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Posted on November 16, 2016

Life in Laisamis, Marsabit

marsabit

Unlocking opportunity for low income households

Meet Najiri: One of the target recipients for FSD Kenya’s new graduation programme.

The sun is bright in Marsabit, the kind of bright that sears anything its rays touch. There isn’t much rain here, most parts of the county are arid. Rainfall is unreliable, leading to significant water shortage. The county is littered with various NGOs, seeking to develop everything from water irrigation to education.

Najiri Boro carries a jerry-can and 2 shillings to buy water from a tap set up by a church. She is the chairlady for the Iskhabani savings group in Marsabit town. Her group is only five months old and has completed four savings cycles. There are 23 people in the group. Along with the Iskhabani group, Najiri contributes to two other groups, the oldest being three years old. She contributes 200 shillings per month for each of the two groups.

Life for Najiri is simple. She sustains herself and her family with a staple diet of ugali and githeri. In her pastoralist community, she doesn’t own much livestock; just one female camel and about 10 sheep. These assets, however, don’t generate much income, so Najiri needs multiple other sources of income. She works as a casual labourer – washing and cooking for other families – and occasionally trades livestock – buying two goats and sells one for KSh 500 profit. She also may borrow a loan from the savings group for meat sales in a butchery. However, she is only able to do this when she has enough money to rent the butchery. Najiri is also a petty trader, buying goods at wholesale and selling them in her manyatta in smaller quantities.

Najiri bore 8 children – six boys and two girls – in her 20-year marriage before she became a widow. She never received an education. In fact, only two of her children have attended school. One of her sons is in nursery school and her youngest daughter is in class eight.  Her eldest daughter just got married at 18, or so she guesses. The truth is, Najiri doesn’t know how old she or any of her children are because the community does not record birthdays. Given community practices, we estimate that Najiri was also married at the same age and is now in her late thirties to early forties. Only two of her children have attended school; currently one son is in nursery and the youngest daughter is in class 8.

Najiri is a Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP) recipient. She has been since the beginning, but calls it “CARE money”, since CARE international in Kenya was involved in the targeting of recipients at the beginning. She mainly uses HSNP resources to meet business capital needs and for saving in her groups.

Najiri’s aspirations are not entirely clear. She only knows she will have a brighter future.

Marsabit has had a long history of marginalisation from the rest of the country. Infrastructure is poorly developed, the region is vast with a low population of 291,166 (2009 national census), and markets are embryonic. Marked by a high level of poverty (83.2%), it is one of the four counties in Kenya where the residents receive hunger safety net cash transfers. The population is poorly educated –– just 8.9% receive secondary education –– so illiteracy poses real challenges here.

The economic mainstay of the county is livestock. Marsabit is home to 60 percent of Kenya’s livestock, a resource valued at Ksh 173.4 billion. However, given that only the livestock value chains count out of the county, there is an imbalance of payments and wealth.

FSD Kenya is trying to boost the resilience of those like Najiri in Marsabit County through the graduation project. Since the successful development and rollout of BRAC’s ‘targeting the ultra-poor’ (TUP) programme in Bangladesh, graduation programmes have been tested and refined across the world, notably by CGAP and the Ford Foundation.

FSD Kenya’s graduation project seeks to adapt the delivery of sequenced inputs of the BRAC model by testing the use of a market system approach to build the livelihoods of those like Najiri. We hope that exploiting the inherent adaptability of market based approaches will not only reduce the long-term average delivery cost of a graduation package but also address the challenge of scaling up a graduation programme.

Look out for the next blog that discusses in further detail what the FSD-supported graduation project is about and what it seeks to achieve.