BONNKE SPEAKS: WE CAN ALLEVIATE POVERTY

We met Bonnke, a young community development student, in Eldoret in Kenya. He came up to us in a coffee shop, the same coffee shop we frequented almost daily, and said ‘I wanna work with you – tell me what you’re doing’. We admired that about him, and he started volunteering with us, supporting the work our Consultants were doing with social entrepreneurs in the townships. Here he talks about how he thinks Kenyans can climb their own way out of poverty – through training to grow SMEs.

It is no exaggeration to say that despite improvements in infrastructure, access to social services and governance, a substantial percentage of Kenyans are still poor, hustling to make a living. The fact is, nearly half of the country’s population live below the poverty line (now measured at $1.25 per person per day). This is a sobering reminder that we shouldn’t rest on our laurels. More needs to be done.

In my view, poor governance and corruption are two major factors holding us back that the World Bank would do well to highlight and keep an eye on. This is how, the World Bank, a major development partner, should and could tie its aid and loans to better governance and transparent fiscal management: carrot and stick, kind of approach. The county governments are by default at the vanguard of fighting poverty and inequality, thus, their capacities need to be strengthened but at the same time, mechanisms be put in place to prevent and fight graft.  The bitter truth is, funds meant for development in this country have ended up lining people’s pockets. Let me be clear, numerous mega corruption scandals: Goldenberg and Anglo leasing, remain unresolved.

Admittedly, there is no one magic bullet for poverty alleviation but there are some practical steps, if taken can go a long way in combating it. I believe that major financial institutions should train their sights on building the capacity of small holder rural farmers. Agriculture is the backbone of our economy; however, most farmers are still using rudimentary methods of production, unaware or unable to use latest scientific and technological advances in agriculture. Rural farmers, majority being women, should be taught on how to harness technology to improve agricultural production and better food storage. In addition, linking farmers to markets would improve their incomes.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), is another area that I believe  needs a real shot in the arm. With a little help, SMEs can become real drivers of growth. Access to credit and capacity building ranks highly on their list of priorities: major reasons why most start-ups don’t last long enough to celebrate their second birthday. Tailor-made training on specific skills such book keeping, accounting, patenting, business planning and access to cheap loans would change this sector for good. SMEs can become a major source of wealth creation and employment for the youth.

It would be a monumental folly not to integrate environmental conservation into our economic plans and activities considering the tremendous social and economic impact of climate change that we have faced; floods, drought and unpredictable weather patterns.

The impact is profoundly personal for me, in my small farming village of Namutokholo; the unpredictable rainy seasons have led to crop failures.

Afforestation, conservation of wetlands and forests from human encroachment would help but that is not all. Massive investment in cheaper, stable, clean energy will create economic opportunities for our people while simultaneously helping to insulate us from climate change impacts.

Written by Bonnke Muti-As

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