear, loss of trust among the youth and the local authorities and worst of all, people living on the state of refugees in their own homes.

The main objectives of the joint music gala were to promote the spirit of peaceful co-existence among the diverse divided communities of Maridi, to promote the spirit of sharing knowledge, experiences and talent among the local musicians, to promote hard work and self-reliance among the youth, to convey health messages, and to promote gender equality and respect for human rights.

Southern Boys Music Group during the music gala

Honorable Peter Saki Silvan, the State Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, Maridi State, appreciated and thanked AAH South Sudan CAPOR project and all the project staff for the initiative and for being in close collaboration with the Ministry of Information in planning activities and implementation. He said that music is the only powerful instrument or channel for transmitting messages of peace and hope to the communities. “All the songs presented today by the local South Sudanese musicians conveyed messages of peaceful co-existence among the communities – peace begins from home and we are all custodians of peace,” he said.

He encouraged all people to work hard towards achieving lasting peace in the State, adding that, AAH-SS CAPOR project, as a peace-building partner, should regularly hold such events in order to rehabilitate and contribute to healing divisions in communities in Maridi State. “The AAH South Sudan CAPOR project is the only project in the state that works directly with the communities in peace-building. The State Government has similar activities but is currently handicapped due to other competing needs”.

At least 700 people, including the local community, Government dignitaries, religious leaders, the army and AAH South Sudan staff, graced the gala.

Southern Boys Music Group during the music gala

Tie and dye for self-reliance

Just near a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Hargeisa stands the AAH Somalia/Somaliland Basic Skills and Production Centre. Several women hold pieces of white fabric, intricately tying them in preparation for dyeing. The women, all Somali returnees, have been participating in a tie-and-dye training from 10th February 2017.

The centre is part of AAH Somalia/Somaliland’s ‘Integrated approach to promote, increase social self-reliance and livelihood opportunities among returnee and returnee hosting communities in Hargeisa, Somaliland’ project. The project, supported by UNHCR, is targeting 500 returnees and 150 hosting community members who lack employability skills and capital to pursue viable economic opportunities.

Somali returnees from Yemen hanging fabric to dry after a tie and dye training

Trainer Fadumo Ahmed (seated) with trainees during the training

“The theoretical and practical modules in the training include basic tie and dye techniques and a step-by-step guide of the process, colour mixing, pattern design for clothes such as deras, shawls and saris and home business set up, with information on suppliers of dye and equipment, pricing and marketing,” says the trainer, Fadumo Ahmed Cumar, a refugee from Ethiopia.

Somali returnees from Yemen are learning theoretical and practical skills in running a tie and dye business

“I look forward to learning this skill so that I can begin my own business here in Hargeisa. I haven’t been able to find a job since I returned home from Yemen in 2015. I want to be self-reliant and provide for my family,” says Halima Aden Duale, one of the trainees at the centre. Halima fled the civil war in Somalia in 2011 and went to Yemen with her husband and three children. She returned to Somaliland in 2015.

In the long term, AAH Somalia/Somaliland plans to expand vocational production aligned with market demand and quality assurance to include training in masonry, pastry making, painting and interior design, dress-making and embroidery and electrical wiremanship. Trainees will also be trained in basic business skills

A portrait of resilience

Is it possible that delicate horticultural crops such as okra, radishes, cucumbers, watermelons, tomatoes and dill would thrive in the harsh weather conditions in Turkana County in northern Kenya?

Welcome to Mohammed Khadir’s farm, a section of a larger three-acre plot managed by AAH-I in Kakuma. Mohammed left Darfur, Sudan, during the war in 2012. Tasked with the responsibility of taking care of his wife and ten children, he looked for opportunities to utilize his skills in crop farming as an alternative source of livelihood while living as a refugee in Kakuma. Mohammed learnt how to farm in Darfur.

With AAH-I’s Esther Ekure, Mohammed Khadir inspects radish from his farm

Cucumbers from the farm

He heard about the AAH-I project on supporting innovative and sustainable livelihood interventions in agriculture and agribusiness, contributing to self-reliance for refugees and host communities in Kakuma of Turkana West County. As Wada Azum group, Mohammed joined other refugees and formed a group comprising 10 members (1 female and 9 male). They were allocated 3-acre land space at the AAH-I plot and had a one-week training on group formation and dynamics, agriculture and agribusiness, farm record-keeping and marketing.

I enjoyed the training on farm record keeping – Mohammed Khadir

AAH Kenya’s Agriculture Project Officer, Peter Cheptumo (centre) looking through member records at the farm

“The training was beneficial to me, especially the module on farm record keeping. I did not have any experience in keeping good farm records. But I can now track my expenses and income, and use the information to plan for any farm improvements. The records also guide us in doing good agricultural practices,” says Mohammed.

Esther Ekure, AAH-I’s Assistant Agriculture Extension Officer, says that they are supporting farmers in crop husbandry management that include crop spacing, weeding, pest/disease control management and pre and post-harvest handling management. “Pests are a big challenge to crop farming in the area and we spend time educating farmers on integrated pest disease control management.”

Collectively Wada Azum makes KES. 32,000 from vegetable sales monthly. The produce is sold right at the farm, and the surplus sent to market centres in the area. They also share the produce among their households.

The AAH-I livelihoods projects is supported by UNHCR. To date, at least 170 refugees have been emlisted and are currently undertaking farming activities at the 3-acre Choro farm.