Improving Livelihood of Small-Scale Farmers Through Mega Food Parks

Taking a step back from the current politicking in Mombasa, the position on which we stated in our previous post, I would like to write today about another important development area; Agriculture. A key element of any economy, agriculture produces the food people eat and is the source of livelihood for thousands who are employed in the sector. But it is normally unfairly associated with poverty. Why is this the case? Many developing countries, like India and Morocco,  have been able to improve the livelihood of their small-scale farmers, while earning the country increased foreign income, through establishing Mega Food Parks, where value addition is done, exports are facilitated and wastage is reduced. Something similar should be done in Mombasa, for the agricultural areas like Mtwapa and Likoni.

Imagine the scenario facing a small-scale farmer. They have just harvested some fruits and vegetables, and have a limited time to sell before their produce rot. With the limited resources that most of them have, they would sensibly accept whatever price that they get even if somewhere, maybe as little as 50km, or worse, a ferry-crossing away, their produce is in high demand and commands a very good price. What if this farmer had access to a cold store facility not far from where their farm is, thus increasing the lifespan of their produce? What if they had direct access to some of the companies who buy their produce for export, retail or further value addition. Wouldn’t this help the farmer get higher income? This is the role Mega Food Parks play. Fruits and vegetables are collected and stored at specialized collection points located close to the farms before being forwarded to a central processing center, which house the various companies who package the fruits and vegetables for retail or export, or use them to make other products like fruit juices, snacks, oils etc.

It sounds like a small idea but if implemented, it can greatly transform the lives of our farmers and at the same time benefit the rest of Mombasa through increased economic activity and employment. Needless to say however, the implementation of this idea will not be easy, as serious infrastructure investment is needed. A sound road network which connects the different sections of the food park and connects the food park to the port/airport for export, adequate electricity/water supply and proper drainage systems are just some of the infrastructure required to support the activities in the Mega Food Park. For which let’s pray Allah grants Mombasa, through our votes, good leadership come 4th of March 2013. Ameen.

Posted in Agriculture, Unemployment, vision 2018, Youth | Leave a comment

Making the Right Choice

As elections approach , it is important that citizens wisely choose who they are going to vote for, as this will likely determine their well-being for the next 5 years. No endorsements will be made, but below are some suggested criteria.

The politician you vote for:

  1. Should have sound and credible plans for how to run the city (or country) and where they want it to be in the next 5 years. A visionary, so to speak.
  2. Should have proven track record of excellence in previously held government or municipal posts, and better, if they got fired for being too good or too clean (I am not alluding to any particular one here).
  3. If they are new to politics, they should have a clean history and remarkable achievements in whatever they were doing, whether it is business or law or anything.
  4. They should have a history of active participation in humanitarian projects that help the poor and the weak at all times (not only in campaign periods). Hopefully, this will shape their policies when they are in power.

Finally, vote wisely and pray that Allah bring people who will achieve real progress to the people of our city, and the country as a whole.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Youth Empowerment Through [Serious] Vocational Education

I was watching a very interesting debate between two of Mombasa ‘s governorship aspirants last week, where I appreciated the wisdom of both candidates when they agreed on the need to focus on education in the city.

Needless to say, knowledge is power. A study of how many rising economies became what they are today, will show that education is one common key driver behind progress. Singapore, Korea, China, Malaysia, Turkey, India and other rising economies all have a sound educational base supporting their economies. All levels of education are important, from nursery and primary all the way up to graduate and post-graduate levels. But one form of education, which many people look down to, but is in reality critical to development and elimination of youth unemployment, is vocational or technical education (you may call it ‘fundi’ education). If properly designed, it can provide a solid backbone for economic growth, leading to youth empowerment and employment. Take Singapore for example, where the Institute of Technical Education, which offers vocational training, is closely linked to industry. Courses and labs are jointly developed with companies, engaging students in a market-oriented hands-on learning experience using real world tools and facilities. Graduating students thus easily get jobs in leading companies in the country, despite not having a formal Bachelors degree. This strong industry link also ensures that the vocational programs remain relevant, continuously adapting to the changing needs of industry, and in a pleasant positive feedback loop, attracting further investment (and job creation) in the country by foreign companies who favor the highly skilled workforce present there.

These are all lessons that our future Mombasa leaders can learn from as they seek to establish their visions for the city come 2013. Below is a short video demonstrating Singapore’s vocational education experience.

Posted in Education | Leave a comment

E-limu, Revolutionizing Kenya’s Education

Today’s post is a short one. I stumbled upon a very interesting home-grown project being implemented in some Nairobi schools, e-limu, where mobile tablets are used to improve the educational experience of students. Such an effort really holds the prospects to revolutionize education in Kenya, and put its schools at par with those in more advanced countries like Korea. Mombasa schools shouldn’t be left behind in this. They can seek to be incorporated  to the project by sending their details here. More details of the e-limu project in the below report by Al-Jazeera.

Posted in Education | Leave a comment

Technology Development and Mombasa

 

Despite all the bad news that has recently been coming from Kenya, strikes, pre-election violence, terrorism, MRC, MPs (not a typo, regrettably), to name just a few; there has been a bright spot however.

The Economist recently described Kenya as undergoing a “quiet tech boom” that is “upwardly mobile”. This however seems to have bypassed Mombasa. Tech utilization (let alone innovation) hardly goes beyond whatsapp and facebook for many. All the known tech startup hubs in Kenya, like iHub,  nailab, m:Lab and 88mph Garage are located in Nairobi. And since these are mostly private initiatives, we can’t sit and  blame our central government for missing this tech wave.

One reason for this, perhaps, is that the technology sector is characterized by high-risk and volatility, and Mombasa’s businessmen are used to more secure investments like transport, retail, tourism and real estate. But as Safaricom’s mPesa experience shows, a single tech innovation which succeeds, can yield enormous ROIs (return on investment), well above what is possible in any other sector [1]. Further to this, a look at the existing local government processes (as well as that of many private businesses), will show the degree of development that is needed, and which can be capitalized by tech companies. Adding the jobs that will be created and lives that will be improved in the city if an active technology sector is established, and the need to have a ‘technology revolution’ in Mombasa becomes clear.

But given the level of education that is prevalent in the city, which is obviously lacking, is it actually possible? Is establishing tech hubs in the city enough? Good news is, already many native Mombasa residents are successful in various tech fields in the country and abroad. Many will be willing to come back to their home town if they found good opportunities. Further to this, since Mombasa ni Kenya, its relative security and beautiful coastal nature, will sure attract many Kenyan talents from other parts of the country. But this will only happen if a business-friendly environment and good lifestyle is established in the city. This is where the local government can play its part. A clean city,with good public transport facilities, and ease and affordability of local government transactions will all help tech hub initiatives to succeed. In addition, to ensure long-term success, technology should be emphasized and integrated in all levels of education in the city. These are some ideas in this regard.

Waiting for your ideas as comments or email to: mombasavision2018@gmail.com

[1] mPesa’s initial investment was around 2 million British pounds (around KSh 270 million). In comparison, the revenue Safaricom earned from the service in 2011 alone was KSh 16.9 billion.

Posted in Unemployment, vision 2018 | Leave a comment

Striking Nation..Healing the Scars

With the current wave of  strikes hitting the country, starting with the teachers , followed by the doctors, and recently a silent ‘go-slow’ protest by the police, the writing is on the wall. Our country, as elections approach, is playing Russian roulette with its future. Youth being unemployed is already a time bomb, as was evident in the Mombasa protests earlier this month. Add the socially disastrous effects of these strikes, and the picture just gets bleaker.  I really feel sorry for whoever will win the coming elections, nationally and more-so locally. They will have a daunting task awaiting them to reverse the effects of all these crises. That, assuming sincere leaders come to office who actually want to turn the city around (May this be the case).

Putting politics aside, what can our city do to overcome these serious problems. Thankfully, it is refreshing that some are taking things into their own hands. In a positive way, that is. Exam preparation centers have been set up by Foundations related to some politicians, including Suleiman Shahbal and Abdulswamad Nassir  to help students prepare for KCPE and KCSE (OK, I guess politics just can’t be sidelined totally, but this does remain a positive step forward).

Next, the same has to be replicated for healthcare. The strike is enough reason for Mombasa’s well-wishers (and politicians) to come forward and help upgrade the existing community hospitals offering affordable treatment, like MEWA hospital and Memon Clinic. Expanding the capacity and range of services offered at these hospitals, will help accommodate the increased demand  resulting from the strike affecting public hospital operations.

Another idea that can be implemented for healthcare, is a long-term medical camp, to be operated until this medical strike comes to an end. If such a camp is funded, I am sure there will be no lack of volunteer doctors who remain loyal to the medical oath they took upon graduation. Further to this, the city already has several NGOs who have actively supported similar ventures in the past. One  example is Doctors Worldwide organisation, which has operations in Kenya and which had previously organised short medical camps in Mombasa with Doctors flying from Turkey and Britain to treat patients free of cost.

These are some ideas that can help reduce the impact of these strikes on our well-being. Please don’t hesitate to share other ideas as comments, or as email to: mombasavision2018@gmail.com. May God grant us the wisdom to do what is best for us.

Posted in Education, Health Care, Unemployment, Youth | 2 Comments

Lessons from Mombasa’s Recent Riots

The inexcusable violence which took place in Mombasa following the equally despicable murder of controversial cleric Sheikh Aboud Rogo should act as a wakeup call to Mombasa’s leaders. It goes without saying that justice needs to be enforced, and the Hidden Hand which murdered Rogo and the other which orchestrated the subsequent riots should both be brought to book. However, I will discuss the story from a different point of view. Youths looting, burning churches and destroying private property is a symptom of a bigger illness which if left unchecked can destroy our city, and in fact, the whole country – considering Mombasa’s strategic importance in Kenya.

Drugs, lack of education and meaningful employment are major problems facing Mombasa’s youth. This doesn’t justify the violence which took place in any way, but conceding these problems would be a great starting point to avoid seeing this rowdy and unacceptable behavior again in the future. Idle / ignorant / drugged youth can easily be bought or brain-washed to participate in violence for whichever evil side that seeks their ‘services’. It can happen in any place, irrespective of ethnicity or religion, as evidenced during the 2007/2008 election violence. Had the authorities sincerely focused their efforts to combat drugs in the coast, as well as educate, empower and employ its youth, it would have been very difficult to trigger such riots as the youth would understand that if the city goes on fire, they will lose their livelihood – and much more.

The above strategy would work for people who would join violence because they have nothing else to do with their lives (they are the majority of such cases). But what about those few who could resort to violence out of any religious/ethnic extremist ideology, irrespective of their status of education or wealth, what can be done about them? The  authorities can take a chapter from the Saudi style of counter-terrorism when dealing with this group.

When the ugly head of terror raised its head in Saudi Arabia (around 2004), the authorities started facing it by declaring a one month amnesty offer to those ‘deviant-group’ members who turn themselves in to the authorities. After this ultimatum the authorities launched a comprehensive effort to face these terrorist groups. The effort included a massive security crackdown on these groups as well as a concerted media campaign (on radio/TV/print/online media, as well as the Mosques) to expose the extremist ideology and refute its claims (combatting ideology with ideology). Those captured during the security crackdown would later be ‘rehabilited’ to join mainstream society, given sound Islamic religious advice to convince them out of their extremist beliefs, provided training to update their skills to job market requirements and after release, guess what? A job would await them! No wonder Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries which was able to decisively defeat terrorism within its borders.

Praying to God, Almighty, to grant us and our leaders the wisdom to preserve our country and save it from all forms of strife and hardship.

Posted in Drugs, Unemployment, Youth | 1 Comment