Maisha Bora Haki Yako, a programme that seeks to empower the members of the communities to demand for effective service delivery in their various areas of residences has now grown its wings from Nairobi to the various Counties in the country.
During a recent workshop at the Savelberg for community mobilisers, various cross- cutting issues that the different counties face day in day out came to the fore.
Simon Kibor from the North Rift region stated that the issue of the yet to be settled Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s), five years after the elections in the region needs to be looked into. The land issue is also one of the top issues that the region has been grappling with for a long time.
Lack of clean water or the lack of it completely was a concern for the various community mobilisers. The vast area of Kapenguria was mentioned as one of the places that lacks a water treatment centre yet it serves large numbers of people.
The government was largely blamed for hampering the farmer’s efforts, as rather than support them; they were undermining their efforts in various ways.
“The government would rather import the cheap maize from Uganda and Tanzania rather than buy maize from the local farmers which is undermining their efforts. The government also loves to import rice from Pakistan rather than help the rice farmers to improve their produce. Time and again, they have imported cheap sugar from the COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) region yet sugar factories are being closed down in the country,” stated Reverend David Musumba.
Harrison Olala wonders why the government decided to construct the fish factory in Thika yet the raw products come from Nyanza, this he stated was one of the historical injustices that has yet to be looked into. He stated that the fishermen are getting a raw deal as they depend on middle men to get them markets. The dilapidated roads only make the matter worse.
Bishop Betty Onyango notes that the road network in Yimbo and Usenge where fishing takes place in large quantities is very poor.
“The fishermen work too hard yet they see no tangible results. When they fish, they have no place to store their fish and by the time they reach the city, most of the times, the fish has gone bad. The cost of transportation is also high. The lack of a cotton factory in the area should also be looked into as there are many farmers who grow cotton,” she stated
In the greater Nyanza region, retrogressive cultural practices have hindered development. The culture of depending on handouts from politicians to vote for them rather than asking about their policies was also mentioned as an issue that needs to be addressed.
For a long time, Nyanza was one of the provinces that had dominated the headlines for its exemplary performance during the national examinations but this trend has been changing over time.
Bishop Betty stated that the region used to produce some of the best brains in the country but this is not the case anymore and recently it was amongst the worst perfuming regions in the country. She stated that this was a worrying trend as the levels of illiteracy especially among the girls was becoming unbearable. She is disturbed by the cycle of school drop outs resorting to marry at a young age and also to raise young families whose children are uncertain of a stable education. This she stated that in the long run it would be detrimental to development.
“People are afraid to raise issues as they will be seen as dissidents. When someone raises a different opinion, most of the times it is seen as trying to undermine certain politicians who are big wigs and this has led to the underdevelopment in this area. The people have no space to reason out and make decisions for themselves and this is detrimental for growth. There are many companies that have also collapsed due to poor leadership and this has affected the people tremendously,” she noted.
He high unemployment rates in the area is also an issue. Prostitution is also rampant.
Some of the retrogressive cultures in the pastoralist communities were also mentioned as deterrence to development.
The pastoralist communities that saw nothing wrong in raiding homesteads to steal cattle which would in turn be used to pay for dowry is still alive and is a hindrance to development.
Reverend Musumba noted that for the pastoralist communities, part of their culture was to raid homesteads and stealing the cattle was seen as “taking the cattle that had been taken from us.” He noted that raiding was outdated and that the government needed to conduct a lot of behaviour change campaigns to eradicate some of these cultures.
In Vihiga country, the high population growth rate was mentioned as a challenge as there is competition for the diminutive land and segmenting it was not easy especially for the large families. The large unemployment rates in the county had also led to a massive rural-urban migration as people were leaving their homesteads unattended to in search for jobs in the cities.
Reverend Patrick Olome noted that there was also a high level of teenage pregnancies and the girls in most cases end up dropping out of school which in the long run would be a big problem in the community.
“Insecurity in Vihiga County has also in the recent past been growing. There is a lot of hooliganism where gangs of men have been known to attack people in businesses and even small businesses have largely been affected. They loot everything and thus many shops are closing down as this has been repeatedly done to them. Some even use machetes and this is what we are grappling with,” he stated.
In Machakos County, Mrs. Regina Mutuku noted that sand harvesting which was one of the menial jobs available was pulling the boys from schools as it looked like easy money and this has led to the huge number of school dropouts.
“Lack of health facilities in the county is a big challenge. When one becomes critically sick, most of the times they have to be taken to Murang’a or Thika for treatment since the only health facility we have here are dispensaries,” she stated.
In Kitui and Makueni County, land was also a big issue as Reverend Naaman Mutua stated.
“In the Kamba tradition, people believe that if you sub-divide your land when you are still alive, you wish to die. The elderly have thus for a long time held onto their land as they do not see the need of subdividing it amongst their children but when they die, the families fight over the land as each wants a share and this violence in families due to land issues is the order of the day,” he stated.
He also noted the increasing number of people abusing drugs in the county. He added that most of the people still believed in witchcraft and most of them end up dying due to ignorance.
“Witchdoctors will never fail to tell you something when you seek his or her help. Many people have thus ended up dying of curable illnesses believing that someone has bewitched them. There are many buildings in the county that were supposed to be hospitals but they have remained to be white elephants where buildings exist without equipment,” he stated.
In Trans Nzioa County, they have apportioned blame to the government for not buying their produce. The residents in the Country decry of the fact that when the government eventually buys their produce, they take a lot of time before paying them. The frequent ethnic –based clashes were also mentioned as a hindrance to development.
Some of the issues that Embu and Kirinyaga Counties are grappling with include; high divorce rates, corruption, nepotism as well as high illiteracy levels.
In Nakuru, the increasing informal settlement areas is a worrying problem. Insecurity has also risen with militia groups sprawling in many areas and hold ransom the businesses in those areas.
In Migori country, Noah Imonje who is a medical practitioner noted that the high unemployment rates in many ways had made the young people to resort to uncouth behaviour. He stated that in a week he could treat at least 5 young people suffering from Sexually Transmitted Diseases and this he stated was also due to the fact that the area is only a few Kilometres from the Tanzania border.
He cited insecurity as an issue where most vehicles that have been stolen in Kenya find an easy market across the Tanzanian border as well as cases of hijackings which had become rampant.
“Drug abuse and alcohol consumption is also very high. Bhang which is illegal in Kenya is legal in Tanzania so Kenyans have found a ready market and this does not help the young people,” noted Noah.
Water pollution, lack of environmental conservation, corruption, and various historical injustices were all discussed during the workshop.
The participants note that poor leadership as well as poor prioritisation of issues were some of the underlying reasons for underdevelopment. They however, stated that they would work hand in hand with the church leaders and their various communities to ensure that the desired change in their various communities comes to pass.
Fiona Imbali, OAIC Communications.