Poverty remains the greatest challenge for the Kenyan government, with unemployment levels increasing even further every year. In Kenya, the informal sector is bearing the burden of absorbing the increased labour force, which is growing at an annual rate of 10% on average. However, the informal sector is often hampered by low productivity. The potential of the informal sector, if harnessed, could provide a viable vehicle for poverty reduction.
Poverty resulting from unemployment is often seen as the cause for unplanned and sporadic growth of informal settlements in Kenyan urban centres. For example, it is estimated that over two million people currently live in the Nairobi’s informal settlements. Majority of these people are believed to have migrated from rural areas in search for employment in the cities. Due to the lack of employment opportunities, they are forced to take on menial and informal jobs to make a living, and the income generated from these jobs is often not enough to find housing outside the informal settlements. Consequently, the people affected by unemployment and poverty face numerous challenges, such as resource-based conflicts, lack of decent housing structures, poor drainage, lack of adequate basic amenities (such as water, roads, electricity and schools) and security.
The informal settlements have the potential to harness the informal sector thanks to numerous small business enterprises, existing social and human capital, and an existing market for services and goods that would go a long way in improving the livelihoods of people living in the settlements. Networks, savings groups and welfare groups have already been formed, which could provide useful entry points for implementing livelihood programmes in the settlements.
It is against this background that the project Capacity Strengthening Initiative Kibera was established: to help build the capacity of women and youth groups engaged in social and economic entrepreneurship with a view to accessing livelihoods.
Capacity Strengthening Initiative Kibera (CSI-Kibera) is a project implemented by Kenya Youth Foundation (KYF), and it is part of the project Youth Building Bridges for Peace in Kibera (YOBBPEK) which has been running since 2007.
CSI-Kibera was officially launched in 2009 with the help of three professional volunteers who provided help in designing the training programme. The training programme was aimed at youth and community groups in Kibera and focused on strengthening their capacities to allow them to better undertake viable social and economic activities that would benefit members of the groups as well as the larger Kibera community.
The long term goal of the project was to transform youth and community groups in Kibera to become socially and economically viable. It was developed as response to a consultation with youth who suggested the need for capacity building, access to education, promotion of self-employment and promotion of income-generating activities.
There were three parts for the project: community tailored training for youth and community groups, follow ups and a conditional grant package. The training was aimed at improving the capacities of the groups, that are often lack the basic skills and knowledge required for running a business (such as keeping records, conducting meetings and mobilising resources). After the training, the KYF training teams conduct periodic follow ups to assist the groups while they are developing and implementing their activities, providing support and advice when necessary. Finally, the groups could make a proposal for a loan grant from KYF for their activities, which needs to be paid back after one year in monthly instalments.
Vision Brothers Self-Help Youth Group and Premium Youth Group were the first two groups that finished the training. Both groups benefited from the trainings and were able to take valuable lessons back to their businesses. The Vision Brothers, for example, successfully expanded their business to water vending and installed a water tank connection in Kibera.
The experiences from the trainings were conceptualized into a training guide titled Community Training in Business Development and Planning which can be used to train other community groups in a non-formal settlement.
In conclusion, three important aspects can be emphasised with regards to the trainings. Firstly, based on the first two trainings, capacity strengthening of the youth and community groups is an effective way to address poverty because it promotes collectiveness and ownership of local and group resources. Secondly, there is a need for local and internal resource mobilization for income generating activities. This is why the training was geared towards SWOT analysis and prioritizing the internal abilities, strength and resources of individuals and the group. Thirdly, capacity building should be a pre-requisite to any loans or grants and most of the micro-financing institutions have often failed to make an impact in the poor segments of society because of the lack of detailed training on business skills, management and accountability.
By Edwyn Odeny Odhiambo, team leader at Kenya Youth Foundation
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