Veni Mayaka of REGAL-AG (in red) shares information during a monthly PREG meeting in Isiolo County. Photo Credit: Africa Lead
Veni Mayaka is a program assistant with USAID Kenya’s Resilience and Economic Growth in Arid Lands – Accelerated Growth (REGAL-AG) project which operates in northern Kenya’s Isiolo County. She recalls when various partner organizations working in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) would work in isolation resulting in limited benefits for the communities within which they worked.
Communities in Kenya’s ASALs are exposed to chronic risk of drought emergencies, human conflict and endemic poverty. Spanning 23 counties and representing 89 per cent of the country’s land mass and 18 of the 20 poorest constituencies in Kenya, the ASALs are home to predominately pastoralist communities. In recent years, these communities have experienced major livestock losses leading to food insecurity and severe socioeconomic consequences – millions now rely on long-term humanitarian aid.
“Early on we used to compete in the way we implement activities, for beneficiaries, and areas of support. And that used to be a big problem when it came to implementation of programs with communities,” says Veni.
However, as part of USAID Kenya’s Partnership for Resilience and Economic Growth (PREG), REGAL-AG and 16 other partner organizations are coordinating their efforts and linking activities for greater impact in ASAL communities. “The greatest success with PREG is that [partner] activities are now layered, in a way that one partner complements the other partner and now funds are being utilized in a better way,” adds Veni.
PREG has been working in the ASALs since 2013 with the goal of strategically focusing investments to build more resilient and food-secure communities. PREG coordinates efforts among USAID’s 17 implementing partners in the region, including Kenya’s National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) and county governments. The effort seeks to amplify and streamline USAID’s investments focused on improving and building more resilient and food-secure communities.
To improve PREG’s collaboration and learning efforts, Africa Lead has supported USAID as the lead learning partner over the last year to guide and facilitate PREG partners through a focused and directed learning process. In August 2016, Africa Lead facilitated a PREG learning event that adopted a collaborative framework for collective action to ensure sustainability of the partnership’s activities. Shortly after the learning event, Africa Lead conducted joint work planning and team building workshops in five counties: Turkana, Marsabit, Wajir, Isiolo, and Garissa. The joint work planning workshops were held between January and April 2017 and were designed to develop skills, understanding, and knowledge for effective collaboration among PREG partners at the county level. During the workshops PREG county teams developed work plans that outlined activities for collaboration, and identified layering priorities for implementation and follow-up activities.
PREG partners participate in a team-building exercise at a joint work planning workshop in Marsabit County. Photo Credit: Africa Lead
In order to support the progress of the partnership at the county level following the joint work planning workshops, Africa Lead organized follow-up and support visits to four of the five counties between July and September 2017. The visits were held to: observe the level of completion of activities listed in the work plans, identify evidence of good practice, innovations in collaboration and partnership, and challenges experienced during implementation of the activities.
Strengthening nutrition and health programs
During field visits to Marsabit and Turkana Counties, there were early results realized from the joint work planning workshops. In Marsabit, nutrition program, Nutrition and Health Program Plus (NHP+), and livestock program, Accelerated Value Chain Development (AVCD), jointly implemented a Training of Trainers activity for community health and nutrition workers. “In Moyale, we were able to conduct a training activity on agri-nutrition together with AVCD. At first, the resources my program had could only reach very few people but because AVCD had a similar activity, we were able to bring [our] resources together and capture more people,” says Galgallo Boru of NHP+. Joint implementation of the activity increased the number of trained health workers from an initial combined target of 280 community trainers to 600, which means all Marsabit County health and nutrition workers have received training.
In Turkana County’s St. Patrick’s Health Centre in Lodwar town, both AVCD and Kenya Rapid are working together with the local church to support the livelihoods of community members. The church has initiated a poultry project while AVCD supports the animal health inspection process and Kenya Rapid is developing a water supply project for the health center.
Developing water and livestock resources
In Wajir and Isiolo Counties, the activities identified for implementation in the layering sites during the joint work planning workshops were followed through by all the PREG partners. In Wajir County, AVCD has developed a spatial plan for the development of Tarbaj town and Kenya Rapid is using the maps to improve the town’s water resources. Two water pans have since been developed: one for people across more than 75 households and the other for livestock. In Isiolo County, AVCD, Kenya Rapid, and the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) have supported the county government in the development of a grazing plan for Burat and Naisulu wards. AHADI has also worked in partnership with AVCD in the development of a livestock policy for the county. UNICEF, AVCD, and Kenya Rapid also jointly rolled out an agri-nutrition support program for pregnant and lactating mothers.
Herders with their herds of goats at a water pan developed by PREG partners in Tarbaj, Wajir County. Photo credit: Africa Lead
Across all counties, PREG partners note that the joint work planning workshops helped in setting a clear vision and purpose for the partnership. Partners are now deliberate about identifying sites where they can layer their activities, and regular joint work planning is becoming a more common way of doing things. All county teams hold regular monthly meetings where the partners follow-up on commitments from the joint work planning workshops, make adjustments on their implementation schedules in the layering sites, and coordinate and share data and information. “We have held monthly forums and through those monthly meetings we have been able to discuss areas of synergy, areas where we [can] come together and [fill any] gaps in programming,” says Thomas Musyoki of Kenya Rapid, Turkana County.
Internal communication processes both at the county level, and between national and county teams have also greatly improved. PREG partners are learning that coordinating their activities and working together benefits communities by helping them build their resilience through building stronger livelihoods.