Children from the Mukuru Talent Development center showcasing their creativity in the Lunga Lunga slum in Kenya.
From Bombay to Manila to the favelas in Rio, more than one billion people are estimated to be currently living in slums. According to the United Nations, this figure is expected to surpass the two billion mark by 2030.
With no roof or solid walls and no access to clean water or toilets, living conditions in the slums are unhygienic and hazardous. Considering that approximately 70% of slum dwellers are under 30, the future of the slums rests in the hands of the young generations. What do these youth need to reverse the trend and improve the daily lives of slum dwellers?
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An hour down a dirt road stands the most beautiful natural treasure in Kenya’s Western Province—the Kakamega Forest. The forest is a fraction of its former size, and it grows smaller every day because of the insatiable demand for firewood.
Maybe it's the bright lights and majestic skyscrapers. Or maybe it's theaters and shopping and cafes. Usually, though, it's just the pragmatic search for employment. Whatever the reason, big cities have lured people throughout the ages, and in many cases it really is a siren call...urban life can be tough going.
A few months ago, I was at a dinner at Erik Hersman’s (also behind Ushahidi). His team has started a new project called iHub, basically a technology (web and mobile) incubator in a great new office building in Nairobi. Fledgling programers submit an application for membership and, if accepted, are given free & fast wireless internet and a great place to work with like-minded people.
I start a new job next week, so more riveting (I hope) field experiences to come. For now, I wanted to introduce a few projects, most “new” in the field, that have caught my eye.
The pastoral lifestyle in Kenya has made headlines around the world. Faced with the worst drought in memory, 2009 has been a difficult year for communities like the North Eastern Somali Kenyans.
The extreme weather conditions that Kenya is facing—intense drought followed by torrential rains—will probably get worse. Pastoral communities need to find ways to survive beyond demeaning foreign handouts that only prolong their unreliable lifestyle without offering sustainable new options.
In Tolstoy’s novel, War and Peace, Pierre, a young noble, does some philanthropic work in the Russian wastelands. His projects complete, he is thanked profusely by the women, peasants and priests, whom he thought he had benefited. Satisfied, he returns home full of self-worth. However, it soon becomes clear that Pierre had not helped anyone. In fact—working without cultural context or experience—he has aggravated the situation.
While development is riddled with complex acronyms and detailed budgets, sometimes the least intricate programs are the most effective. The Girls’ Forum is one example. Implemented by Education for Marginalized Children of Kenya (EMACK) in Kenya’s Coast and North East Province, the program has altered the lives of many young women.