First field experience!
15.07.2010 - 15.07.2010 60 °F
In December 2007 Kenya was shook with the angry clashes between disputed neighbors after the national election took place. One of the most contentious areas hit with the post-election violence was Eldoret, Kenya. Eldoret is a large constituency located in the southwestern part of the country and is also the location of Moi University where I am staying. Communities and international NGOs and advocacy groups came together to set up peace-building socio-economic strategies to rebuild the communities hit the hardest.
On Thursday, I went by matatu with one of the other undergraduate office workers at IGERD (Institute for Gender Equity, Research and Development), Felix, to look into some of advertised international partnerships along the main road to Eldoret. The area between Eldoret and Moi University is Kesses location and within Kesses are Cheptiret and Chpkioyo, two villages Felix and I visited. Our task was to locate the signs and see what the purpose was behind the organizations and projects, when they were started, how many people participate and what the proposed outcomes were. We found three different signs and after asking the locals some questions, we found the base of each of the project campaigns.
Our first stop was in Chepkoiyo, which is one of the villages closest to Moi University. Im a lttle confused how the lines are drawn but think Chepkioyo is apart of Lelmolok village. But in Chepkioyo was a sign that stated
“Chamwedo Youth Group: Mushroom Project, Lelmokol Village”.
ATICAD Kenya project 2009 (with the contributors listed as): IOM-OIM, GOK, Japan
The IOM-OIM is the International Organization for Migration and the GOK stands for the Government of Kenya. We asked around and were pointed up a very narrow path behind the sign to two makeshift tents where we met one of the members of the project and his wife, toodler daughter and his father. He didn’t give us his name but did tell us a lot about the project and his own experiences. In Eldoret, most of the violence was directed toward the Kikuyu people living in the area. Eldoret, although it is home to members of the 42 different Kenyan ethnic groups, has a Luo majority and Kikuyu minority (compared to the rest of the country where Kikuyu is the majority and President Kabaki is Kikuyu). The Luos who were disappointed in the election results took their anger out on their Kikuu neighbors. This man and his family were one of the many families who suffered from these attacks. The path we walked up was lined with tree stumps, which he explained, were chopped down by the Luo invaders and then his house was set fire to. This family is one of the thousands internally displaced families who is now living in a makeshift tent with a tarp as a roof. He told us that the project was started by the IOM who wanted to start a group to have those living in the area of different ethnic groups to work on a project that would in turn create economic benefits. Most of the initial 50 members were between 18-35 who either finished form 4 or dropped out at class 8. They wrote a proposal and Japan agreed to be the main contributor. So the Japanese agents gave building supplies and enough of the mushroom start up kits for 30-40 mushroom tubes. These tubes are about 6-8 feet long and have fertilizer in them with mushroom seedlings. They need to be watered 5 times a day by a regulated house. The original members built the structure together, set up the tubes and would check on it once a week at their weekly meetings. They would sell the mushrooms at/to AMPATH a market where the proceeds are split between the sellers and a treatment clinic for HIV positive community members. (My IU friend Malliron had an internship with AMPATH prior to the start of the summer classes. HIV is one of the main causes of death in Kenya and East Africa.)
I was really impressed on the initiative taken and asked the man how the project has been going since its inception. He looked at me and Felix and explained that through the course of the year, there are only 13 ‘active’ members but as he lives on the land, he is the only truly active member. Of the 40 mushroom tubes, only 3 produced mushrooms. With the limited results, members stopped helping and went on their own ways. It did diminish the barriers between those of different ethnic groups, so part of the goal was achieved, but the man said he really did hope for better results as it could be profitable for all involved and strengthen their newly formed friendships. The one optimistic possibility is that there is a local administrator and one of the Japanese funders who will check on the project annually, and hopefully they will help fix the problem and the organization will start up again.
Our second stop was to the RCEA Women Group Bakery Project, also an ATICAD Kenya project started in 2009 with a collaboration of IOM, the GOK, and Japan. Although the women weren’t there as it was mid-afternoon by this point and they bake in the mornings, they men in the area explained that it is running well and they sell cakes and whatnot for difference celebrations such as weddings, birthdays, graduations etc. I plan on stopping there one morning in the next week to meet with some of the ladies and get their take on the participation. I also am interested to see how the GOK and Japan sponsor the program and how often.
We then made the trek to Cheptiret where Felix is from where we had the opportunity to meet with Chief Philip Letting. Chief Letting was very hospitable and excited to hear I was doing research on the community development in regards to peace building and socio-economic expansion. We discussed the “Shelter and Livelihoood for Peace and Reconciliation” project sponsored by – yep you guessed it – Japan, the Government of Kenya (GOK) and Japan. He explained that it was a project started in 2009 to build shelters for the Internally displaced persons (IDPs) after the post election violence in 2007. They worked with the Cheptiret secondary schools. Chief Letting said that the most affected fled - both residents and businesses- thus hurting the Eldoret economy. The project helped those who remained by providing shelter, temporary shelter at first, and then permanent structures as more funding came in by Japan. The IOM gave $7,500 USD to the community as a whole, those affected and those not, as an attempt to “eradicate hated and use as a unifying factor of those affected and those not affected.” The most affected area he explained was what is called the “northern corridor”: Timboroa, Leinguse, and Burnt Forest. The community is hoping to build over 9,000 homes in those three areas mentioned above. They are now starting to move into Cheptiret (and hopefully our friend involved in the mushroom project) and start up some of the businesses who have left. The project is aimed right now at just providing homes for those affected with little concern about the schools. There is a constant evaluation of the project from the local administrators of the project, especially the IOM. I saw a few of their trucks in the area throughout the course of the day which was promising. I get from the Chief and our friend at the Mushroom project that Japan supplies the intial necessary inputs but it is up to the community with the help of the IOM and the GOK to build up from there. From what Ive read, this is one of the most beneficial attempts as it forces the community to work together rather than rely on continuous monetary aid.
After meeting with Chief Letting he asked if I would do the honor of signing the guestbook in which all of those who meet with the chief and the council sign. It was a nice gesture and now I have record proof of being there. Hopefully I’ll find my name in the book again.
Our last stop was to the Kesses Farmers Marketing Federation: Horticultural Market Stalls supported and sponsored by the IOM, Japan and GOAL Ireland (a new addition to our international assistance countries). Felix, who is a member of the federation, recognized one of the committee members so we went up to talk to him and realized that the vice chair, secretary, vice secretary and treasurer were all there which gave us the opportunity to talk to them and ask some great questions. The federation is facilitated by those affected by the pose election violence and aims, like the other initiatives, to bring peace to the Eldoret south area. Japan gave initial material support of farm equipment, the stalls where produce is sold, training for the farmers. They said that they check in often, usually when planting begins and the monitor the planting. They have also bought uniforms for orphans and have supported the feeding programs (offering breakfast and lunch) for 7 day schools such as Arnesens primary school. Representatives of the project come monthly and help with teacher training. IOM provides continuous support in terms of assistance and oversight, where as Japan initiated the peace project and initial input costs. There are 4000 members I the federation which are divided into 16 clusters (based on location) with 7-10 per cluster of small scale farmers who work together to sell, rebuild farms and provided support and assistance for one another. There is an annual general meeting but the committee members meet every week, then there are quarterly meetings of the chairperson from every cluster with delegates and officers in attendance which is where most of the federation decisions are made. The Federation’s economic role is to sell products of farmers to the NCPB – the National Cereal and Produce Bought organization at the national level. They also market all famer’s outputs at the local level – maize and milk primarily. In order to keep the strength of the Federation alive, the members rely on NGOs and well-wishers to regain necessary finances. In other words, due to international competition and that there is a cooling facility in Cheptiret, it is necessary to have the federation be the most viable option for farmers to work through in order to stabilize prices and participation. The federation has a lot of potential to have a flourishing horticultural exporting community (as many of those working in Eldoret are farmers).
So from these visits, I’ve seen where international partnership can benefit a community. The idea behind Japan’s and Ireland’s assistance is the same goal of the World Bank. Provide the country with the knowledge and skills to recreate growth and then sustain themselves. Since Japan opted to not continue with monetary support, the Eldoret community is forced to work to maintain the economic growth reeked from this endeavor. I’m going to do some more research on these topics, but the trip was definitely beneficial and gave me a lot of insight. Hopefully I can learn more about Kesses federation and the school programs as that is my main research concern.
Hope everyone is well!