In December 2016, Nick Kempson, Vibrant Village Foundation’s Program Director in Kenya and Charlie Wright, Kenya Education and Training Coordinator spent six days in Portland, Oregon visiting with Ken deLaski and our staff at headquarters. We had several days of meetings where Nick and Charlie shared presentations about the program in Kenya, highlighting their key successes and learning over the past year. This year they tripled the number of farmers involved in their farm input program, moving from 500 farmers to nearly 1500 farmers. Despite a few growing pains, they had a very successful year in terms of repayment among their farmers.
Nick and Charlie also presented their ambitious 3-year plan which includes additional expansion of their farm input program and education programming with the goal of reaching self-sufficiency by 2019. Ken and the HQ team also had a chance to share ideas for future growth for the Foundation, which was very fruitful.
Exchange with The BOMA Project
In January 2017, Nick Kempson, Vibrant Village Kenya's Program Director and Hilary Owinyo, VVF Kenya’s M&E Specialist, traveled to Northern Kenya to meet with one of our newest grantees, The BOMA Project.
Nick Kempson meeting with BOMA staff and community members
The exchange was an opportunity for Nick and Hilary to learn more about the Graduation Approach and the specific targeting and coaching involved in that model. Nick and Hilary were also introduced to the remote data collection system BOMA uses to monitor their programs effectively in very distant and spread out communities.
Nick meeting with BOMA participants during their savings meeting
Mr. Anthony Kandili is a proud Maasai farmer, married and the father of three children. Recently, he joined fellow community members on a learning tour of farms in the area surrounding his village in southern Kenya. The field visit was organized by Noomayianat Community Development Organization (NCDO), one of Vibrant Village Foundation’s local partners in Kenya. The purpose of the tour was to expose farmers to new farming techniques and new crops that could improve their own production and livelihoods.
Mr. Kandili comes from a Maasai pastoralist community, living on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro in the Kimana area of Loitokitok, where climate change is no longer an abstract notion, but a stark reality. Effects of climate change have forced the Maasai to switch to large-scale subsistence crops farming as an alternative way to access food for survival and to earn a livelihood. Prior to the farm tour, he had never set foot out of the Kimana area. Mr. Kandili looked forward to visiting other areas of Kenya that were practicing similar and more successful farming techniques.
Mr. Kandili was awestruck to see pineapples growing on a farm in Rumuruti, and was quick to catch on to the idea. Immediately following the learning tour, he planted pineapple suckers he had bought from the farm. Now, barely one month after the trip, two of his pineapple suckers have already developed small fruits.
“I am a big fan of pineapple, but I never knew that pineapple farming could be replicated in Kimana,” Mr. Kandili explained. He had invited members of NCDO to visit his small farm to witness the miracle of the moment.
He says, “The Bible verse states: ‘My people perish due to lack of knowledge’ [Kweli biblia inasema watu wangu wanapotea kwa kukosa elimu]. To me this is a miracle. I have tried several times to plant the top part of pineapple fruits without success, not knowing that it is the suckers that are to be planted.”
Jokingly, Mr. Kandili said he is proud to have his name listed in the Guinness book of World Records as the first Maasai farmer ever to produce pineapple fruit in Loitokitok!
“Now that I am sure that pineapple farming can be applicable to our climate, I am planning to purchase more suckers,” Mr. Kandili says. “Though I can’t just stop being a pastoralist, I have decided to take up crop farming seriously as a business.”
Job opportunities and work experience are hard to come by in rural Kenya – and it is no surprise that around 35% of 20-year-olds in Kenya are unemployed.
Single mother and local Esabalu resident, Dinah, is no different. After completing high school in 2011, Dinah lacked the funds and opportunities to pursue a career as a social worker. Instead, like many young Kenyans, she has been staying at home and struggling to provide for her 2-year-old son.
Since June 2014, Dinah has been working with Vibrant Village as part of the Enhanced Learning Volunteer Program.
The program runs in a local primary school where the seven Enhanced Learning Volunteers (ELVs), including Dinah, work with approximately 40 students who the school has identified as struggling with classwork. The ELVs work with students four mornings a week and focus on core skills such as literacy, numeracy and English. As Dinah explains:
“We usually arrive at school at 8 AM and start with a reading session. After that, we do classroom assistance, which involves helping our students when they are stuck and correcting mistakes so they gain confidence in class. Then we teach literacy lessons where we teach students how to use phonics and make words. Before lunch, we do 1-1 in math and English where we use flash cards and writing activities.”
Vibrant Village has equipped each Volunteer with an Enhanced Learning Kit – a mobile classroom, containing all the resources they’ll need to conduct each session including story-books, mini-whiteboards, flash cards and games. The ELVs also undertook a 2-week training program with Vibrant Village prior to starting with their students.
“I feel good working with students as I love kids and using my energy to help others,” Dinah says. “The kits are fun and the teachers are always interested to see what new games we are doing with the students.”
Dinah has also noticed a big change in her group, stating, “There is a big difference with my Class 1 students! They didn’t even know any letters before and now they can read all the sounds and some can make syllables and words!”
For the Volunteer Program, which runs for 6 months, Vibrant Village recruited high-school graduates who hope to work with children in the future and need to gain some experience before advancing their careers.
To support the volunteers with career development, Vibrant Village runs a weekly workshop where the volunteers work through their Enhanced Learning Packs. These contain a series of individualized professional development activities and records of their work in school, which they will be able to keep as evidence after their placement.
Dinah now feels positive about her future. She shares, “I am now building the foundations for my career.” In December, Dinah will leave the program with new computer skills, a strong letter of recommendation, teaching experience and a clear plan for her career.