The M-PESA Foundation exists to empower and transform communities by working with them and other partners to improve their lives.
In the eight years of our existence, we have focused on making a meaningful impact in our communities, not just by understanding the problems they face, but by collectively finding a lasting solution to those problems.
We do this through sustainable initiatives focused on four pillars: Health, Education, Integrated Livelihoods and Environmental Conservation. Under each pillar, we have invested in specific programmes to impact the lives of target communities.Impact
In health, we have partnered on a programme we have been running for four years in Samburu County through which we have made huge strides in reducing maternal and child deaths.
In Education, we invested in the M-PESA Foundation Academy, a mixed boarding school, that is transforming the lives of bright and economically disadvantaged learners from all 47 counties.
We have also initiated various projects under the Environmental Conservation pillar. One such project is the conservation of Mau Eburu forest in which we are partnering with Rhino Ark.
Under the Integrated Livelihoods pillar, The M-PESA Foundation in partnership with the Kenya Red Cross Society and Kwale County Government, rehabilitated Nyalani Dam, a project that has transformed the livelihoods of about 10,000 people.
These are just a few of the interventions we have made and whose impact can be seen.Key partners
We make large grants to create lasting impact on the lives of Kenyans. We are grateful to our partners for their insights and commitment. We have built partnerships that bring resources, expertise, and vision to identify issues, find answers, and drive change. Some of our partners include:
Amref Health Africa, Kenya Red Cross, Society, Rhino Ark, Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Wildlife Service,Accenture and Pharmaccess Foundation.
At the same time, we look at continuing to integrate mobile technology in most of our investments while focusing on areas of greatest need and impact.
Since its establishment in 2010, the Foundation has invested in large scale health, environmental conservation, education and integrated livelihood projects. The M-PESA Foundation integrates the use of mobile technology in its investments while focusing on areas of greatest need and impact.
Michael Joseph is the founding CEO of Safaricom Limited and the Chairman of the M-PESA Foundation. He is passionate about the health, education and environmental conservation projects initiated by M-PESA Foundation. Michael is keen to see the M-PESA Foundation build lasting partnerships and deliver impact.
Bob Collymore is the CEO of Safaricom Limited and a Trustee of the M-PESA Foundation. He sits on The Vision 2030 Delivery Board and is a champion of business sector involvement in social and development issues. Bob is passionate about improving maternal and child health so that no woman has to die during childbirth.
Hamish Keith is a Senior & Managing Partner at Daly & Inamdar, a law firm in Nairobi, Kenya. Hamish is passionate about programmes that empower communities economically and enable them to contribute to the community.
Andrew Dunnett is the Director of the Vodafone Foundation. He appreciates that the M-PESA Foundation offers an opportunity to invest back through large, high impact projects. He is passionate about M-PESA Foundation’s commitment to education.
Les Baillie serves as the M-PESA Foundation Executive Director and the CEO of the M-PESA Foundation Academy. He oversees daily operations and corporate governance elements of M-PESA Foundation and provides strategic leadership and financial management oversight. He is keen to see the impact that the Foundation has through its programmes and partnerships.
Sanda is proud that M-PESA Foundation provides the opportunity for strategic and long-term partnerships and enjoys working with partners and communities to develop and implement multi-dimensional projects. She enjoys playing a role in an organisation that addresses the gaps between community needs and the required innovations and resources.
Henry is glad to be part of the positive changes being witnessed in the lives of the communities where M-PESA Foundation has been investing. He believes that solutions to development challenges facing our communities are best known to them hence the need to value their participation.
Ida believes in creating and adding value in the lives of local communities by offering sustainable solutions. She is happy to be part of a team that is contributing to transforming lives through various sustainable projects.
John is passionate about enhancing quality of lives in communities. He is proud of his role of fulfilling the Foundation’s demands on financials and budgets obligations.
Jeff is passionate about using data to guide decision making in the Foundation. He is happy when resources set aside reach the right people at the right time, which enables the Foundation to fulfill its mandate of transforming lives.
Eunice is passionate about empowering women and marginalised communities through impactful and sustainable initiatives. She is proud of the projects that the Foundation and its partners support especially those around economic empowerment, health and education.
George finds his work fulfilling because it entails more than just accounting. He believes that every role that goes into his daily work ensures that lives are transformed in the community.
David is enthusiastic about community inclusiveness and enhancing the quality of life of the communities the Foundation operates in. He works towards advancing SDG 10 which advocates for reduced inequalities and disparities in the society.
In 2010, we started the M-PESA Foundation which would fund community-based capital intensive projects with specific focus on education, environment and health.
The small team that became the initial Trustees of the Foundation consisted of Bob Collymore, now CEO of Safaricom but then a non-executive Director of Safaricom, Hamish Keith, long time legal advisor to both Vodafone and Safaricom, Andrew Dunnett, Director of the Vodafone Foundation, and myself with Les Baillie as Executive Director and Sanda Ojiambo as Administrator.
Among our first projects was the Nairobi Green Line, a 30-km long corridor of trees and fencing surrounding the Nairobi National Park, and funding dormitories, classrooms at Starehe Girls School.
Our motivation, which was unanimously agreed to by all the Trustees, was to make an impact and help improve the lives of Kenyans. We did not want to compete with other foundations, particularly the Safaricom Foundation, so we focused on a few large projects that would have significant impact. We continued to fund other big projects like the integrated water and agriculture Nyalani Dam project in Kinango in Kwale County; and the integrated maternal health programme, called Uzazi Salama in Samburu County.
But our biggest project, and the one closest to my heart, and probably everyone associated with it, is the M-PESA Foundation Academy. Bob and I wanted to initiate a project which would change the dynamic of Kenya, provide a foundation for ethical leadership and significantly influence the education of our youth, particularly the underprivileged but talented ones. We were fortunate that the other Trustees agreed with us.
Our motivation is that we wanted to make an impact and help improve the lives of Kenyans."
This has, to date, with a few challenges, been a huge success. We are now going into our third year with nearly 500 high school students taught using hi-tech electronic means, in modern class rooms, with freedom to choose their extra-curricular activities, with superb sports facilities and housed in modern rooms with live-in staff, their own farm which provides most of their food and focus on entrepreneurship, leadership and responsible citizenship.
Les Baillie was appointed CEO of the M-PESA Foundation Academy and works together with a Board of Governors to ensure the education and living standards are maintained to the highest level.
I am proud of this achievement and feel sure that many of these students are destined for greatness, not only for themselves but also for Kenya as we want to see them come back to take leadership roles.
What next? First, we need to be sure that the Academy and all our other projects are fully funded and sustainable for the future. Then we want to be sure that those academically qualified students can go to a university of their choice without worrying about funding.
I believe this will go a long way in fulfilling the vision of M-PESA Foundation founders.
Kenya has made great progress in the provision of health services. Challenges still exist in ensuring that all Kenyans can access quality and affordable health care, particularly in marginalised counties.
Among the challenges include, for example, limited access to health facilities, limited access to skilled health care providers, poor literacy levels and harmful traditional practices.
We support the government’s efforts by building the capacity of community health workers and delivering quality, accessible and affordable health services particularly for mothers and children.
This is in line with United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, which aims to ensure the health and well-being of all. We work with strategic partners to identify and support holistic responses to improving provision of health services.
One of our projects under the Health pillar is LEAP. It is an m-Learning platform through which we train, up-skill and develop the capacity of Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) and Community Health Workers (CHEWs) as key resources in the delivery of community health services.
LEAP is implemented in 13 counties and aims at driving lasting health productivity for communities. The project has served to increase the access to quality, timely and appropriate healthcare services.
We have also partnered with Amref Health Africa, PharmAccess Foundation and the Samburu County Government in a programme referred to as Uzazi Salama.
The programme aims at improving maternal and newborn health outcomes in Samburu County. Uzazi Salama does this by addressing key barriers that prevent mothers from accessing quality maternal and neonatal health services.
So far, the project has led to the reduction of maternal and neonatal deaths in the county, increased hospital deliveries and catalysed a change in attitudes.
When Mary Leduda got married, she naturally looked forward to raising children of her own. In due course, the first baby arrived. What she hadn’t bargained for were the complications that would leave her bedridden for more than a month.
Like other mothers living in Poro Village and many other parts of Samburu County, going to hospital to give birth was a rare occurrence.
And there were a number of reasons. There was little knowledge in the community about the benefits of mothers attending pre-natal clinics and giving birth in a health facility.
The distance to a health facility is a huge obstacle as there are no proper roads and members of the community often have to walk long distances to get to health facilities. Often, the community would fall back to centuries old cultural practices, bereft of modern medical knowledge and amenities, leaving mothers and their newborns vulnerable to solvable problems.
From her modest living room, which is an extension of her general groceries shop fronted by the Mararal-Baragoi road, Mary reminisces about her near-death encounters giving birth at home with the assistance of traditional birth attendants.
“The birth attendant comes armed with basically nothing apart from a razor blade to cut the umbilical cord. Her role is normally to urge and coax you to keep on pushing,” she said.
Sometimes the labour can last several days.
If the birth itself is hazardous, the aftermath can equally be life threatening. “On one occasion, I bled so much that I feared I was going to die. The worst bit was that the healing process had to take place naturally without the aid of modern health care. I was bedridden for months after birth,” she recalls.
This is how the mother of six gave birth to her first five children. As the day of birth came closer, Mary would approach it with trepidation that often left her a nervous wreck.
“I know many mothers who have died after developing complications while giving birth at home. I knew only too well that there was always a good chance of me dying and this is why I came to fear giving birth so much,” she says.
But the memory of the birth of her last born lights up her face. Her last child was born at the maternity ward at Poro Health Centre.
She says the delivery had no complications and took place in a clean and hygienic environment. It was a whole new experience.
In a matter of days, she was up and about attending to her daily chores. More importantly, she was able to take care of her newborn. After sticking to childcare instructions given to her at the clinic, her child is enjoying robust growth compared to the rest of the children.
Mary received services from The SafeCare, which is part of Uzazi Salama and is implemented by Amref Health Africa, PharmAccess Foundation and the Samburu County Health Department with funding from the M-PESA Foundation.
Mary Nkuresia, a Community Health Volunteer, making rounds in the village on her bicycle.
Simeon Lelesiit, a Community Health Volunteer, meeting with one of the 26 families in his area of jurisdiction.
Aligned to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal Number 3, the programme focuses on maternal and child health. It places special emphasis on up-skilling health workers, and improving the health of mothers and infants by increasing skilled deliveries. The programme functions through an elaborate system of Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) who are the link between the partners and health services providers.
Since the programme started, expectant mothers are now seeking prenatal and postnatal care at health centres.
Simeon Lelesiit is one such CHV trained by Amref. He is in-charge of 26 households, among them that of Leduda.
“We are trained to provide first aid and treatment of simple common ailments at the community level. We are provided with first aid kits that include pain killers, water treatment tablets and ORS Zinc for children with diarrhea among others," says Lelesiit.
In line with his training, Lelesiit promotes behavioral change and social mobilization to encourage delivery in a health facility, latrine use, early and exclusive breastfeeding and immunisation. Lelesiit says since the programme started, expectant mothers are now seeking prenatal and postnatal care at health centres, which has seen a drop in infant mortality.
And since mothers are now trained in appropriate nutrition during and after pregnancy, their babies attain developmental milestones.
A CHV is expected to carry out home visits during which he or she keeps track of expectant mothers making sure they attend clinics and deliver in a health facility. To facilitate their work, CHVs are provided with bicycles, mobile telephones and airtime.
“During home visits we alert households about symptoms of common ailments to look out for. And in case of outbreak, we advise parents to seek medical attention,” says Lelesiit.
The SafeCare component of Uzazi Salama recognises that proper health care can only be provided where facilities not only exist but also have the necessary equipment and standards. For instance, in Samburu, the programme has been building and connecting facilities to the grid. The programme has seen the building and equipping of some maternity wings with emergency equipment such as fitting newborn units with incubators.
Poro Health Centre is one such centre. According to the Chief Nursing Officer, Peter Mbogo, the facility serves a population of at least 54,000 people per year.
During home visits we alert households about symptoms of common ailments to look out for.
“Since the introduction of SafeCare, we have upgraded buildings and equipment. This has boosted the community’s confidence in our services and we are getting more and more patients visiting the facility.”
The new maternity wing has been an instant success because it provides mothers a near 100% guarantee of safe delivery. Mbogo reports that deliveries at the facility have gone up by more than 50% since the maternity wing began operations.
Mary testifies to the change that the maternity wing has brought to her life and family.
“I shudder when I recall the suffering that I went through giving birth at home. Whenever I get a chance, I tell fellow women about my experience at the facility compared to previous births at home,” she says. “I urge them to go for pre-natal and post-natal clinics and the advantage of giving birth at a health facility.”
The muddy cattle track leading to Marti Village in Samburu East, Samburu County cuts through endless grassland interspersed with thorny bushes.
The nearest town is Archers Post, some 20 kilometres away. This area - famous for military exercises because of the harsh terrain and climate - is about 300 kilometers north of Nairobi. The only form of motorised transport is the occasional motorbike. Vehicles are rare.
Throw into the bargain the lack of access roads and the village is literally in the middle of nowhere. Veering right from the beaten track for a 15-minute drive brings you to a home, fenced off using dry thorn-tree branches carefully arranged to keep out intruders and wild animals.
Elizabeth Learpora is seated under the shade of a tree inside the compound.
She is breastfeeding her second born, Juliana, who is three months old. Unlike her first born, Juliana was born at the health clinic in Archers Post thanks to the Uzazi Salama programme.
Uzazi Salama aims at improving maternal and newborn health out-comes in Samburu County. Under the programme, expectant mothers receive Sh3,000 through M-PESA for an ambulance to transfer them to Archers Post Health Centre. The money transfer is programmed so that it’s only connection is to the ambulance till number at the health centre.
Learpora delivered her first child at home. She didn’t have much of a choice. The only means of transport would have been a boda-boda which is hardly ideal for a mother in labour.
She recalls a difficult birth in the hands of a traditional birth attendant followed by a long and painful recovery. Giving birth to her second child at the health clinic opened a new world for her.
Besides the free delivery, I was also given a mother and baby pack. The pack contained clothes, nappies, socks, shawls, baby oil and sanitary towels,” she says.
Learpora was looped into the programme by Jeines Lebasha, a Community Health Volunteer. Lebasha, a 26-year-old livestock farmer, was recruited and trained into the Uzazi Salama programme by Amref Health Africa and he is in charge of 26 households scattered around the location.
The 26 households are part of a Community Health Unit (CHU). One CHU with a catchment area of an average of 5,000 people is linked to a health centre selected to partner in the Uzazi Salama programme.
“I collect the ID numbers of expectant mothers and their expected date of delivery. I send this information to the head of the CHU. On the delivery date, the CHU sends the mother Sh3,000 to pay for the ambulance which is promptly dispatched to collect her,” says Lebasha.
Before the programme started in July 2017 giving birth in Marti was a risky business. According to the head nurse at Archers Post Health Centre, Chris Omeke, the ambulance service has had a dramatic effect on maternal health in the area.
“Since July 2017, we haven’t lost a mother or a baby. We are now doing 180 deliveries up from 15 a month. And as word of the free service spreads, our workload has increased, which can only mean improved health for mother and child,” he says.
Thrice a week, Edith Mukoya puts her life on hold. With her baby on her back, she leaves her house up in the hills of Lurare Village in Bungoma County to see how her neighbours are doing. To her, this weekly ritual is not just a simple visit.
The face-to-face minutes with those around her more often than not are a matter of life and death. Neighbours open up their homes, and most importantly their hearts, and tell all to Edith, whom they fondly call ‘daktari.’
And in her fourth year as a Community Health Volunteer (CHV) her motivation remains the same. “I got tired of seeing people die from diseases and conditions that could be prevented,” she says.
We lost mothers and children during childbirth. People died from malaria. Others gave birth to more children than they intended because they didn’t know about family planning.”
Edith does not work alone. She is part of a broader programme by the Ministry of Health which aims to provide basic health information and care to the communities.
The country’s second National Health Sector Strategic Plan defined a new approach to the way the health sector will deliver health care services to Kenyans through the Kenya Essential Package for Health (KEPH).
One of the key innovations of KEPH is empowering Kenyan households and communities to take charge of improving their own health, through the engagement of volunteers such as Mukoya.
"This way, we become healthy together. If one of us is sick, we all are sick,” Edith says.
In 2014, a group of partners, M-PESA Foundation, Amref Health Africa, Ministry of Health (MoH), Accenture and Safaricom partnered to develop and scale an mLearning programme aimed at using technology in the instruction and improvement of the knowledge of the CHVs.
The platform, referred to as LEAP, provides a unique learning experience by employing an effective mobile learning platform.
“Working together in a cross-sector partnership helped bring together the best in community health, mobility,technology and learning,” Edwin Muhanda, a Community Health Extension Worker says. Edwin is an employee of Bungoma County government.
Currently over 3,000 CHVs have been enrolled into LEAP in the 13 counties of Nairobi, Kisumu, Siaya, Kakamega, Bungoma, Vihiga, Kisii, Migori, Nyamira, Kitui, Kajiado, Isiolo and Samburu, and reaching about 300 community health units.
One community health unit is made up of 10 CHVs each overseeing 10 households.
The platform addressed the need for the Ministry of Health to train and develop the capacity of these volunteers who are a critical component in delivering community health services across the country.
The CHVs are trained using 29 topics developed from the MoH handbook for training CHVs. Topics include nutrition, family planning, mother and child health, referrals, hypertension, immunization and hygiene.
“After the training, we are given a smartphone that enables us keep tabs on those we visit,” Mary Barasa, another CHV says, slowly going over questions on the mHealth application by Amref. Mary keys in the response to the question she asks, with the answers being relayed to her supervisor, Edwin, in real time.
A Community Health Volunteer attending to a community member.
Thanks to the training, more women are attending pre-natal and post-natal clinics.
There are different sets of questions for different people ranging from probing questions for new mothers and their babies, adolescents and sexual health for middle aged women and family planning.
“At the end of every month, we analyse the data received from our volunteers and get key indicators on disease prevalence. This helps us set the county’s health agenda,” Edwin says.
“And when we are confronted with a problem we cannot handle, we refer such cases to health facilities for better attention. We always make sure they get to hospital,” he adds.
A community’s saving grace
The effectiveness of CHVs in improving maternal and child health has been shown in a number of studies and projects. In the Democratic Republic of Congo for instance, community health workers were found to be effective in administering timely and effective treatment of presumptive malaria attacks.
At the end of every month, we analyse the data received from our volunteers and get key indicators on disease prevalence"
To become a CHV, one has to be a respected, literate member of the community, must be hardworking and responsible and should also be a good example in matters of health and development. They should also be approachable and have the ability to motivate those around them.
Edwin says Kenya carries one of the highest preventable diseases burden in the world.
“LEAP is helping lift this burden by identifying and helping prevent diseases,” he says. “There is no cost burden to the community members whose houses the CHVs visit unless there is a referral to a hospital. LEAP has proved to be a simple solution to a complex problem,” he says.
He says the mLearning platform has enabled CHVs like Mary and Edith to become ‘pillars of knowledge’, a fact that Mary can attest to.
“Since the content is literally at my fingertips. I can access it anytime from my phone and refer to different content and be of help to the community,” says Mary.
The platform also allows health volunteers to access continued training through their mobile device, peer learning through engagement with peers, strengthened supervision through direct access to supervisors, and access to updates and campaign messages.
“I do not need to carry volumes of referral material of files of those I visit. I can do it all from my phone,” Mary says
Johnston Simiyu and Irene Ndinda came to Nairobi from opposite sides of Kenya, but ended up in almost similar circumstances in the big city with many opportunities.
When Irene finished secondary school in Makueni in 2014, she followed her mother and went to Nairobi, seeking not only to fend for herself but to make the most out of whatever would come her way.
They lived in Gatina in Kawangware and she worked as a cleaner at a popular club in Kilimani, where she is paid KShs10,000 per month.
Simiyu, on the other hand, wanted more than his Kitale hometown could offer and when he landed in the capital city, went to live in Imara Daima, close to the coffee processor where he gets seasonal work, earning up to Kshs700 per day.
He would later meet a girl whom he married and together they started a family. When Irene became pregnant, she went to Bodaki Medical Centre in Kawangware and met Boniface Kinyua, a greying man who has been treating the people of Gatina since 1991. Boniface gave her valuable advice.
“He told me about M-Tiba and I registered. Now when I go to the clinic, they deduct the charges from M-Tiba,” says Irene.
On the other side of the capital city, in March 2017, Simiyu went to Olive Link Hospital in Sinai and met an M-Tiba agent who advised him to register for the service.
Johnston Simiyu, an M-Tiba user at Olive Link Hospital in Sinai
M-Tiba, a digital platform for inclusive healthcare mobile platform was developed by CarePay with investment from the M-PESA Foundation among other investors.
The main idea behind the platform was to enable Kenyans, particularly low-income earners like Simiyu and Irene, to get affordable healthcare.
The mobile-based platform enables users to save and spend funds specifically for medical expenses allowing them to access health services they could not access before. It also allows one’s relatives, friends or staff to save on someone’s behalf.
It is essentially a “health wallet” on the mobile phone. Through M-Tiba, the M-PESA Foundation sought to create an opportunity for those who cannot afford access to healthcare at an affordable rate to set aside a small amount of money each month for future medical expenses.
“Paying cash has many challenges because you don’t always have the cash and it is hard to save for medical expenses,” says Simiyu.
M-Tiba has experienced growth over the past two years, with the numbers enrolled increasing from 200,000 by the end of 2016 to 900,000 in 2017 and 1.3 million so far.
More than 700 healthcare providers have been activated on the platform and a further 1,400 contracted, according to Priya Shah, the Products Director at CarePay, which now administers M-Tiba.
Users are covered for both out-patient and in-patient services, with M-Tiba then being the platform that health financiers or payers like the National Health Insurance Fund, private insurance schemes and brokers use to manage the services.
Funds in a user’s M-Tiba account can only be spent at designated healthcare providers which have been contracted for M-Tiba.
Users are liable to pay any excess amount incurred outside their total savings, meaning they can be called upon to “top-up” payments.
It is no coincidence that you are more likely to find the green and red logo of M-Tiba at clinics at places like Sinai, where Olive Link Hospital sits beneath high-voltage power lines behind factories and go-downs in Industrial Area or at Bodaki Health Centre in Kawangware, which is surrounded by the densely populated slum.
The network of exposed water pipes on the main road in Gatina routinely breaks, and residents rush to collect water in basins, and one can understand why water-borne diseases and respiratory tract infections are common.
"We started at the bottom of the pyramid. Healthcare is the biggest challenge at that level. M-Tiba’s mission was to ensure that everyone, starting with those at the bottom, has access to healthcare,” says Priya.
For Irene, for example, the savings using M-Tiba helped pay for her prenatal care and for the delivery of John Mwendwa, her son. John’s clinic costs continue to be catered for by the savings on M-Tiba and Irene did not have trouble convincing her mother and sister to subscribe to the service.
It is the same with Simiyu, whose wife delivered at Olive Link, with the money he had saved on M-Tiba taking care of the KSh4,100 charge.
David Gesaka, the administrator at Kayole Hospital, has seen the number of patients grow as more and more of the low-income population in the Eastlands neighbourhood take up the service.
He says he has had to arrange to have two doctors on duty at the same time, double what the hospital used to have last year. He also had to recruit four more nurses and a clinician.
“We appreciate what they are doing because they reach those we cannot reach,” says David of M-Tiba.
“Most people don’t consider health insurance as important and only go to the hospital when they are overwhelmed by an illness. Saving for health ensures people to have something in reserve for medical expenses,” he says.
Although she is yet to use the service to pay for a major expense, Elizabeth Wanjiku’s motherly instincts and experience tell her it will be necessary.
The 36-year-old has three children and had been paying for the NHIF until she faced financial difficulties.
Elizabeth Wanjiku, an M-Tiba user at Kayole hospital.
Her friend introduced her to the service and she began putting aside KSh250 per month, and therefore qualifying for the KSh50 bonus that any saving above KSh100 attracts.
CarePay is working to get M-Tiba used on a larger scale in the higher end of the market, says Priya, and for this, is also undertaking projects with insurance companies and brokers to enable users to manage their insurance using M-Tiba.
“If we get a corporate scheme, we look at which clinics the corporate scheme uses and then we activate those clinics so that they start getting patients from that scheme to use the M-Tiba wallet,” says Priya. This way, the hospitals start getting patients from the insurance scheme to use the M-Tiba wallet.
There are currently two types of beneficiaries in the lower end of the market: those like Simiyu and Elizabeth who set aside something small every month and the package that is tied to NHIF. For the package linked with NHIF, M-Tiba pays for the first 18 months of contributions, hoping that members then continue saving for themselves based on their experience with the service.
M-Tiba has been part of the Twaweza campaign, helping organise the medical camps that precede the concerts.
“Twaweza campaigns have been very successful and more of those initiatives could help embed M-Tiba as a product right next to M-PESA and other Safaricom products,” says Priya.
The progress has spurred optimism that like M-PESA, which started out small but has grown into becoming a crucial part of life for its 20 million users in Kenya, M-Tiba is well on its way up.
With more going into making it work for the 1.3 million users it has, it can also depend on the effect it has on the lives of the likes of Simiyu and Irene, who have become M-Tiba ambassadors, spreading word of its usefulness in their families’ lives.
It is often said that education is the key to success. Education places people on a path towards good health, economic empowerment and employment.
The inalienable right of every child to a quality education was first acknowledged in 1948 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration states that everyone has the right to education and that it should be free at least at the primary level.
According to the United Nations, providing all children with primary education, and raising learning standards can have a transformative and far-reaching impact for both local communities and businesses.
However, many children are not receiving education because of various barriers, which include but are not limited to, poverty, insecurity and instability, socially constructed roles, lack of resources, poor infrastructure and high cost of education.
In a report titled ‘The Investment Case for Education and Equity’, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), calls for an increase in funding for education and investments that are more equitable and efficient. This is in response to SDG 4 which advocates inclusive and equitable quality education to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
The M-PESA Foundation has invested in various projects in order to make a meaningful contribution to education in Kenya.
One such project is the contribution to the expansion of infrastructure at Starehe Girls’ Centre. The school offers secondary education to economically disadvantaged girls from around Kenya. In 2013, M-PESA Foundation funded the construction and equipping of eight classrooms, dormitory, waste and water treatment plant and a sports field.
As part of our on-going commitment to build sustainable education options for future generations, the M-PESA Foundation invested in the development of the M-PESA Foundation Academy, a state-of-the-art educational facility situated in Thika.
Since February 2016, the mixed boarding high school has been providing holistic education to gifted but economically disadvantaged learners from across Kenya.
After two and a half years of planning, the M-PESA Foundation Academy admitted it’s first cohort of students on February 23, 2016 who consisted of 96 learners from all counties of Kenya.
The school came to life that sunny Tuesday, as families handed over their sons and daughters to the care of teachers and staff at the new high school located in Thika, Kiambu County.
This first day marked the start of a new phase for the M-PESA Foundation Academy, which is overseen by Les Baillie, its Chief Executive Officer.The vision for the Academy was clear right from the planning stages, construction to the opening of the institution. We have a mission of producing Thinkers. Doers. Leaders.
The Academy places great emphasis on the holistic development of our learners not just in academics but also in technology, music, sports, the arts, outdoor pursuits and community service,” says Baillie.
The Academy aims to develop all-rounded students, with learning going beyond the formal instruction of the curriculum.
“To become the best school in Africa, you need to develop all-rounded children, children who are good at sports, who are good at arts, who are good at academia.
It’s not just about building the best school in Africa. It’s about producing the leaders of tomorrow,” said Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore, who is also a Trustee of the M-PESA Foundation.
The admission criteria has been tailored to ensure students who are admitted show potential in leadership, arts, entrepreneurship as well as academic capabilities.
They are formally interviewed and the assessors also visit their homes to evaluate their economic circumstances.
After admission, each student is placed under the mentorship of a teacher to enable them settle into their new environment.
Safaricom CEO and M-PESA Foundation Trustee Bob Collymore and M-PESA Foundation Academy CEO Les Baillie with students of the Robotics class at the M-PESA Foundation Academy.
Students of the M-PESA Foundation Academy taking part in a cultural festival at the school.
To ensure that the students remain connected to their communities, they take part in a project in their community during school holidays.
What sets the M-PESA Foundation Academy apart from other schools in the country is its use of technology to enhance learning. Every student has an iPad as a platform for learning.
The students have access to the internet, which enables them to research and to submit assignments online.
During a lesson, content is projected on a monitor unlike in a traditional classroom, where a teacher stands in front of the class dictating notes. Classes are also configured differently and students are more likely to be found sitting in groups of four discussing something rather than each sitting at their desk facing the front of the classroom.
“We encourage them to engage with the teacher. Just because the teacher said something doesn’t actually mean that what they said is right. That may just be what the teacher was taught,” said Baillie.
We see teachers as facilitators in the classrooms. This means that quite often, if you walked into a classroom you would find a student facilitating it. Ours is a student-centric rather than a teacher-centric mode of learning,” he adds.
In every facet of school life, whether on the pitches, clubs as well as class activities, students at the school are encouraged to participate and to lead. This is designed to take them away from the rote learning that the 8-4-4 system has been criticised for encouraging.
Students prepare to plant trees at the Academy to mark World Environment Day.
M-PESA Foundation Academy CEO Les Baillie interacting with the students.
At the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Club, for example, Form Two students are already building and programming robots and are set to continue on that course for the rest of their time at the school.Good example
With the school curriculum undergoing an overhaul, the M-PESA Foundation Academy has been hailed as an example of the change anticipated in the teaching and learning system under the new system.
When he visited the school in July 2017, the then Education Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiang’i cited the Academy as a good example of the direction teaching and learning should take in the future.
"What we have witnessed here is mind-blowing. Students are given the opportunity to discover things on their own. This is what we want in our schools,” said Dr Matiang’i.
Education Cabinet Secretary Amb. Amina Mohamed at the Academy.
The Cabinet Secretary said the government would adopt a learning model similar to the one at the academy because of the unique teaching methods and the emphasis on a learner-centered model that nurtures talent.
The school’s student population has grown to 482 students in 2018, and the first Form Four class will be sitting the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations in 2019.
Josephine Achieng’ was born to parents who worked hard to fend for their children and give them a better life. That is until a mangled twist of fate changed her story when she was only six years old, too young to comprehend concepts like life and death.
Her parents and elder sister died in a road accident on the day that her sister was to report to Form One at Kadika Girls High School in Migori.
Following the tragedy, Josephine and her sister spent their early years in dire conditions. That is until an aunt who lives in Rongo, Migori County took them in when Josephine was in Class Seven.
And there were better tidings yet still to come.
When she sat her Standard Eight exam at Nyabikei Primary School, Migori County, she was among the best pupils in the class. The next hurdle in life was how to get fees for high school.
Then she heard of the M-PESA Foundation Academy and decided to apply. She worked hard and in 2016, she beat thousands of applicants to become one of 96 students admitted to the Academy. In the instance of admission,she says she got an opportunity to make her dreams come true.
“For a long time, I was worried about how I was going to go through my secondary education. I am glad that I got admitted to one of the best schools in the country,” says the Form Three student.
She says that not only has she become more confident, she also discovered that she had a talent for singing.
This way, I will use music to help people who are mentally, emotionally and physically unwell - to soothe them and heal them using music.”
"I love everything about the Academy, the teachers are kind, and the staff are passionate,” Josephine says.
“The Academy has modern facilities that enable us to pursue our talents beyond the class work.”
One of her teachers encouraged her to join the Glee Club where she has honed her skills as a soprano soloist.
Last year, the Form Two student was second at the Kenya Music Festivals, Nairobi County edition and went on to compete at the national level. She grew up without music and laughter, but what she grew up without is exactly what she wants to give the world. She wants to make a career as a music therapist.
“This way, I will use music to help people who are mentally, emotionally and physically unwell - to soothe them and heal them using music,” Josephine says.
Kelvin Lotaruk’s journey from his home to M-PESA Foundation Academy was epic and nothing short of a miracle. He recalls that when he first learnt that he was taking his first journey to the ‘big city’, he was scared and anxious.
Growing up, the odds were stacked against him. Kelvin comes from Lokichar, Turkana, which is the largest but the poorest county in Kenya.
The semi-arid county, situated in north-western corner of Kenya, has alarmingly high malnutrition rates. Communities here are pastoralists, which is not an ideal occupation given that the weather is extreme. As such, communities have to keep moving to new areas – in search for life’s essentials.
According to various education statistics, Turkana children are seven times less likely to access secondary education than children from other counties.
A 2013 Kenya National Bureau of Statistics report titled; Pulling Apart or Pooling Together; states that only three in every 100 people in Turkana have secondary education.
This pales in comparison to Nairobi County where only 11 in every 100 people lack any form of education and more than half of the population have secondary and post-secondary education.
This is why for Kelvin, making the journey from his remote village to the state-of the art Academy was epic. He knew leaving the life and the people he was accustomed to was never going to be easy.
But his desire to make something out of himself and inspire other children in the village was enough encouragement.
“My friends tried to discourage me but I was keen to continue my education to help my community in future,” Kelvin recalls.
He says his mind settled on the very first day he joined the Academy. The teachers and the support staff were at hand to ensure he and his fellow students settled in well.
We are nurtured to be confident, I enjoy the debate sessions and activities that encourage interactions amongst the students.
“Many things were new to me, from laptops, iPads, to the food which is not what I was used to. I have learnt a lot from the school and my classmates, both academically and socially,” says Kelvin, who was brought up by his grandmother after the death of his mother when he was three years old.
The opportunities and all-rounded education has turned the shy boy into a great debater.
“Thanks to the unique approach to learning, I have become more confident. I particularly enjoy taking part in the debate sessions,” he says.
Kelvin, who scored 349 marks in the KCPE exams, applied for a scholarship at the Academy after his school priest gave him and six other students forms to apply. The Form Three student dreams of pursuing a career in software engineering.
Human beings affect the environment in positive and negative ways.
Activities such as cutting down trees and littering have a negative effect on water bodies, animals and plants.
On the other hand, planting trees, protecting endangered species, and cleaning lakes and seas has a positive effect on the environment.
In the recent past, the country has witnessed firsthand the effects of not taking care of the environment. Kenyans have had to deal with cyclic droughts, crop failure, livestock death and drying rivers, which has prompted a ban on logging.
SDG 15 seeks to rally people, communities and nations to sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation and stop biodiversity loss.
M-PESA Foundation has invested in and supports various environmental activities which help protect, regenerate and cultivate trees and forests.
The Foundation achieves this through reforestation, fencing and empowering communities to be stewards in conservation efforts. We believe that the cumulative effects of individual efforts can have a big impact on environmental conservation.
We have partnered with different organisations in the various projects we have undertaken. M-PESA Foundation partnered with the Nairobi GreenLine in a project that involved preserving the Nairobi National Park, which is the only national park in a capital city.
We planted trees to create a buffer zone at the park in order to curb encroachment of the unique ecosystem and prevent human wildlife conflicts.
M-PESA Foundation also partnered with the Rhino Ark Charitable Trust to conserve the Mau Eburu, which was facing encroachment and destruction leading to drying up of rivers.
To protect the Mau Eburu ecosystem, which was gazetted as a national reserve in 1932, we funded the construction of a 43-km fence.
This has reduced human-wildlife conflicts and offered employment to members of the local community. Communities living near the forest are now able to farm in peace.
The Foundation also directed resources towards planting tree seedlings in nurseries that are used to replenish depleted sections of the forest
A young forest ranger named Samwel Mundia was just about to wrap up a rather uneventful day before an SoS call came crackling through the radio.
There was a fire somewhere in Eburu Forest and it was threatening to consume one of the last remaining indigenous forests in Kenya.
He had never fought a forest fire before, and no amount of training could have prepared him for the destruction he witnessed during the firefighting operation that night before the fire finally died down.
Decades later Mundia, after rising through the ranks from a junior forest ranger to a forest manager, found himself in Eburu again, this time charged with protecting it.
When he got to his office on the edge of the forest, he stood there, dumbstruck by the destruction that lay in front of him for kilometres on end.
“It was almost absolute.You could see barrenness for miles where a forest once stood. The landscape was littered with tree stumps," Mundia says.
"There was smoke billowing from every direction. People were moving in and out of the forest at will and a centuries-old ecosystem was disappearing right before our eyes."
He knew then that the work that lay ahead of him to start restoring the ecosystem was herculean.
"Most importantly I understood that I could not do it alone,” he says.
The concerted efforts needed to pull off the uphill task came when the Rhino Ark partnered with M-PESA Foundation to work at restoring the Mau Eburu ecosystem, first by fencing the expansive forest, which was a critical phase in the restoration of the 8,000-hectare forest.
“This fence is a good thing. It has reduced encroachment and poaching leading to an increase in wildlife numbers,” he says.
This fence has reduced encroachment and poaching leading to an increase in wildlife numbers - Mundia
“These achievements would have been possible without the participation of the neighbouring communities.”
Lydia Nyota’s family is one of those that live adjacent to the forest.
“Officers from Rhino Ark came to us and told us what they wanted to do. We listened to them and decided we would be the beneficiaries in the long run,” she says. Although forest cover is slowly recovering and the once disappearing canopy of the forest is forming, the journey has not been easy.
“We had individuals who were against the fence. You have to understand that entire lives had been built around illegal activities within the forest. Resistance was expected,” Nyota says.
Apart from keeping people out, the fence kept animals in.
"This enabled us concentrate on our farming. We got value from our land,” says Nyota.
We got everyone out of the forest and made sure they stayed out,” he says.
And this gave Kenya Wildlife Service’s John Mudaki the guarantee he craved for to execute a plan that looked perfect on paper.
"We set out to fence at least three kilometers of the forest edge per month. We completed the project in nine months,” Mudaki, who was in-charge of the fencing project, says.
To ensure the project’s success, Mudaki involved the community at every stage.
"We engaged all the chiefs and told each of them to give us names of youths from their areas to get jobs at the project,” he says. “I can confidently say that the objectives of constructing the fence have been achieved.”
Smoke no longer billows from the forest. Livelihoods have been restored.
And the animals have found a home; they no longer wander into farms and homesteads to cause havoc.
The residents of Morgan Village near the Mau Eburu Forest like to talk about many things. They talk about their cows. Their schools. They even talk about their failed maize crop. But if you ask them about the year 2010, the smiles fade from their faces which acquire a distant and disturbing look.
According to the residents, hell visited the little community overlooking the Rift Valley - currently home to an estimated 4,000 people — in 2010, making it the hardest year in living memory. This is the year in which there was nothingness as far as the eyes could see.
“The only thing you could see was smoke billowing out of small mounds of earth within what was left of the forest,” Lydia Nyota, a resident says.
“We almost left,” she says. “We thought God had forgotten us.” Eburu Forest forms part of Mau Forest Complex. The deforestation of the Mau Complex was threatening to decimate her village.
A section of the 43-kilometre fence.
Lydia Nyota, whose family lives next to the forest, at her farm.
"Women would make a 16-kilometre journey to fetch water. It was torturous for the women who had to take the treacherous journey daily,” she says. The farmlands were bare. And whatever sprouted miraculously from what seemed like forsaken ground was decimated by hungry herds of buffaloes escaping forest fires sparked by illegal charcoal burners.
Life for Lydia and her fellow villagers changed after the Rhino Ark, supported by M-PESA Foundation intervened. The partnership saw the construction of a 43 kilometre fence that the inhabitants of Morgan Village have come to treasure.
“For us, it is more than poles and wires,” she says. “The fence has brought back life to the forest. The trees are flourishing and the springs are flowing again. Now I have water and I can farm without worrying about wild animals,” she says.
The Eburu Ecosystem Conservation Project, has laid pipes from springs within the forest ecosystem to various water points within the Village. This makes it easier for the residents to access water and also prevents them from making forays into the forest.
“Our young men and women are not idle any more. With water, and with the fence preventing wild animals from invading our farms, they have ventured into farming and are earning a good living,” she says.
Her two-acre piece of land looks like a demonstration farm. Every nook and cranny has something sprouting from it. From passion fruits, onions, potatoes, napier grass to cabbages. She also rears cows, goats and sheep.
Apart from the water and the fence, the rehabilitation of the Eburu ecosystem has inherent benefits too.
“A whole generation of children will grow up knowing the importance of this forest. They have seen what difference it has made in our lives. I am certain they will care for it when their turn comes,” she says.
The main water kiosk for the Ole Sirwa Umoja Water Project is located on top of a hill. Here, winds blow with gentle force at the Maasai shukas tied around the waists and shoulders of old men going about their business, the winds blowing just fast enough for the loose ends of the brightly coloured fabric to sway in obedience.
Ole Sirwa is found on the northern end of the Mau Eburu forest ecosystem. Its altitude means the temperatures can get very low and during the rainy season, usually fall below 15 degrees.
“But when the sun comes out, it can be punishing,” said Maurice Kaduka, one of the elders of the Ole Sirwa village.
He says the punishment from the sun is severe and felt not only in Ole Sirwa but throughout Morop, Kiambogo and Gachuma ridges.
The elders still remember how the village suffered after the water sources dried up and the sun scorched the earth, thanks to destruction of the Eburu Forest by illegal loggers and charcoal burners. Everyone suffered. Residents had to take long treks to fetch water for home use and for their livestock.
“We witnessed many conflicts between people around here. At the time, the entire village depended entirely on a piped water system that had been set up by the colonialists. It was barely enough,” Kaduka says.
Ole Sirwa is home to people from diverse backgrounds. Farmers, herders and businessmen from all corners of the country can be found here.
“When the water was scarce, the single piped water source supplying water from a spring in the forest was the cause for many fights,” recalls Jackson Agwata Oruko, another resident.
Farmers believed their crops needed more water while the herders believed the water was for their animals.
Hope for Eburu came when Rhino Ark made a long-term commitment to address the conservation challenges facing the ecosystem under a public-private partnership initiative with the Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Forest Service
The M-PESA Foundation funded the project.The project started with a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment in 2012. Construction of the electric fence started in March 2013 and was completed in November 2014.
Complementary to the fence, this project comprises of other initiatives such as raising awareness among the local communities about the need to conserve the forest, reforestation of degraded areas, securing the wildlife corridors between Eburu Forest and the surrounding areas and support for alternative community livelihood activities.
The spring was drying up. There was too much encroachment in the forest. It is the fence that brought back the water
The final component of the project was the replacement of the dilapidated sections of the water pipe.
Some of the custodians of the Ole Sirwa Water Project.
Leakage from the dilapidated pipes was responsible for loss of up to 34 percent of the total water volume that is collected at the Ole Sirwa Spring, and for the communities, this was already too much.
But it is not just the leakages that led to parched throats in Ole Sirwa.
“The spring was drying up. There was too much encroachment in the forest. Smoke was billowing out from everywhere from charcoal burners,” Joseph Shemeti says, leaning back on a walking stick smoothened by years of use, his gaze angled towards the spring that has an almost godlike status to those who depend on it.
“It is the fence that brought back the water,” Shemeti adds. “Without it, there would be no water flowing through this pipe”.
As their contribution to the project, Shemeti and many of the 4,000 people living in the village agreed to provide labour.
Today, every major settlement area around the forest has access to a water kiosk.
“We are learning about resource management. We have assessed our needs and know how much is necessary for a particular village. We have even come up with a fair rationing plan,” Kaduka says.
And no matter how hard the wind at Ole Sirwa blows or how low the temperatures fall, it never dampens the mood in Ole Sirwa.
“We now feel like we are in Kenya,” Kaduka says.
Birds chirp in the trees as if to celebrate the tranquility of the clear bright morning. The tree tops sway in unison dancing to a tempo set by the winds that sweep down from the distant hills.
As Moseto Kosen led a group of tourists across the marshy clearing, a family of monkeys tittered in alarm withdrawing deeper and deeper into Eburu Forest as the meddlesome human beings approached.
Kosen led the group up a slight incline and through a trail covered by a thick canopy. After an hour of treading through dried leaves he stopped under a tree on whose branches nestled a traditional bee hive.
After collecting some dry twigs from the ground he placed them in the hollow of a piece of wood he had brought along. Next he started rubbing a piece of stick into the hollow producing copious amount of smoke.
As the tourists clicked away with their cameras, Kosen lifted the lid of the hive and directed the smoke inside. The buzz of bees died down as they were lulled to sleep by the smoke.
Once the bees were sedated, Kosen dipped his hand into the hive and brought out a honeycomb dripping with the golden sweet nectar. Soon his visitors were sampling raw honey directly from the honeycombs.
This has not always been the case. From the mid 90s through to the mid-2000s, Eburu Forest went through a phase of destruction that saw the ecosystem lose almost 30 percent of its forest cover.
Moset and Kosen and a fellow villager harvesting honey in the forest.
A member of the Kiserian Self Group harvesting honey at the forest. The bee-keeping project has turned members of Ogiek Community into dedicated conservationists
Charcoal burning and illegal logging reduced what was once a dependable water source into acres of parched earth whose vegetation cover reduced with each rising sun.
“With the destruction came new rules and we found ourselves hounded outof our ancestral land. We couldn’t huntinside the forest. Neither could we keep our bees,” he says.
“Man made the gods angry. Nothing good comes from that. We have lived through some hard years,” he says, his eyes wandering past the chirp of excited yellow weaver birds circling above him.
Kosen is a member of the Ogiek community. The Ogiek are hunter-gatherers who traditionally hunted animals such as antelopes and boars.
This is now illegal. Nowadays, a good number grow vegetables and keep livestock.
Ever since the colonial times there have been attempts to evict the Ogiek from their ancestral forest dwellings, usually on the grounds that they are degrading it.
But whenever the Ogiek are pushed out, illegal loggers and charcoal burners come in.
According to Patrick ole Putunoi, the Ogiek spokesperson in Eburu, it took outsiders to restore normalcy. In 2013, Rhino Ark, M-PESA Foundation and other partners embarked on the Eburu Ecosystem Conservation Project to restore one of the country’s most important water towers.
The partners directed resources towards planting tree seedlings in nurseries that are used to replenish depleted parts of the forest. Pupils from nearby schools have also been taking part in tree planting exercises.
“When the project started, I was employed as a fence maintainer,” said Kosen. Because of the fence, he and his Ogiek community members have been allowed to continue with their age-old tradition of beekeeping.
Kosen is a member of the Kiserian Self-Help Group that has been integrated into efforts to conserve the Mau Eburu Forest.
The group own hundreds of hives dotted all around the forest. Not only are they engaged in conservation efforts, they are reaping financially.
“This provides us with some much needed revenue and also helps us stay connected to the forests that for centuries provided our forefathers with food and shelter,” Ole Putunoi says.
Kosen looks after four kilometers of the fence. He reports any damage which is then repaired with help from forest authorities.
“It’s a win-win for us. We are allowed into the forests to take care of our hives and we continue to act as guardians,” he says. “Now I have a job and I’m earning a little extra from an activity that my community has enjoyed doing for centuries.”
With the proceeds from the honey, Kosen says he can now send his children to school and feed them.
Now, Maseto says, the trees have learnt to call out his name again.
“And when they call, I answer and walk towards them.”
Depending on where you look, Kwale County, which geographically straddles Kenya’s southern coastal tip, has several worlds to it. There’s the tourist-driven world of undulating topography defined by the Coastal Plains, the Foot Plateau, the Coastal Uplands and the Nyika Plateau.
One side is home to a variety of marine and terrestrial wildlife and it boasts some of the most tranquil beach resorts on the East African coastline.
But there’s another side to this veritable Garden of Eden. Several parts of this coastal county are classified as Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL), with low rainfall levels and high annual temperatures exposing people in the county to perennial food insecurity.
The problem of inadequate rains has compounded an already poor water supply infrastructure leaving many families dependent on relief food.
The twin worlds captured officially by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) rank Kwale among the bottom 10 counties with the worst income inequality - measured as a ratio of the top to the bottom decile. The ratio of expenditure by the wealthiest to the poorest in Kwale is estimated at 20 to one.
This means that those in the top decile spend 20 times as much as those in the bottom decile. This is compared to an average for the whole country of nine to one.
Dzame Ndolo Chake, a small scale farmer in Vigurungani village, Kinango Sub- County in Kwale County summarised her feelings thus: “I have known nothing but want and hunger for most of my life.”
Dzame has been part of the sad statistics that define food insecurity, often surviving on the benevolence of strangers and government programmes.
“Food availability in large parts of this region is poor leading to reliance on emergency feeding programmes by the government and well-wishers,” said Mohamed Said of the local Kenya Red Cross Society office.
The situation was especially difficult in 2004, when Kenya suffered one of its most devastating cycles of drought.
Thousands of livestock were lost. Acres of farmland were left bare by the scorching sun that came with the season. The earth and its inhabitants cried out for rain. But it did not come in any useful amounts for another 10 years.
Things had not always been this dire for Kinango people. The colonial government had built Nyalani Dam back in 1952, which had created an agricultural wellspring.
But it had long fallen out of commission and the people had literally nowhere to turn to but survive for the day. They barely scraped through the day, hoping for a new tomorrow.
“Water scarcity naturally leads to other problems for communities in this situation, such as disease outbreaks;malnutrition attributed to poor access to safe drinking water; low levels of food production and low levels of health education,” says Mohamed.
After the devastating drought, help came through the Kinango Integrated Disaster Risk Reduction Programme. The programme proposal had been developed by the Kenya Red Cross Society in conjunction with the community.
But due to its sheer size, it needed critical capital injection. Hope came when M-PESA Foundation accepted the proposal to partner with the Kenya Red Cross Society, the Kwale County Government and the local community to restore the source of livelihood for the residents of Kinango.
“The overall goal was to reduce vulnerability to drought for 2,500 direct and 10,000 indirect beneficiaries,” says Abbas Gullet, CEO, Kenya Red Cross Society.
To achieve the transformative goals necessary to make a difference, the programme had to be multifaceted, covering food security, water supply, improved sanitation, hygiene awareness, nutrition awareness, healthcare interventions as well as economic stimulus.
First, the community’s vital lifeline had to be restored; thus, the rehabilitation of Nyalani Dam commenced.
“This was done to attain a storage capacity of approximately 500,000 cubic metres of water for irrigation, domestic and livestock usage,” says Mohamed.
This included laying pipes to open up approximately 105 acres to farming under drip irrigation. The 105 acres had been donated by the community for the project after consultations with 417 households.
The other key component was to provide farm inputs such as seeds, fertilizer and tools to give the community a launching pad towards food- security.
But that was not all.
For a community that had been stretched by thirst and hunger for so long, more needed to be done.
“We offered extension services to the farmers. It had been years since something this large scale had been done. We had to make sure that the farmers had the right skills set,” David Wanjala, Kwale’s County Director of Agriculture says.
We have water for irrigation all year round and the knowledge to reap the best from our efforts.
The farm is fully fenced with barbed wire and chain-link to keep off wandering livestock.
“Now we are doing things the proper way.We have water for irrigation all year round and the knowledge to reap the best from our efforts,” Dzame said in an interview at her village.
Where once stood dry, thirsty land now sit succulent watermelons, butternuts and an array of vegetables and fruits.
“We are living in a completely different world,” Dzame says, slowly loading yet another water melon onto a wheelbarrow.
“Things are looking up.”
The dam has addressed cross cutting needs including food security, water supply, improved sanitation, hygiene awareness, nutrition as well as economic stimulus through formation of agriculture cooperatives and linkages to markets.
“We managed to reach over 13,000 people through health education and hygiene promotion, nutrition assessment of pregnant and lactating mothers as well as management of malnourished cases,” said Gullet.
“Additionally, six mother to mother support groups were formed with a pool of 120 women trained on ideal child nutrition practices.”
Mbodze Mtende Mwelu walks in short but quick steps like someone on a mission. Her mission is to preach about good health and proper sanitation in homesteads.
Her deep husky voice never tires from preaching. She approaches her mission dutifully and with unbridled passion.
She preaches on proper hand washing, how important antenatal and post-natal clinics are to expectant mothers and newborns. At every household, she addresses the head of a household about the need to invest in a pit latrine for the family.
“They call me the Bush Doctor,” Mwelu said at an interview which came at the end of a long day at work.
Every day she visits a minimum of eight households to look into their general state of health and sanitation.
“Some of the things are really simple. Like clearing the grass next to your house or making sure there’s no stagnant water,” she says.
At first, not everyone was receptive to her message. Her Giriama people have long held cultural practices which proved detrimental to health and hygiene.
“We never built latrines. Families used the open spaces,” she says.
More water was a blessing, but it could very easily turn into a curse if hygiene was not maintained
“Part of this was because it was considered taboo for women to share toilets with their fathers-in-law. It was easier to go the bush than to invest in a structure that a big part of the family would never use.”
Open defecation answered the taboo but created a health problem. Often there would be outbreaks of diarrheal diseases attributed in part to this practice and low levels of health education amongst the community.
When the Nyalani Dam was rehabilitated under the Kinango Integrated Disaster Risk Reduction Project, the lack of latrines became a matter of concern.
The risk of water borne diseases multiplied because water from the dam is used for drinking, cooking and washing.
“More water was a blessing, but it could very easily turn into a curse if hygiene was not maintained,” said Mwelu, who is a part of a host of Community Health Volunteers trained by the Kenya Red Cross Society.
Mwelu is part of more than 140 CHVs who had their capacity built through trainings and exposure.
She has worked so hard that her village Vigurungani has been declared Open Defecation Free, pointing to the long-term benefits that have come to a community long in need.
More than 9,666 households have been reached with health and nutrition messages as well as Hygiene and Sanitation messages in Puma Ward through the Community Units (CUs) formed and trained through this project.
“They saw firsthand that proper hygiene had a direct relation to their health. The cleaner they were, the fewer trips they made to the dispensary. They had to embrace what we were teaching them,” she adds.
She says her village no longer loses babies and mothers to malaria because the CHVs have also trained households on the importance of using mosquito nets.
“Initially people rejected the use of mosquito nets. They told us sleeping under a net was like sleeping in a coffin,” says Mwelu.
Now Nyalani not only has water for its daily needs, it is on a firm footing towards a healthier future.
“Things are now different. Mindsets have shifted and people are thirsty for more knowledge that will help them stay healthy,” says Mwelu.
If you got a chance to watch Said Mwandingo Dingo at his favourite spot by the shores of Nyalani Dam, you will marvel at his expertise. In the mornings, Dingo skilfully dives headlong into the calm waters of the dam to retrieve underwater fishing nets he set the previous night.
He holds his breath underwater for what appears to be a lifetime before emerging with his catch. Then he will climb onto his dugout canoe and row away to a different location and repeat this feat. In the evenings, the ritual is reversed; he casts his net for the next morning’s catch.
Dingo has known nothing but fishing all his life.
And when the Nyalani Dam dried up in 2004, he lost all hope of making a livelihood from fish.
“There was nothing else I could do. I am not a farmer, neither am I a trader,” he said. He had been taught to fish and like the Chinese adage says, he knew he could feed himself for life.
A fisherman sorting his catch.
Then a young man with a family, he had to move to the nearby Diani Beach hoping to get hired by boat owners for some work after the dam dried up. He never really felt at home with the waves of the Indian Ocean.
“It was a struggle,” he says, affording himself a wry smile.
When the Kinango Integrated Disaster Risk Reduction Project was initiated in 2015, it offered fishermen in its vicinity a ray of hope.
The project itself was multifaceted with the most urgent aspect of it being the rehabilitation and improvement of the Nyalani Dam.
“I thought that the dam had dried forever,” he says.
“But my childhood friends started calling me about the rising water levels. When I came and saw what was happening, I decided to come back home and do what I had done all my life.”
On a good day, Dingo makes Sh3,000 from selling his catch in the local markets. For the past year, he does not recall a day that he has not pushed out his boat to cast his net.
“Life is no longer a struggle. My children go to good schools and my wife has never lacked,” he says.
As Dingo makes his livelihood from fishing, Elizabeth Nyawa is taming the land. She is among the more than 400 beneficiaries of an irrigation and agribusiness project that started after the dam was rehabilitated.
Nyawa’s plot of land is colonized by water melons and butternut, the two crops she says have been responsible for her family’s reversal of fortunes.
"Life is no longer a struggle. My children go to good schools and my wife has never lacked”
“We now have control over the price of produce from our farms. We get the best price and can plan our income to cater for almost all our needs,” she says.
Like all her neighbours, she is a member of the Nyalani Farmers’ Cooperative society, a body registered with the help of the county government to make sure the farmers turn farming into a viable business.
Nyamawih Charo, the Kwale County Director of Trade and Cooperatives says the cooperative is a boon for the farmers.
“It is easier for us to link them to markets when they are organised in this way,” says Charo.
“We also train them on the basics of business such as book keeping.”
Through the cooperative, the farmers have a Management Committee that oversees the day to day running of the farms, looks into the amount of produce and seeks out for markets. In a few years, Nyawa says, they will be able to stand on their feet.