Monthly Archives: January 2018

Planning Alternative Strategies in Project Implementation

A cultural perspective: The REFLECT literacy circles attracting more older women than teenage mothers.

In June 2017, Action Africa Help International’s Kenya programme (AAH Kenya) launched an adult literacy class targeting one of the most vulnerable groups in the Mara, Narok County – young mothers aged between 14 and 20 years. These women face marginalization that is dictated by silent cultural beliefs and unwritten rules – commonly getting married off at the age of 12. Most of these women dropped out of school at lower primary, and a good number have not had an opportunity to attend any formal education.

When the programme kicked off, it was expected that the young mothers, referred to as esiankiki, would be the majority of the classes. However, the reality in the ongoing classes is that at least 80% of the learners are above 40 years. Where are the young mothers?

“…The esiankiki are our husbands’ young wives. When we were that age we were not even allowed to get out of the home compounds. The husbands ensure that the young women do not attend the learning classes for fear that they will get empowered and leave them and their children as they seek opportunities out of home…” says Nolaasho Leshishi from the Emaiyan circle.

“…We the older women are ready to learn. The esiankiki are busy tendering to the young children and husbands. They cannot have time to attend classes or do business. We are the ones selling in the markets…” says Enole Kiraison from Leshuta, Emaiyan circle.

Is it possible to reach both the younger and older women? Both have expressed a very clear need and desperation for formal education to learn literacy and numeracy. AAH Kenya is exploring strategies to also reach the younger women:

  1. Meeting with community leaders to get their support to influence the husbands and community at large to appreciate the literacy program and its potential benefits for both younger and older women.
  2. Seeking alternative entry points through churches and health facilities where young women attend antenatal clinics.

The objective of the adult literacy project is to improve livelihoods and empower communities in Narok West sub-county, Naikarra ward. The project aims to support the development of women headed microentreprises for at least 300 women. Results from a previous pilot project indicate that illiteracy was one of the greatest obstacles in developing microenterprises. It is expected that the literacy skills will help the women manage their businesses better to support themselves and their families.

Changing Lives Through Farming

Natale Zingisi,47, is a farmer in Ngindo Boma, Yambio County of South Sudan.  He owns 15 fedans (one fedan is equivalent to 1. 038 acres) where he plants maize both for sale and home consumption.

When conflict broke out in the country, many people were displaced as their homes were burnt down. Others fled to neighboring countries for fear of attacks.

However, Zingisi decided to stay home and could only ask around what was happening. He continued with his cultivation though not very productive as he did not have skills on proper agricultural practices.

Following the conflict, the country faced an emergency level of food insecurity.  According to a report by the Integrated Food Security phase Classification (IPC) up to 3.5 million people (30 per cent of the total population) is in crisis or emergency food insecurity phases. Humanitarian assistance has since reached up to 3.1 million people.

Zingisi was one of the beneficiaries of the humanitarian assistance through the Emergency Food Crisis Project (EFCRP) being implemented by Action Africa Help South Sudan in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture with funding from the World Bank.

In 2001, he was among farmers who received training in good agricultural practices which included planting in rows, high yield and long term seeds that are easy to weed. He also received farm tools.

“Before I was trained on good farming activities, I used to get only 700kgs of maize per fedans but after the training I now get between 900 to 1,000 kilogrammes per fedans,” Zingisi proudly says adding that “the training has turned around my life for the better.”

With the profits, he has managed to pay school fees for his children, bought a motor cycle for transporting his produce to the market areas, bought bicycles for his school going children and also built a permanent house for his family.

Together with the other 37 farmers, they also contributed money and formed the Ngindo Cooperative where they would get dividends as per their contribution. AAH SS in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture, with funding from World Bank bought them a maize huller where they grind their maize at reduced prices. Nonmembers are charged more.

The cooperative members have since renamed it Ngindo Maize Huller and Mill facility.

In Kassia Boma, Phoebe Alex also a farmer has 19 children with the first born sitting for his final examinations this year and the last being only two years.

Together with her husband, they did not have any knowledge in good agricultural activities and this led to poor yield on their 5 fedans farm.

“We had problems raising the children and educating them as we had poor yields. Getting only 70-80 bags of maize from the 5 feedan farm, could not sustain us. We received training from AAH-SS, farm inputs and seeds. Today we get up to 250 bags and now we are able to meet all our needs” Phoebe narrates.

EFCRP has made a great impact on the locals and farmers are now able to produce enough food for both home consumption and trading.

The project is being implemented by AAH-SS in four counties which include Morobo and Tali (Central Equatorial state) and Yambio and Nagero counties in Western Equatorial state. It supports three broad activities which include agricultural productivity, support to community safety nets and project management

Acting Chief Technical Advisor for EFCRP in the ministry, Mr. Luka Kiwanika says following food insecurity and price escalation, the government received funding from the World Bank and the project is being implemented to alleviate people from imminent suffering.

He says the government is working towards long term solutions once the nation is stable enough. This he says include seeds provision, further training and other agricultural inputs.

Cultural Gala; a Unifying Factor

AAH South Sudan through its Capacity Building for Post Conflict Reintegration (CAPOR) project has been implementing a peace-building initiative aimed at supporting peaceful coexistence and reintegration among communities in South Sudan using both main stream and alternative forms of media.

Recently, the project organised a classic fest at the Yei Freedom Square, under the theme ‘Different tribes one culture for peace and unity.’ The event, which was held in collaboration with the local authority of Yei River County under the Commissioner Inspector of Youth and Sports, brought together participants from Western, Eastern and Central Equatoria States. Activities that comprised of songs, and dance and cultural shows amongst others, kicked off at a high note attracting a wide range of participants who included local communities, religious leaders, politicians and other prominent personalities eager to learn positive attributes of the local culture.

The gala provided a learning and knowledge exchange platform. Topics ranging from cultural values, positive traditional practises, leadership and governance, history and origin of tribes formed the day’s agenda. In addition, the project also partnered with Spirit FM; a local radio station and ran an interactive cultural segment that educated the populace on positive cultural values aimed at promoting peaceful co-existence and reintegration among communities.

In his opening remarks at the gala, the Inspector of Youth and Sports, Mr. Kujjo Bernard was quick to mobilise support for the event. ‘Culture gives us the first lessons of life. We are therefore grateful to AAH South Sudan for sponsoring this noble initiative that is promoting our collective cultural aspirations to nurture harmonious living amongst our different communities,” he reiterated. Also in attendance was the Deputy Mayor, Mr. Silvano Ali who echoed call for support of the event. ‘A cultural gala is an effective vehicle of positive change in enhancing peace and unity within any society. Any functional society thrives on unifying beliefs, customs, and attitudes and are vital for its existence and sustenance,” he said. “Young people should be taught on how to be custodians of positive values such as we have witnessed here today I laude AAH South Sudan for organising such an event, a first of its kind and I hope that this will evolve into an annual event that we can all look forward to.”

In closing, CAPOR project coordinator, Igga David Juma thanked all who attended the gala and called out participants to put into practice what they had learnt. He also challenged them to form community groups in all the locations and use them as avenues to educate the youth about culture and its role in enhancing peaceful co-existence and reintegration among communities.

The huge crowd that had turned out for the event was not disappointed as interludes of song and dance punctuated the speeches and continued long into the evening as the day wound down.

By Igga David Juma, Project Coordinator and Slyvia Nani, Ass. Information Communication Officer, AAH South Sudan.

The Fight against Child Abuse

What turmoil goes through a child’s mind when they wake up in the morning only to find their only hope gone? How do they face an uncertain and ruthless world without the guiding hand of the only person they have known from birth – their mother? And how much worse does it get when that child is a refugee?

Martin aged 16 and his sister Martha, 14 (not their real names) awoke to that reality four years ago and it still pains them when they discuss that fateful day. Their single mother Beatrice, with whom they had fled the war in Congo and had been living in Zambia, left unexpectedly without so much as a goodbye to search of better prospects in South Africa leaving them at the mercy of a neighbour. Pamela (not her real name) stepped in to offer a safe haven for the two but this didn’t last long. She would soon unleash terror on Martha and Martin.

First she pulled them out of school and would later use the children to do chores including selling alcohol. The extent of abuse would drive the two out of Pamela’s hands and into the streets of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital. ‘It was a lot better than being beaten every day and going to bed in an empty stomach,’ says Martin looking pensively at his sister who nods in agreement. She flinches when she recalls the many days and nights when she endured physical and verbal abuse meted on her by male customers at Pamela’s bar.

The siblings currently reside at Makeni Refugee Transit Centre after being rescued by staff of AAH Zambia’s community health sector. Martin narrates gleefully about that memorable day. AAH officers had been tipped of the dire conditions in which the two were living through the children’s welfare service.

The community health sector is part of the Urban Refugee Project in Lusaka that AAH Zambia is implementing with funding from UNHCR and supports Makeni Refugee Transit Centre. At any one time, the Centre holds an about 60 Persons of Concern (including children) mainly refugees and asylum seekers from different countries affected by war.

For now, Martin and Martha are comfortable and are having their basic needs met at Makeni. They have since gone back to school but the long to be reunited with their mother in South Africa.  AAH Zambia is working with the relevant government department to make this a reality.

Financial Inclusion for Refugees

At least 65.3 million people around the world have been forcibly displaced from their homes as a result of natural disasters, persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations. According to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 21.3 million of these displaced people are refugees, 29% of them hosted in Africa.

Refugees in Africa, as is the case globally, don’t travel far from their home countries. It is estimated that about 86% of them settle in low- and middle-income countries close to their home countries. The top six refugee destinations in Africa are Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Chad and South Sudan. The majority of people fleeing the crisis in Yemen have settled in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan. It is estimated that 2,800 people arrived in Uganda every day from South Sudan in March 2017, bringing the total to just over 1 million refugees at the end of April 2017. Burundi and Rwanda are hosting refugees fleeing violence, rape and killings by militias in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

One of the large refugee camps in Africa is the Kakuma refugee camp in Turkana county in Kenya, home to at least 154,000 people as at December 2016. When it was set up in the early 1990s, Kakuma was thought to be a temporary settlement. About 20 years later, and with evolving priorities of funding partners, there is need for modifying the support for refugees and host communities to enable them, especially those in the working-age group (ages 18-59), to be more self-reliant.

Shukurani Hota Biclere (L) with an apprentice at her tailoring business in Kakuma

The UNHCR’s Global Trends report indicates that the proportion of refugee populations in the working-age group was at 47% in 2015. Humanitarian actors in refugee-hosting countries have for a long time contemplated the best support for refugees – in a way that can sustainably improve their quality of their lives. But recently the attention is being focused on this working-age group, with new approaches to protect their lives and dignity being taken into account. One such approach is models that offer financial products tailored for refugees.

The World Bank describes financial inclusion as ‘means that individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs – transactions, payments, savings, credit and insurance – delivered in a responsible and sustainable way’. Financial inclusion is considered significant in realizing for 10 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals – No poverty (SDG 1), Zero hunger (SDG 2), Good health and well-being (SDG 3), Quality education (SDG 4), Clean water and sanitation (SDG 6) and Affordable energy (SDG 7), Decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), Industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG 9) and Reducing inequalities (SDG 10) and Peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16).

On one hand, refugees are in desperate need of opportunities to be self-reliant. However, given their circumstances, it is not always given that they would have complete identification or guarantors or collateral to access financial products in the countries they have settled in. These factors have led to the perception that refugees are a financial risk. On the other hand, financial service providers are now assessing the risks, identifying potential advantages, and are looking for ways to best serve refugee communities.

According to UNHCR statistics for December 2016, inadequate livelihood opportunities in the Kakuma Refugee Camp render 37.7% of the working-age group of refugees vulnerable to socio-economic shocks in the camp. In Kenya, organizations such as Action Africa Help International (AAH-I), in partnership with UNHCR, have from 2015 been implementing an innovative model that allows entrepreneurs in Kakuma refugee camp, Turkana county, access business capital. Through a private sector partnership with Equity Bank, refugee entrepreneurs can access structured institutionalized micro-finance services. Group and individual businesses can receive between KES. 5,000 and KES. 100,000. So far 67 businesses ranging from tailoring, bakeries, vegetable farming and fishmongers have benefitted from the revolving fund. One of the key characteristics of humanitarian work is its impulsive nature, usually responding to emergencies. Offering financial products to refugees is seen as one way of making the sector’s interventions more responsive and sustainable.

Shukurani Hota Biclere, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, is one of the beneficiaries of funds for business startups. She arrived at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in 2012, already with tailoring skills she had acquired from her home in Uvira, south of Kivu. She qualified for an AAH-I loan of KES. 100,000 for her business start-up in June 2016. Almost one year later, Biclere now boasts an average of 40 clients per month, and has employed 7 staff, all refugees within the camp. As at March 2016, she had repaid KES. 72,000 of the loan.

Biclere showcases benefits of this type of conditional loans – building credit-worthiness of refugee businesses, the creation of employment for fellow refugees and host community members and the stimulation of the local economy through expansion and diversification of businesses.

For those refugees with entrepreneurial experience or talent, small business loans are one way of getting them integrated back into normal life. As we mark the World Refugee Day on June 20th, we honor the courage and resilience of refugees like Biclere.