Hifadhi Africa – empowerment for slum communities in Kenya

By Denise Nanni and Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the following our interview with Collins Nakedi of Hifadhi Africa, supporting slum communities in Kenya. Hifadhi Africa is a development, advocacy and youth empowerment organization dedicated to promoting equal access to quality education, healthcare, water and youth mentorship communities in slums and pastoral regions of Kenya to overcome poverty and dependence




How was HAO founded?
Three young men with the will to make a real difference in Africa conceived Hifadhi Africa as students at US International University. They feel very strongly about community empowerment. They believe that Africa’s current generation has the power to shape the future and build a better continent only if they are accommodated and new, young leaders incorporated into the fore. That with opportunities for education and employment, young Africans can make great contributions. And as such, they wanted to use their youthful energy, education and exposure to give a chance to others.
Collins Nakedi came from East Pokot whose Pastoral parents were anti-education and provided no financial support, overcame tremendous obstacles to graduate in 2013. In 2015 he was selected from 50,000 applicants for the President Obama initiative, the Young African Leaders Initiative(YALI). His subsequent accomplishments were to be selected as the only YALI among 40 Kenyans to do an USA internship (At Microsoft), to be selected as an outstanding person in the Kenyan 2016 40 under 40 program. In 2016, Collins returned to the USA as a mentor and to testify on the worth of YALI to 4 Congressional Committees. Jovenal Nsengimana, a Rwandan refugee who lost his parents at 4, was selected in Oct 2016 for a Mandela Rhodes Scholarship and will study Law and Human Rights in Cape town. Charles Mwakio, from Mombasa was selected for study in S. Korea. He’s also a celebrated public speaker.  
Hifadhi Africa is a development, advocacy and youth empowerment organization dedicated to promoting equal access to quality education, healthcare, water and youth mentorship communities in slums and pastoral regions of Kenya to overcome poverty and dependence.
Hifadhi Africa Organization (HAO) began 3 years ago, and currently operate in 3 Counties in Kenya. We are committed to sustainable access to quality services for most vulnerable communities in Kenya. Hifadhi is a Kiswahili word for sustain or sustainability.
What are the main issues in the slums and rural areas of Kenya?
Statistics and research is pointing Africa as the next growth frontier in technology and entrepreneurship. This has brought excitement across industries. We have since seen multinationals flooding Kenyan market. We encourage this. But what the statistics do not show is that huge percentage of Africans and African communities are not prepared well to position themselves to benefit from this success window. These population mostly in the slums and extreme rural areas commonly face five basic challenges:
a)     Poverty
b)     Unemployment
c)      Lack of basic health services
d)     Lack of education
e)     Insecurity
A slum can be defined as a densely populated urban informal settlement endowed with substandard housing and squalor. Slums are common in the developing countries. Kibera slums in Kenya is the largest urban slum in Africa with an estimated populace of approximately 2 million people as per 2009 census. From a United Nations research in 2012, 33% of the populace in developing economies live in slums. In Kenya, 30% of the urban populace live in slums. Because of the untenable employment rate in Kenya, nearly half of the urban population cannot meet the daily expenses. To survive, they live in make-shift shelters in slums like Kibera, Mathare and Mukuru.
For the case of rural Kenya e.g East Pokot in Baringo County, there is virtually no infrastructure of any kind. Furthermore, there is virtually no government investment resulting in East Pokot being extremely marginalized. There are few NGO’s operating in East Pokot but most NGO’s operate for few years and leave because of the difficulty of doing humanitarian work. East Pokot has 162,000 people and are scattered because they are pastoralists who move their animals to wherever there is vegetation. As far as demographics, the absolute poverty rate is 67%, the food poverty rate is 56% and the literacy rate is 4%. What that means is that 2/3 of the Pokot people in East Pokot or 100,000 have no material possession. They live in stick houses which they abandon when they move to another location. With a food poverty rate of 56%, the people are suppose to be given government food but this seldom happens. A joint World Vision/ACTED research in 2014 study stated that lactating women were eating dirt from anthills in order to breastfeed. Income is virtually non-existent. The only way to generate income is to sell an animal. A goat brings $20-$30 dollars and has to be marketed in Nginyang. When goats are sent to a market such as Nakuru or Nairobi, the police stop the shipment and extort money from the Pokot people. Because of all the challenges and problems of East Pokot, alcoholism is rampant.
How would you define your approach?
Hifadhi Africa’s development approach focuses on building capacities of local communities to develop and maintain sustainable water and sanitation and basic education and literacy systems with the goal to provide equitable community access to safe water, improved sanitation and quality education. Our programs target households and institutions. We also have intimate knowledge of the cultural, social and environmental dynamics in our operational areas. 
In what ways do you promote education?
Hifadhi Africa Organization believes education is the gateway to a literate and civilized African society that is able to articulate issues and position itself to benefit from the opportunities being envisioned. Our efforts and support is to bridge these dreams by;
       I.            Providing cost effective support-programs targeting academic institutions.
a.      Hifadhi Africa’s e-Learning systems for remote schools in pastoral areasnow benefits more than 4,000 students in elementary and Secondary Schools. The USD $14,700 system involves low cost, low power computer system called a raspberry pi and android tablets. The systems have been deployed in schools that have no electricity or internet access which is the case in nearly all of the schools in East Pokot and Marsabit. These systems will boost the quality of education in these schools because many of them have few or no textbooks. The educational data stored on the raspberry pi, RACHEL (Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning), comes from World Possible organization, is free and is continually updated. The educational data consists 6000 articles, 26 million words and 50,000 images that include over 3 thousand of textbooks (K-12) and over 2 thousand videos, the entire Kahn academy, health and medicine books, reference books and interactive videos such as learning music, etc.The project strengthened capacity of beneficiary schools to provide basic education and literacy
b.      Hifadhi Africa has donated and installed 10,000 liter tanks to 5 local schools in East Pokot. Most schools in East Pokot experience multiple closure within academic calendar year due to lack of water. We therefore help harvest rainwater and therefore mitigate water shortage and enable learning environment.
c.       Hifadhi Africa’s Teachers Empowerment through STEM Education project will directly benefit 94 teachers by July 2017 with expectation of impacting6,000 per year. The beneficiaries are teachers from three different levels of education – primary school, high school and teacher training college. Theproject objective is to improve the teaching skills of STEM teachers in Kenyaso students are engaged, think critically, solve problems and pass their highstakes tests. Currently most classes in Kenya are taught through lecture,which is not an effective method of teaching thinking and problems solving skills. Our focus is on teaching teachers of STEM subjects how to teachwith hands-on and minds-engaged pedagogy for more effective learning.
    II.       Providing direct interventions targeting underprivileged bright students in High Schools and Universities
a.      Continued financial and moral support to High school and University students from underprivileged background courtesy of Hifadhi Africa’s annual scholarship and mentorship program. 85 students from poor background have benefited from the program.
b.      Hifadhi Africa’s sexual and reproductive health (SRH) needs of adolescent girls project has benefited 280 girls and teenage mothers against a 800 target. The programs’ target group of girls and young women are part of an underserved population in Kenya that faces higher than average dropout rates. This group has faced decades of hardships – decimated by female genital mutilation, early arranged marriages, radical militia groups and extreme poverty.
How do you select the communities you intervene?
Hifadhi Africa Organization operate in 3 counties of Baringo, Marsabit and Nairobi. Most research studies conducted on Marsabit and Baringo counties point to urgent need for humanitarian support because the areas are predominantly inhabited by pastoralists who seasonally migrate in search of pasture. As a result, they exhibit the poorest education indicators in Kenya. The literacy rate especially in East Pokot which is in Baringo County is probably the lowest of any area in the world and 60% of the children never attend any school because the value of education is not recognized culturally. According to a research study conducted in 2012 by Uwezo Kenya, a five-year initiative that aims to improve competencies in literacy and numeracy among children aged 6-16 years old in East Africa titled, “Are Our Children Learning? Annual Learning Assessment Report”, schools in northern areas of Kenya are 4 times less likely to have a computer than schools in other parts of Kenya. Furthermore, 7 out of 10 public schools in Kenya do not have a library. The report continues to state that a girl in Northern Kenya and Arid Zones is 3 times more likely to be out of school than a girl in Central Province.
Hifadhi Africa therefore conducts assessment research on potential target communities to ascertain variables affecting access to basic services, school populations and attendance. The assessment report helps us to formulate programs targeting lifestyle changes from basic survival as a priority by significantly reducing poverty levels and keeping more and more students motivated to pursue education
Do you carry on any awareness project on issues such as drug abuse?
Yes. Hifadhi Africa Organization conducts community sensitization forums and holds consultative meeting with elders and key stakeholders on drug abuse. Hifadhi Africa has also sponsored several youth empowerment projects that seek to distract youth from engaging in drug abuse. HAO’s Co-Founder and Director Collins Nakedi published a biography titledLeap of Hope to challenge youth to pursue education. The book recounts his extraordinary sacrifice and perseverance to where he’s now. Through the NGO, Collins has donated several copies and revenue from the book to schools and minority groups. Link to the book on Amazon can be found here.
HAO has also uses sport extensively to create awareness on issues that affect youth. Project provide support for youth to re-organize and have a platform to discuss these issues. Beneficiaries include Silale Football Club – a youth soccer team that HAO continues to support with sport kits and soccer balls. 
Do you cooperate with local authorities and institutions? If yes, how?
Yes. One of the reasons that Hifadhi Africa has had such success in implementing projects is because HAO is well-networked with counties’ leadership and understands the needs of the local institutions. HAO has mobilized political and tribal leaders to create awareness around need for social development and some sort of community organization. Local networks of professionals are also our target. Such communal mobilization allows debate on culturally sensitive themes like Cattle rustling, early/arranged marriages or FGM that otherwise would be impossible to be initiated by external NGOs.  
In closing, HAO believes that the future we are talking about won’t benefit Africans if it gets us unprepared. It will not benefit us if few countries, communities or class of people or even section of the continent only feels it. We at Hifadhi Africa are striving to empower the marginalized and the poor in our midst to rise to a level that they too can position themselves and share the fruit of the bright future. Why shouldn’t everyone have a profitable role in that future? Why shouldn’t we put in place structures that will ensure that our schools are churning out job creators? Why shouldn’t our actions encourage entrepreneurial mindsets?
These things are possible. Basic steps need to be covered in Africa. This is why our young people need to spearhead this revolution. We have the energy. HAO keeps transforming lives every day despite mountable challenges.