Providing information access to Kenya’s pastoral communities
World Radio Day is a fitting day to announce our partnership with Horn of Africa Development Initiative (HODI) in Kenya. Lifeline Energy and HODI are teaming up to bring a comprehensive audio learning initiative using our Lifeplayer MP3s to vulnerable nomadic and pastoral communities in Kenya’s arid north. Called Audio Learning in Kenya (ALIK), proud and hardworking Borana, Gabra, Rendile, Samburu, Turkana and Burji communities will be able to access age and gender appropriate content in their own language.
ALIK is launching later this year in Kenya’s largest county, Marsabit where HODI is based. Sparsely populated, Marsabit County is twice the size of Belgium and has more livestock than people. Bordering Ethiopia, its population is less than 300,000 the majority of whom are pastoralists. This makes service delivery for health, water, sanitation and education immensely challenging.
“We are excited about this initiative as the Lifeplayer helps us bridge the knowledge gap with access to information and education,” said Fatuma Adan, HODI’s founder and executive director. “People cannot develop themselves and make good decisions if they don’t have accurate information. And with few trained teachers, the parents hire untrained teachers to fill the gaps. The Lifeplayer will bridge this gap.”
Why this project is important
Marsabit County has a high dependence on external relief due to a combination of factors – harsh living conditions, a protracted drought, a woeful lack of investment in education and health from the central government, and physical distance and political isolation from the capital Nairobi. Only recently was a paved highway completed. HODI is changing the situation and the narrative by building resilient communities through Mala-Marii, a tested community dialogue processes that puts women in the lead.
Historically, women have minimal participation in development and decision-making. Socio-economic, cultural and religious biases, whether Muslim or Christian, have relegated females to the periphery. They have been subjected to retrogressive cultural practices like female genital mutilation (FGM), early forced marriage, and a profound lack of access to education, health care and other services. Literacy levels for women are extremely low, an estimated 10%.
Cell phone and radio ownership is low, while internet penetration is negligible. Nomadic communities are usually made up of between 60 and 75 families. There may be one or two working radio sets and three shared cell phones. Almost always, these are the property of men. In many parts of the county cell phone coverage is non-existent.
Three Projects in One
Working with and in the communities that HODI serves, ALIK will encompass three focused initiatives for three groups – school children, women and men. Each group will receive Lifeplayers pre-loaded with content relevant to them.
Schools – Called SoundStart, Lifeplayers will be placed in primary schools starting from pre-school, which is a Kenyan government priority. Even mobile schools in nomadic pastoralist communities moving with their livestock will benefit. Hiring and retaining trained teachers, who speak local languages is not easy. Lifeplayers will be loaded with curriculum content to a school’s specific needs. Schools may request Swahili or English language instruction. SoundStart will help to bridge the educational gap in these under-resourced, often remote schoools.
Women – Her Voice, will provideLifeplayers will provide women’s groups with content relevant for them by HODI. Many of the groups participate in HODI Savings Groups enabling them to start small-scale busineses, but most women are illiterate. Content will include literacy, numeracy, health, hygiene, mother and baby care and discuss traditional practices harmful to women. Her Voice will allow women to listen and discuss Lifeplayer precorded content and radio programmes when it’s convenient for them. The women are interested in creating their own content as well as recording radio shows on the Lifeplayer.
Men – Called Voice of the Elders, the elders still hold a very important place in the pastoralist communities and this is recognition of the social groups that will support the foundation of the Lifeplayer programmes. Groups will have their own Lifeplayers pre-loaded with content on livestock management, health, business development skills, literacy, numeracy and much more.
We believe in HODI’s compehensive approach to sustainable development in building resilient communities. We’ve seen it work. Coupled with Lifeline’s technology, ALIK will be help fill a much-wanted need void for education and information, help mitigate poverty and improve the quality of people lives.