Empowering Self–Help groups in Kenya through ICT for better education and alternative Livelihood activities
The ICT livelihood project being implemented in Kenya and India seeks to alleviate poverty in the coastal villages of both countries through an integrated approach. The partners in the project, Coastal Oceans Research and Development-Indian Ocean (CORDIO and Suganthi Devadason Marine Research Institute (SDMRI) India have each worked for over a decade on coastal and marine research, conservation and management.
The project began in 2007 and will continue till October 2010 under its current funding, from which a larger programme in community support in ICT will be developed, focusing on education and improving livelihoods in local settings in Kenya and India. The project uses a phased approach and combines the three components – alternative livelihoods, ICT and education.
India work began a head of Kenya particularly on alternative livelihoods and accessibility to ICT while in Kenya the initial work started in 2007 and concentrated more on sensitization and assessing the ICT and education needs of participating communities, with full implementation in the successive years.
For each local project the following activities were undertaken: Identification of suitable alternative livelihood activities that could be undertaken at the site level, taking into account community and cultural aspects, the environment and sustainability, and market options.
This was done from existing practice and searches through information sources and similar institutions, relevant Government Departments and stakeholders; – Identification of opportunities for ICT to augment the livelihood activities, including aspects of community phone (Simu ya Jamii) and/internet access and tools. The third item is the Introduction of the “Folkbildning” model of adult education that emphasized on personal development, leadership and making the most of local opportunities.
This was linked with local adult education systems at the project sites to promote ‘action learning’ and empowerment at the community level; The last activity is a Follow-up that focuses on facilitating SHGs to maintain the livelihood activities, the role of ICTs in supporting this and mentoring to assure ongoing functioning and cohesion of the SHGs in their primary objectives.
Information Communication Technology ICT
The project trained women group members in both India and Kenya on basic computer packages and provided them with the computers and limited internet connectivity.
ICT has increased level of awareness among women groups and fishers on the need for Information and communication Technology (ICT) usage to improve their access to market information, generation of income, and communication among themselves with stakeholders and on data management.
Inadequate infrastructure to support ICT implementation is still a problem among many of the groups and some are forced to share the existing telecentres.
Study Circle (Folkbildning Concept)
The implementation of the study circle approach using the Swedish model of learning is a key aspect of this project, where adult education is focused around study-circles in which the group members identify what they want to or need to learn. The project and partners then assist with facilitating this, empowering group members to be active in finding solutions to their own problems, and improving their standard of living.
The groups meet weekly to discuss subjects that are relevant to their social, economic and political development.
The groups also attend those sessions to dialogue on priority, topics such as book keeping, agriculture and business.
All these are aimed towards the group development, increased livelihoods and poverty reduction in the community and training of the education facilitators on the use of OX laptos popularly knowns as ONE LAPTOP PER CHILD (OLPC)
Alternative livelihood activities for women groups
In Kenya all the 10 women SHGs are involved a number of alternative livelihood activities, conservation of natural and exotic forest, beekeeping and provision of seedlings to neighbouring schools for planting.
Others activities includes growing of fruits and vegetables, goat and poultry keeping and small scale businesses. 2 groups are involved in making the Alovera and Neem soap, Coconut oil and cashew nut processing. The poultry keeping in many groups have collapsed due to their inability to afford the rising costs of chicken feeds and competition from the well established groups.
In India the livelihood activities are continuing in project villages, with 40 participants from four of the villages involved in the Hygienic sun drying of fishes and 5 people from three of the villages practicing the Vermi-composting.
The activity has enhanced the understanding and relationship among women, fishers, local administration, social service officers and project teams about the need of promoting alternative livelihood opportunities to reduce the over dependency on the coastal marine resources in both countries.
The first visit was in 2007 to India, by project participants from Sweden and Kenya, followed by a return visit to Kenya in October 2008.
The visits provided the teams with opportunities to share experiences on women group activities and plan for the next phases of the project based on the lessons learnt especially in India where the project implementation was in at an advanced stage.
The activities of the project in India covers, adult education, environment education, computer education and alternative livelihood are moving on well in the five targeted villages (Rajapalayam, Siluvaipatti, Arockiyapuram, Thirespuram and Inigo Nagar.
The project team carries out regular monitoring of activities through the involvement of the coordinator and village coordinators helped who fine-tune various other related activities in the project villages.
All villages except Arockiyapuram have been given one more computer system and therefore the villagers get more usage time. The Arockiyapuram village does not require additional computer now and so steps have been taken up to include another village (Vellapatti) in the project.