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Kenya engaged in a political devolution process in 2013 and was declared as lower middle-income country by the World Bank in 2014. However, weak governance impedes equitable social and economic development, and remains an obstacle to achieving Kenya’s Vision 2030 of a prosperous nation with a high quality of life for all. About 45% of the population lives below the poverty line. Of particular concern is the high rate of unemployment, especially among youth and women.
Agriculture is the backbone of Kenya’s economy but makes the country’s economic development highly climate sensitive. Droughts in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) are recurrent, and food security remains a major challenge. One quarter of all children in Kenya are stunted, and more than half of the population is at risk of diseases due to poor hygiene and sanitation. Especially rural areas and informal settlements remain underserved, with open defecation rates as high as 65%. Water, sanitation and hygiene needs are also urgent at primary schools, which have seen enrolment numbers double since free primary education was introduced in 2003.
Against this background, Caritas Switzerland continues its engagement for the poorest of the poor in rural areas such as Marsabit county in the northern ASAL or Kericho County in Western Kenya. At the same time, we have started working in urban areas, targeting informal settlements to help realise the right to safe water and sanitation and to build resilient neighbourhoods.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
In the field of WASH, Caritas Switzerland’s work in Kenya aims at equitable and sustainable access to water and sanitation, improved hygiene practices and water for food for marginalised groups. Working in very distinct settings, we choose locally appropriate solutions for each setting, taking into account a set of social, geographical, geophysical and climatic conditions, and develop the intervention in consultation with the target groups. For instance, rock catchment schemes have proved to be an economical and reliable water source in the ASAL, whereas in areas with regular rainfalls, rainwater harvesting through roof catchment systems is a potential source of water. In any case, strong focus is placed on ensuring sustainable management, operation and maintenance of the hardware solution provided.
We apply integrated approaches whenever possible, combining hardware and software components and linking WASH interventions in communities to those in schools. Moreover, hygiene and sanitation components are given due attention to achieve durable behaviour change among the target population. With a strong commitment to continuous learning and improvement, we have recently integrated Menstrual Hygiene Management and environmental conservation into our WASH in school interventions. To reach children with hygiene and sanitation messages, we use the Children’s Hygiene and Sanitation Training (CHAST).
We further pursue our engagement in the development and piloting of promising, innovative approaches such as the Integrity Management toolbox for small water supply systems that Caritas Switzerland developed in partnership with the Water Integrity Network. Moreover, we continue our efforts to play a key role in advocacy and coordination platforms in Kenya, working with a wide range of partners such as local implementing partners, civil society organisations and national and county governments.
In Marsabit County, Northern Kenya, Caritas Switzerland has, together with communities, constructed three rock catchment systems. In this region, there are no permanent rivers and the dry seasons can get severe. Moreover, not all groundwater sources are suitable for human consumption and people often rely on scarce and mostly unprotected water sources. Only about 35% of the population have access to safe water.
The rock catchments collect rainwater from large bare rock surfaces before it gets channelled to storage tanks. The three systems serve 3,500 people and can store a total of 2.34 million litres of water per rainy season. This covers for approximately three months of human water consumption.
Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction (CC & DRR)
In the field of CC & DRR, we focus on the three components of climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. Our interventions build on existing livelihood systems and practices of the target communities and are designed to incentivise the communities by increasing their productivity and income-generating opportunities. With regard to climate change mitigation, we prioritise for instance interventions that create additional livelihood opportunities for the communities, while at the same time augmenting carbon sequestration and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Adaptation and disaster risk measures are determined through community-led hazard and vulnerability assessments while measures are promoted that strengthen local institutions for action. To maximise the impact of our interventions, we apply integrated approaches such as Integrated Natural Resource and Farm Management whenever suitable.