Posts tagged ‘Environment’

February 4, 2015

The Key to Unlocking this African Moment

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This is a crucial moment for Africa. At the opening Intergovernmental meeting on the Post 2015 framework in New York in January I was invited to share the voices of African people with those tasked with drafting the key documents for UN member states to agree in September. These documents will replace the Millennium Development Goals agreed by member states in 2000.

Together with my colleague and former volunteer Nancy Maina, we tried to stress the importance of African communities being part of the decisions that affect their lives.


Asking people what they need

I have been part of the Participate Research Initiative which did months of consultations with people across Africa (as well as South America and Asia), documenting the perspectives of ordinary people through a series of participatory research workshops.

When grassroots communities described their realities, they taught me that the development they envisioned is not the same as the development the majority of the world imagines they want. In their own narrative, the strongest message from communities is a deep desire to be given the ability to do it for themselves.

These people identified critical blockages standing between them and their ability to function. This catalogue ranged from feeling vulnerable and excluded based on social norms, legal and political discrimination, corruption, insecurity and crime, inadequate skills and lack of opportunities to own assets. Unlocking the African moment requires removal of these blockages.

So first of all, the new development framework mustn’t just ask, “what can I do for the people?” but also “what are the people doing?” and “how can we accompany them in their local development innovation?”

Shifting focus to the often-unrecognized people like volunteer groups, grassroots community led organizations and marginalized communities will be crucial to the success of any new and ambitious plan.

Name checking the volunteers
If all the volunteers in the world were put into one country, that country would be the 9th most populous country in the world. This is not always acknowledged so I was determined to set this straight when I was given the opportunity to speak on to the UN.

I explained that for every paid member of staff that the Red Cross has globally, they have 20 volunteers. Back in sub-Saharan Africa where I come from, that figure is even greater (the Red Cross and Red Crescent have 327 volunteers for every paid member of staff). At VSO , the numbers of national volunteers supplementing the work of international volunteers in education, livelihoods, business and health have also been growing significantly in the past 15 years.

We need to name check this vital group in the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As Nancy said in her speech at the civil society forum on January 14th, both the Political Declaration and Means of Implementation Agreement that will sit alongside the Sustainable Development Goals, Targets and Indicators, must be just as sound and robust as the goals, targets and indicators we choose.

Volunteering is often the first step in people’s active participation in their communities and countries as evidenced in the inspiring 500 Ways initiative. With effective support and planning, we can mobilize the huge pool of skills, capacity and passion that volunteers have for the realization of the SDGs.

Shoulders to the wheel
Wrapping up the two day meeting, the co-facilitator, Kenya’s Ambassador to the UN Macharia Kamau, said that by September we need to have Heads of State coming to New York with real enthusiasm for this agenda. He called on us all to work together – civil society, government and academics – to tell the world why these are important and how they can be transformative. I, for one, am determined to put my shoulder to the wheel with my people so we can unlock the barriers to making this Africa’s moment.

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March 6, 2014

Letter from Aliens to Earth

Alien SoundI was abducted by a ‘Aliens’ and taken to a higher ground in a floating spaceship and this is what they told me about earth’

“We come in peace to visit our dear lost cousins.  From our world which you refer to as Alien, we are told of our long lost cousins who disappeared into the space never to return. Our mission on earth is to discover how you are doing and how we can co-operate and sustain the entire universe. We are happy to note that after many years of wars amongst yourself, you have tried to make initiative to unite your countries through United Nations and regional trading blocs which is slowly forging a common understanding on human existence.

Our main mission is to alert you about the depleting ozone layer, greenhouse effects and its impact on your existence and future. We have noted with concern your appetite and greediness to harness natural resources. You extract more than you need and hence there is increased solid waste generated which you have no plans on how and where to dispose. You have ended up throwing more waste into the lakes, rivers, forests and oceans. What has been the impact of these actions? You are now witnessing unusual weather patterns in your planet. In our experience, nature has a way of cleaning itself and it does not forgive when it come to correcting wrong actions. Please our cousins, your own expert predicts that is nothing is done on time then one fourth of your species on earth will disappear by 2050.  We are happy, a few leaders like Al Gore from USA have tried to explain the impact and in 2007, you awarded him a Nobel Peace Prize in for his efforts in raising awareness on Climate Change. But are  acting to save your planet?

Experience from our culture shows that wars caused extinction and not development. We are aware during the First and Second World Wars some families lost a whole generation. You have invested so much in weaponry than in human development. In the year 2012/2013, according to your calendar, we noticed some increased human activity at a place you call China, which has increased its military budget allocation and we are equally concerned with high level of air pollution and we are disappointed. Wars and conflicts are almost in all corners of African countries from Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo to West Africa apart from the never ending conflict in the Middle East between Palestinians and Israel, while there is still no sight for a solution to the Afghanistan war. As your experienced cousins, we implore you to reconsider your investment priorities.

We advice that Earthlings should invest more in their own current and future development. Discovering Us (Aliens) will lead to disappointment which we are not sure whether you will be able to handle. This planet is blessed with enough resources for all. You don’t need to discover Us at the expense of human development.

When you launched Millennium Development Goals in 2000, the Alien Council decided that we shall come and visit you and celebrate the success together in 2015. We are disappointed despite advancement in technology the levels of disparities, diseases, extreme poverty and poor governance have continued with little progress worth showing. We have been made aware through our satellite imagery of earth some areas people asking for their human rights in Syria, Egypt and homosexuals are threatened with imprisonment and death threats. This is an unacceptable. A report from one of your own, Prof. Jeffery D. Sachs tells us that you are now moving towards Sustainable Development Goals. This is a good move since you are now focusing more on human development, investment and sustaining it. For now we shall postpone of our visit to earth until 2030 since there is nothing to celebrate. In Peace we Leave But We are Watching Your Every Move….” – Simon

February 19, 2014

Mathare or Kibera?

Both places, Mathare and Kibera are a reflection of low income areas with overcrowding, lack of social amenities, high crime level, unemployment, teenage pregnancy cases, gender based violence and general lack of strong accountability and governance structures. Mathare a place of less than 3 Km sq has more than 200,000.

kiberaMathare and Kibera share four things in common. First both had quarry at stage in life. Second they neighbour some of the most rich neighbourhoods. Kibera has Karen while Mathare is to Muthaiga. Another interesting observation is that the too have golf courses nearby. Mathare is next to Muthaiga Golf Club and Kibera has Royal Golf Club. Major road road construction are going, across Kibera we have while Mathare has Thika Highway.

Despite all these abundance nearby there is imbalance in the investment made by civil society. Kibera attracts high profile attention and funding than Mathare. The slum upgrading in Kibera is just one of the example how huge investments have been made. One might argue that most of the land in Kibera is government owned and that is why is easy to carry out housing projects.

Poverty level in Kibera is more glaring compared with Mathare. From housing condition and to terrain the place is terrible. In Mathare people also suffer too but they ‘hide’ it wth smile and welcoming charm. So many research have been conducted in Mathare but very little has been used to transform people’s life?-Simon

February 7, 2014

Maps and Slums

mathareNairobi is home to more than 100 informal settlements with little basic social amenities of low standards. The most ‘famous’ slum in Nairobi is Kibera. This is a place with many NGOs activities than schools.

There is high presence of NGOs in Kebera plus the place being put on the world map courtesy of OpenStreet Map However the residents continue to live in usual conditions found in slums. However there is hope for Kibera unlike Mathare. If the Kibera slum upgrading is completed and the houses distributed fairly without corruption then we headed to good times. Slum Upgrading projects are better off if the development process is monitored by various stakeholders.

kibera

Looking at the informal settlement in http://www.openstreetmap.org , in Nairobi section one notice that some of the informal settlements mapped are, Mukuru, Kibera, Mathare, Baba Dogo, Korogocho among others. Amazingly, the most mapped slum in Nairobi is Mathare! Almost all schools, health facilities, disaster prone areas have been mapped in details and shared in the OpenStreetMap platform. But has this visibility translated into Mathare being a popular destination with donors compared with Kibera? And what could be impeding factors? (Next week Mathare and Kibera)- Simon

February 3, 2012

Children Using Space

Creating good a conducive environment for all to enjoy is the most challenging aspect in slum like Mathare. There are always huge piles of uncollected solid waste, broken sewers, use, noise pollution, limited space for children to exercise their right to play, lack of social amenities for the youth, no social halls or club house for elderly to meet and discussion about their own issues.

Despite all these, people still live and survive against all odds. The limited space available is shared amongst different groups. Like Huruma Sports Ground host various Christian crusades but it has produced some good and international soccer players while at the same provides bulk of players for street soccer in the Kenyan team.

On the other hand Mathare river host various socioeconomic activities despite high levels of pollutions. Various youth groups have managed to reclaim riparian land along the river and started urban farming activities. The good thing abour urban farming is that the youth do not use polluted river for irrigation.

Children make use of any available space to exercise their right play not caring much danger associated. It is common to find children playing next to a garbage hip or beside the river. – Simon

March 22, 2011

Rotary International in Mathare

Rotary Foundation/Rotary International rehabilitated toilets in Mathare

Growing up in Mathare in 1980s one would meet Nairobi City Council workers cleaning the the toliets every morning including Sunday. But somewhere along the way, the council could no longer cope with the population demand. The culture of land grabbing also became habit among the village elders. Even the spaces allocated for public utility were grabbed while the administration watched.

The public toliets in Mathare were used by community to described exact location where one lived. Our house was between toliets 115 1nd 116.  But they were demolished and the land sold to a mosque through irregular means. My family had lived on this land for 30 years.

But Rotary International, Rotary Foundation, Rotary Club Edina and Rotary Club of Nairobi District (District 9200) Lang’ata has teamed up to restore some of the remaining toilets. I am impressed with the initial plan and how they involved a local community group, Mathare Association. Compared with other projects working in Mathare, this has been more of working and impact to the community than workshops and talking. Many NGOs working in Mathare are famous for many workshops and seminars than real work on the ground.  I believe other projects working in the area of water and sanitation should learn a lot from Rotary Foundation.

The project has gained the support of local youth groups which is a very difficult group to reach in slums. I salute all Rotarian allover the world for the good work in places like slums and community in general.  – Simon

January 20, 2011

From Waste to Real Cash

 

Trash for Cash

Mathare Environmental Youth Group from Mathare is currently engaged in collection of solid waste from the local houses in Mlango Kubwa. The uniqueness of the project is its ability to ‘teach and educate’ community members how to sort the waste solid from the source. It is common to find families storing used plastics so that they can sell at the end of the month to the group. The group in partnership with other self help associations engaged in cleaning the community, has managed to establish a community network to enhance moping up of all plastics for recycling and creating wealth. They not only collect but also add value to it before selling it to the industries dealing with plastics.

Crushing Machine

This machine was acquired with the support of Ford Foundation

According to the founder of the group, Isaac (Kaka) the network (STAKEN) buys the plastics for kshs. 10/-. After crushing the plastics into pellets, they are able to sell it to industries for kshs. 23 per kg. Through this initiative youths have found full time employment while others are engaged in collection of garbage in the community. – Simon

The STAKEN was funded by the Ford Foundation and they were able to acquire the machine to crush the plastics before selling them as pellets to industries. There is high usage of plastic containers in the community and the group is now considering getting machine to make plastics plates, cups and basins and buckets in Mathare and outside. The group has managed to attract the attention of Oxfam who are now in the process of funding. Students as far from United States of America and Canada have also helped STAKEN improve the building and setting up of working organizational structure.

This simple initiate has translated into action and money for the community. Next week ..watch out for group from Mathare making soda ash from maize.- Simon

January 12, 2011

Greening the Slum

Food is very essential for the survival of all people including those living in the slums. Mathare residents depend on food harvested from the neighbouring locations, outside Nairobi. During the 2007, post election violence many residents went without food. The eruption of violence in parts of Mathare can be blamed on ‘bad’ politics and lack of concrete cohesion between different ethnic groupings. Most upcoming projects within Mathare have focused in initiating projects that seek address good governance and food security. The Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI) started sack gardening project targeting 1,000 household using six bases while Solidarite is enhancing capacity of local communities in participate in sack gardening.

These projects have led to the greening of the local slum through growing of kale, spinach, pepper and onions in sack. It is now common to find neighbours training each other on how to grow vegetable while at the same time promoting peaceful coexistence between different communities.

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