Less gender-based violence and more justice for women: the efforts of Aics and UN WOMEN in Kenya

“The elections of this year, 2022, were the first peaceful elections in Bungoma since 1963” tells us Rosemary Cheptai, a lady of a certain age with lively eyes and wrinkled hands. The Bungoma area and, in particular that of Mount Elgon where Rosemary comes from - on the border with Uganda - is considered  particularly vulnerable during electoral periods due to the numerous episodes of violence. Rosemary tells us her story: “During the electoral periods I was the victim of violence. My neighbors have also lost sons and daughters. Now I am a peace facilitator: I lead dialogues with my community and neighbors. We are tired of losing our children. We are tired of being violated. We need to remind our people of what we've been through, so we don't go back."

Despite many fears, the general elections of August 2022 in Kenya were held peacefully and this represents a great victory for Kenya and for the populations of these areas. It is also a great victory for the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (Aics) which has been supporting prevention and response activities to gender-based violence during electoral periods since 2019 with the “Let It Not Happen Again” initiative. The funding of approximately one million dollars in favor of UN Women and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), has ensured, on the one hand, activities to strengthen the capacities of public institutions (in particular police personnel, judiciary, health personnel), and on the other hand the empowerment of civil society organizations and rights defenders associations in their advocacy efforts.

Through this initiative, numerous training sessions were organized aimed at strengthening the existing coordination mechanisms to ensure early warning and response plans in cases of violence.

“Do you remember during the first meeting?” jokingly says Betty Okero, OSC Network representative, to Chief Njeru of Bumula Police Station, Bungoma County. "We yelled at each other and we couldn't understand each other." The trainings, on the other hand, contributed to developing personal relationships between the various actors involved, thus overcoming distrust and preconceptions. All this has contributed to creating a climate of collaboration and support between the different parts of the company.

Also thanks to Italian support, for the first time in the history of Kenya this year the Public Prosecutor asked that the sentences against 12 police officers accused of rape, murder and torture for crimes committed during the 2017 elections be dealt with as crimes against humanity. This is the first criminal case for election-related sexual assault. The Public Prosecutor also ordered that the investigation be undertaken by the Independent Police Supervision Authority, with the participation of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, civil society organizations and survivors. Among the other results achieved in the first two phases of the project, we recall the establishment of the first Directorate for Gender at the National Police Service and the improvement of access of the target population to essential services, with 930 survivors of SGBV cases having obtained access to dedicated medico-legal services.

Despite the excellent results, there is still a long way to go to eliminate violence and abuse and it is essential to continue to fight so that human rights are no longer violated and that all citizens have fair access to justice.

Rosemary Cheptai, mother of six, chair of the district peace committee at Mt Elgon. Photo UN Women/Tabitha Icuga

 

Corporal Catherine Nekesa, Gender Violence Police Officer at Mbale Police Station (Vihiga County) Photo © UN Women - Tabitha Icuga

Human Rights Defenders Group, Vihiga County. Photo © UN Women - Tabitha Icuga

 

 

 

Christine’s cassava: from the land, dreams are born

Christine’s cassava: from the land, dreams are born

Christine is the owner of a small farm in Magodi, a village located at about 40 km from Kwale. Kwale is the town overlooking the Indian Ocean from its surrounding hills; it gives this southern County its name. From the road climbing towards Magodi, while cutting fields of fire-like red earth scented with sea breeze, it is possible to see the Indian Ocean bathing the paradisiacal beaches of the Kenyan coast.

Christine is 42, she’s a widow, and has seven children between the ages of 9 and 24. Three of her children, those who are still in primary school, help her with the work in the fields because she lost an arm many years ago and today it is not easy for her to work as a farmer. The land they own is about one acre large: here, Christine has been growing dozens of cassava plants for almost ten years. Part of the cassava she cultivates is sold; the other part is used for domestic consumption.

The roots of cassava are in fact edible and represent a fundamental part of the daily diet of many rural communities. Given its tolerance to periods of drought, cassava in Kenya is cultivated especially in arid and semi-arid areas, which constitutes about 80% of the country's surface. The crop is unfortunately very sensitive to a certain type of virus that recently has spread rapidly in many regions of East Africa, and in some cases has practically cancelled production.

Christine, she tells us, has been part of the 'Magodi Vision' farmers' cooperative since 2016. Thanks to her membership in the cooperative, she was able to participate in various training courses on the production of corn and cassava and had access to the small microcredit group created by the community. A big turning point for Christine came during the month of June when she received, as part of the Italian component of the Go Blue Program, an improved variety of cassava, known as Tajirika. 'Tajirika is a word of the Kiswahili language which means rich, prosperous', the interim County Executive Committee of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries explains us. This variety, purchased and certified by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), matures faster than the local one, has a better productivity and in addition to being suitable for processing, it is particularly tolerant to the virus. Tajirika matures in 8-12 months, and in optimal conditions it can produce up to 20 tons / acre. Thanks to this new variety, Christine was able to improve her income from the sale of cassava.

But the good news for Christine and Magodi's farmers community don't finish there. Through the support of the 'Go Blue' project funded by the European Union, the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (Aics) through the technical partnership of the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari (CIHEAM Bari) is supporting the construction of a cassava processing plant powered by solar energy which will allow to peel, chop and dry cassava for flour production. Flour is in fact a product that can be sold at a higher price than fresh cassava and which guarantees greater income for farmers. The construction works, which started in October, are entrusted to the community itself under the supervision of the County of Kwale in a view to enhance ownership.

''I am really, really happy with the construction of this processing plant" Christine confides. ''I think it will help us a lot to create new products and improve our access to the market''. Cassava flour, compared to fresh product, is easy to store, has a stable price and can be added to corn flour for the preparation of ugali, one of the Kenyan dishes par excellence.

Christine's dreams are to one day become the president of the farmers' association and to expand her cassava production. Hopefully, the Go Blue project will help her achieve at least one of the two.

About the 'Go Blue' initiative

Go Blue is the Programme for the development of Kenya coastal counties funded by the European Union and implemented in partnership with the Government of Kenya: the goal is to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, with attention to habitat conservation marine and coastal waters and to effective and integrated maritime governance. Go Blue is implemented by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation together with the cooperation agencies of Germany, Portugal, France, two United Nations agencies (UN Habitat and UNEP) and with the Jumuiya Ya Kaunti Za Pwani – JKP Secretariat, the representative body of the six coastal counties of Kenya.

The Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (Aics) of Nairobi is responsible for the Go Blue component aimed at promoting economic growth and the strengthening of the blue economy chains. For its realization, Aics can count on a partner of excellence such as the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari (CIHEAM Bari), highly specialized in the sectors of agriculture, management of coastal areas and fishing. Through Go Blue, Aics intends to promote the development of the fishing and cassava supply chains, two driving sectors for the local economy, and to support the strengthening of the JKP Secretariat, a strategic partner for the implementation of the initiative and responsible for its coordination and monitoring.

Find out more: https://nairobi.aics.gov.it/en/go-blue-2/

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Christine, main protagonist of this story, in her Cassava field in Magodi

A portrait of Christine, during our interview

Christine (centre) together with two farmers during a meeting of Magodi's agricultural cooperative

Members of Magodi's agricultural cooperative unload Cassava from a truck. The Cassava on the photo is an improved variety of cassava, known as Tajirika, donated by the Go Blue programme.

The staff of the Italian component of the Go Blue project celebrates the beginning of the construction of the Cassava's transformation centre in Magodi, together with Magodi's agricultural cooperative.

Environmental restoration and climate smart agriculture at the hearth of the Italy-funded initiative launched in West Pokot

Sigor, 30th November 2022 – This morning the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (Aics) and the County Government of West Pokot have jointly launched the project ‘Environmental Restoration of the Wei-Wei River Basin in the Water Tower of Cherangani’. The launch ceremony took place in Tamkal and counted on the presence of H.E. Robert Komolle, Deputy Governor of West Pokot County, and Giovanni Grandi, Head of Aics Office in Kenya.

Worth a funding of 1 million EUR (over 125 million KES), the initiative aims at restoring the most degraded areas of the water catchment extending from Mount Korellach to the WeiWei River by introducing soil and water conservation techniques, including regenerative farming practices. The initiative is realized through ARS Progetti, a consulting firm specialized in agriculture, social and physical infrastructure, with the full support of West Pokot County Government. Planned activities include the support to introduce appropriate measures for soil conservation through the use of soil erosion control structures, the rehabilitation of gullies and the promotion of terracing, agroforestry, and reforestation; support to WeiWei River Basin communities through the promotion of sustainable and income-generating environmental strategies; the provision of improved access to drinking water for Korellach-based communities.

The Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) are more severely affected by drought and by the effects of climate change. The Italian Cooperation in collaboration with the national authorities and the Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) is historically engaged in development programs promoting sustainable agriculture and irrigation in the semi-arid area of Sigor: between 1986 and 2019 approximately 700 hectares of irrigated land were realized through three different development initiatives, including both grants and loans. This initiative therefore represents a continuation of Italy’s commitment in the area.

As Mr. Giovanni Grandi said, “this initiative represents a step forward in the cooperation between Italy and Kenya towards sustainability and resilience to climate change. Building on more than 30 years of experience and projects in environmental restoration in West Pokot, we are sure that this contribution will improve the socio-economic situation in the County and protect a very fragile and endangered environment as the Cherangani Water Tower”.

On his side, H. E. Robert Komolle, County Deputy Governor of West Pokot, warmly welcomed the longstanding relation with the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, underlying once again that “the West Pokot County Government will continue to support the development efforts in the Cherangani Water Tower, which are crucial for ensuring a safe and better future for the people living close to the Wei Wei catchment”.

 

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AICS Head of Office Giovanni Grandi with H.E. Robert Komolle, Deputy Governor of West Pokot County and Litole Lucky Jemutai West Pokot ‌CECM for Water, Environment, Natural Resources And Climate Change on a field visit in Sigor © Martina Bolognesi

AICS Head of Office Giovanni Grandi with H.E. Robert Komolle, Deputy Governor of West Pokot County during the launch of the programme ‘Environmental Restoration of the Wei-Wei River Basin in the Water Tower of Cherangani’ financed by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation. © Martina Bolognesi

Group photo with AICS Head of Office Giovanni Grandi and ‌Hon. Litole Lucky Jemutai, West Pokot ‌CECM for Water, Environment, Natural Resources And Climate Change. © Martina Bolognesi

One of the gullies created by water and soil erosion. © Martina Bolognesi

 

Kenya: business development and job creation at the heart of the agreement signed by Italy with UNIDO

Nairobi, 29th July 2022 –  This morning the Ambassador of Italy to Kenya, Mr. Alberto Pieri, and the Acting Representative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) for Kenya, Ms. Kawira Bucyana, have signed a cooperation agreement that will kick-start an initiative to boost the Nairobi-based E4Impact Accelerator. The agreement was countersigned by Mr. Giovanni Grandi, the Head of the Nairobi office of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS).

The E4Impact Accelerator and Incubator represents a centre of excellence in the country. It was established in 2018 through the support of the Italian Cooperation and the Catholic University ‘Sacro Cuore’ of Milan. Despite its relatively recent creation, the Centre has rapidly become a reference point in Kenya’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, offering legal, financial, entrepreneurial and mentoring services to more than 40 local businesses and start-ups. Today, the Centre has a dual function of both accelerator and incubator, supporting both the start-up and the strengthening of local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The companies supported are selected according to their potential social, economic and environmental impacts, with special attention given to female and youth entrepreneurs.

Since its creation, Italy has invested over 2.8 million euros to strengthen the E4Impact accelerator and incubation centre, with an additional 600,000 euros of Italian contribution to UNIDO approved by the cooperation agreement signed this morning. UNIDO will oversee technical assistance to expand the training offered by the Centre and scale up its autonomy and effectiveness.

The initiative represents a pilot project in the partnership between the academia, the private sector and public institutions (the so-called triple helix approach) to promote entrepreneurship and job creation in Kenya.

"Through this investment, Italy aims at creating a favourable environment to strengthen the private sector and to promote research, innovation, training, job creation and technological development", said Ambassador Pieri. ''Small and medium-sized enterprises play a crucial role in Kenya as in Italy, representing around 80% of the gross domestic product and 70% of total employment. Our support to the young and dynamic entrepreneurial class characterizing Kenya is intended to allow entrepreneurs to best express their potential and become a driving force for sustainable development''.

"Employment creation, start-up and expansion of small businesses represents a qualifying element for the action of the Italian Cooperation in Kenya'', added Giovanni Grandi, Head of AICS Office in Nairobi. ''In Kenya, AICS is active with initiatives specifically targeting job and businesses creation; in addition to that, support to the private sector and creation of income is transversal to our interventions in the country. It is a necessary element to promote sustainable economic growth, but also for the affirmation of democratic and participatory principles''.

“UNIDO is pleased to work in cooperation with E4impact in order to improve SME sector contribution to the economic growth of Kenya” said Ms. Bucyana from UNIDO “ this project represents an opportunity to foster the collaboration with public and private partners to  achieve impact and improve project sustainability. The project is being implemented within our 5-year programmatic framework known as Programme for Country Partnership (PCP) that was signed in 2021 by H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta. The PCP is UNIDO’s innovative model for accelerating inclusive and sustainable industrial development in Member States".

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Brief background info

The 'Improvement of business acceleration services through a public-private partnership approach'  initiative is worth an investment of 600,000 euros and has a duration of two years. It will be implemented by UNIDO and is funded by the Italian Cooperation. The goal is to consolidate the presence and training offer of the E4Impact Accelerator through UNIDO specific technical expertise.

The focus of the project is based on identification of sectors with the potential to create inclusive and sustainable jobs, in line with national strategies and plans for economic growth. The project operates on two main axes: i) Expansion of E4Impact partnerships; ii) Provision of training programs. The small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) selected by the Center will be sustained through technical support for  development of entrepreneurial and technical skills, with a special focus on young people and women.

The initiative is complementary to the 'Business Incubator and Energy Innovation in Kenya' project developed by the Catholic University ‘Sacro Cuore’ of Milan with the E4Impact Foundation and AVSI. The project is currently under implementation and is worth  2.3 million euros for a duration of three years. It aims at consolidating the E4Impact Accelerator, scaling up its activities and improving its infrastructure.

For more information you may contact:

Ms. Martina Bolognesi

Communications officer / Italian Agency for Development Cooperation

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Ms. Kawira Bucyana

Officer in Charge

UNIDO field office in Kenya

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