The Social capital and influence programme has seen us commission studies to find out appropriate forms of cooperation activity, new centers of civic energy, development systems that are properly rooted are strong and lasting. This has boosted our efforts in the building of a social forum space in Kenya and the coast aimed at confronting the neo-liberal paradigm which we find to be this century’s biggest challenge. The aim of this program is to embed the Ujamaa movement for community based social justice and human rights work.
Without the guarantee of basic rights, basic needs will never be fulfilled and a coherent framework for development co-operation will be difficult to achieve. Under this program the organization implements projects targeted at empowering the community to work on advocacy on natural resources, local, national and international support around globalization, which also affects rural peasant farmers, fisher folk and local manufacturers. The Center provides critical solidarity and accompaniment to communities by offering awareness workshops, skills enhancement trainings and regular village meetings. The establishment of platforms for consolidating the fragmented efforts of civil society for exchanges of information and definition of agenda for critical engagement with the state on matters of rights, trade policy, environment, globalization etc. are also some of the activities.
a) Action Research and Documentation
Mainly through community mobilisers, the Center continues to research indigenous knowledge resources with regards to resource mobilization and the spirituality of living in harmony with other realms of existence. Other research projects included the project on Religious Philanthropy supported by Allavida. Given the multi-religious nature of our society, the research sought to build on the resource mobilization ethos from the Sikh, Muslims, Christians, the Bohras and other faith based communities. The Center also undertook an in-depth study with support from the Ford Foundation on the capacities of communities to cope with vulnerabilities to disasters especially after the Tsunami.
b) Empowering the rural poor through Community Capacity and Skills for natural resources control/rights
Ujamaa has over the years implemented the project “Building Capacity for Community Control over Natural Resources in the Coastal Region of Kenya” to support rural communities to improve access, control over, and efficient/sustainable use of local livelihood resources. This has been done through building individual (knowledge/ skills), organisational (planning/ project management), and institutional (process and policy) capacity for rural communities. Over 400 villages were reached in parts of Kwale, Kilfi, Malindi and Mombasa districts. Two types of outcomes emerged from this work; several areas of possible social enterprise and major advocacy areas. While advocacy work continues to be supported at sub-national and national level the community based natural resource enterprises were varied from revival of marketing cooperatives in Roka and Kikoneni to bee-keeping projects in Bamba and Palakumi some locations set up initiatives in aloe vera, Taru; Bat caves in Fikirini; commercial farm forestry in Mariakani to projects in water wells, poultry and community markets.
c) Solidarity and Accompaniment to Community driven Initiatives
Ujamaa through the Community Mobilisers continues to provide critical solidarity and accompaniment to communities by offering awareness workshops, skills enhancement trainings, regular village meetings and seed funding to local level initiatives. The CMs themselves are a part of a long term modular, practice based training for community workers to sharpen their knowledge as practitioners so that they give useful and informed support to communities. The project places heavy emphasis on strengthening local grassroots governance institutions and processes so that ordinary citizens participate in supporting real needs of the vulnerable groups, government planning and programs.
d) Enhancing Community Based Capacity Building among the Rural Poor
Thirty community based community mobilisers were selected after thorough consultations with chiefs, elders at location and sub-location level and NGOs active in the Coastal Districts targeted from 2003 to 2006. The CMs were then trained in leadership, facilitation skills, project implementation and management, research and sustainable resource management. The goal of the initiative was to enhance efficient and sustainable use of local livelihood resources anchored in indigenous knowledge systems. Following this experience the Center has launched a long term training program that is modular and practice based for community workers with the possibility of having this accredited by reputable training colleges in order to mainstream some of the good work that mobilisers as practitioners conduct in the face of huge gaps in skills so that we have activist scholars or scholar activists with right frame of mind for leadership that can spearhead the process of long term community building and transformation in Kenya. The manula and source book for this work has been published and a costal class graduated mid 2009. with support from Ugunja Community Resource Centre, Bondo Institute for Development and Technology and Tembea Youth for Development the Center has launched training for 57 practitioners in Nyanza that should end after 9 months.
e) Empowering the Urban Poor through Community Capacity Building & Organizing
According to a past study it is estimated that, more than half of the capital city’s population is squeezed into one-twentieth of its total area (Weru, 2004). A similar situation replicates in Mombasa where slum settlements dot the landscape. People in Mnazi Moja, Kisumu Ndogo, Shauri Yako and Moroto the select settlements where Ujamaa has started work struggle to pull themselves out of squalor and improve their living conditions and their quality of life. These efforts are never recognized and seldom get published. In December 2008 Ujamaa in collaboration with Pamoja Trust and Muungano Wa Wanavijiji carried out enumerations and mapping of 3 informal settlements of Nyali in Mombasa not very far from the Center’s offices. The residents of Mnazi Moja, Kisumu Ndogo, Shauri Yako were mobilized and trained to carry out the process of data collection and entry for the enumerations and mapping of 100% of the structures or households of the settlement.
The objectives of the exercise were: to provide data that can help development agencies and well wishers develop plans for the delivery of infrastructure services in the area; to mobilize participation in a community savings scheme that is geared towards the development of community structures for the provision of water, sanitation and educational services; to collect data that would enable the community to enter the process of development. In all the 3 settlements the majority of dwellers are tenants most aged between 1-36 years. Most structures were used as residential with averagely two to four occupants. 87% used pit latrines and most had no clear waste disposal arrangement. The residents in spite of their poverty were charged for waste disposal, water and other services.
These settlements experience high levels of over-crowding, unhealthy living conditions, and inadequate infrastructure. People who live in these settlements lack access to clean drinking water, proper plumbing, health care, and other basic services. In addition, slum residents are more susceptible to crime and violence. They suffer a greater incidence of disease and higher rates of child mortality. Ujamaa Center has teamed up with Pamoja Trust also a Kenyan NGO based in Nairobi and identified the existence of slums as a crucial deterrent to Kenya’s development. This project aims to improve the living conditions of Kenyans that live within such settlements by: Developing a consensus among its residents on issues of land and structure entitlements before negotiating with government for land and infrastructure, and Establishing community based savings schemes to fund these housing and infrastructure initiatives.
The study justified the need for upgrading of the housing, sanitation and health facilities for these residents; the greater need is to lobby for the regularization of tenure in light of the forced evictions that regularly take place. Once aware, Ujamaa takes the view that communities must take responsibility and act on their condition. The project mobilizes the residents into savings groups of between 15 to 25 people. Those joining subscribe to six key sub-groups namely Savings and Loan; Environment and Advocacy; Welfare; Land, Housing and other projects; Muungano Development Fund and Auditing and each elect a leader who federate with other leaders to the national level in the national convention of Muungano Wa Wanavijiji (Kiswahili for Slum Dwellers Federation) a movement established to challenge the negative mindset of slum residents. Ujamaa Center and Pamoja are collaborating in this project to deconstruct the mindset and attitude of the urban poor by calling upon each Muungano member to: Step 1: Identify yourself within a community; Step 2: Ask yourself what you can do to help; Step 3: Go ahead and start doing something to help. Take action.
Firstly, in Kenya, the poor have never seen benefits and so making them believe that success and the achievement of their dreams is possible is a challenge; and secondly, Kenyans have so often been conned either by their own or cheated by their government that they are reluctant to hope for a better existence. Ujamaa works to deconstruct this attitude in order to facilitate the success of such community development projects. Building a relationship with the poor needs time, persistence, effort and most importantly, empathy. The project has been expanded and a total inventory of all the slums in Mombasa and its environs undertaken. Plans are underway to enumerate all the 67 plus settlements. Mombasa Polytechnic University College, Pamoja Trust and the Ministry of Lands have teamed up to implement this effort.
f) Strengthening Civil Society Networking and Advocacy
The center created and enhanced linkages and networks within the civil society in the Coast region, other parts of Kenya and the rest of the world. Part of this process led to formation of Civil Society Organisations’ Local Authority Service Delivery Plans (LASDAP) committees in all the districts where Ujamaa is present. It was always the considered view of Ujamaa Center that vexed issues such as the collapse of agricultural industries in the Country, landlessness, effects of international trade driven by WTO of the poor and oppressive laws that affect communities adversely are issues that civil society must take on.
The Center has thus mobilized organized opposition to neo-liberalism in the context of the local issues in tourism, oil exploration, titanium mining, salt mining, trawling in the Kenyan waters among other pertinent issues. The networking and advocacy forums have given communities the space to articulate their positions, exchange programs, methodologies and learning. In a nutshell Ujamaa has cultivated a critical mass of protagonists while at the same time standing out as an institution with a difference.
g) Inter-faith Approaches to Peace and Development Work.
Ujamaa also implements with support from the Royal Danish Embassy a peace, security and Development project in select districts in the Coast where the potential of terrorism is claimed to real. The project is a campaign bringing together institutions of civil society in the Coast region of Kenya. Following the September 11 multiple attacks on US installations by terrorist bombers the debate about terror and terrorism continues to evoke painful memories. Victims traumatized by terrorist attacks such as Kenya that suffered violent attacks on two occasions would like to see an end to terrorism in the face of the earth. But this end will be long in coming if the perception remains that of looking at terrorism as an Islamic phenomenon. This campaign initiated by Ujamaa Center contends that peace, security and development are possible only when tolerance, understanding and dialogue constitute the cornerstone of human relationships. The campaign targets the state and focuses on improving the relations between communities and government with the understanding that: the state cannot act without the consent of the communities it is there to protect.” The Center also played a key role in responding to the violent clashes that often recur in Likoni and Tana River, the post-elction skirmishes and general peace work in the Coast, western and other regions. The Center has always been part of the non-violence peace movement.