Is Kenya on Auto Pilot?

Published on 2nd March 2009

Kenya's government is failing its citizens in their hour of most need.It not only failed  to maintain strategic food reserves but also went ahead to steal the little grain that would have helped to ease the pressure on the food prices.

When the government fails, people must come in to fill the vacuum. Examples are all over with donors, private companies and ordinary Kenyans filling the vacuum by feeding hungry Kenyans. Various organusations in the country have raised money to feed the starving population.

However many similar initiatives are going on but will not come to the limelight because there is no one to cover the work of these noble Kenyans but most important because they are not doing it for fame or to gain political mileage. They do it out of genuine concern to help; out of a selfless sense of responsibility and generosity. Most of those helping do not have to think of whether they are sufficiently philanthropic to help fellow Kenyans despite the fact that they pay taxes so that our insufficiently philanthropic leaders can be ranked among the best paid while our country is ranked among the poorest in the world.

In times like this, our intervention must be informed by knowledge of : 

a) Who needs help the most
b) The best form of help to give
c) The best mechanism or delivery channels for this type of assistance
d) The most trusted ultimate mechanism to ensure that the help reaches the neediest.

Based on my experience on these types of issues, I offer some piece of advice that you can use to enhance the chances of your donation reaching the target and avoid your sacrifice being converted into a financial gain by a corrupt person somewhere.

a) We know who needs help the most. The most vulnerable need help the most. Usually these tend to be the elderly and the sick without economically endowed relatives to take care of them. Generally, children and women fall in this category.

b) The best form of help to give.This depends on your delivery mechanism. If the mechanism is trusted in terms of its ability to understand the situation and be honest, money is the best form of donation. On the other hand, if the source is less trusted on both aspects, in-kind donations are more reliable. I would however not give donation in any form to a mechanism whose honesty I do not trust because chances that the donation won’t reach its target are pretty high.

c) The best mechanism or delivery channels for this type of assistance. Go for institutions with structures such as World Food Programme and Red Cross. There are many local NGOs and individuals that can also be reliable. You are better off dealing with known institutions.However, the limitations of local and international institutions, especially the international ones, is their inability to fully understand the local context sometimes. You find them supplying less useful and sometimes ridiculous items. For example maize and beans is one of the best forms of grains that almost any family needs. Unless you have enough of these, do not buy cooking fat because that money would have bought more beans. I have seen toothpaste and toys for children being delivered to starving populations.
d) The most trusted mechanism to ensure that the help ultimately reaches the needy. Again this is a trusted individual or institution trusted with deep local knowledge and this should be somebody or institution that lives among the people. There are very few institutions that can pass this test.

i) The local administration has this knowledge but you know where they fall when it comes to honesty. You will find the food donations being sold in the nearby markets if you go through the administration.

ii) The church and mosque have the knowledge and the credibility. However, note three things: First, it is not a guarantee that the church/mosque have the credibility. Check this out. Second, if it is a multi-religious society where there are different denominations, the church and mosque will most likely give to its followers. Finally, you are likely to miss out needy populations who may never make it to the church or mosque or are not members of the church / mosque that received the donation. A well managed church/ mosque could however deal with this issue by looking at the society and giving the food to the needy irrespective of their denomination or whether they are followers or not.

iii) A trusted friend or relative can be a sure way to get the food where you want it, but this method is suitable for small quantities restricted to a small area.

iv) The primary school is my best bet. Teachers have knowledge of the community and they see children suffer in class and miss school. I would go for feeding the children because it makes them concentrate in school and calls back to school those children that were absent due to hunger. Feeding all the children is the best option but using schools to distribute food can become tricky for teachers because it is usually difficult to determine who is really in greater need. They are better being neutral to the children.

Finally remember that we are feeding our fellow Kenyans because our government has failed Kenyans in their greatest hour of need. When the right time comes, it cannot be business as usual. We cannot pay taxes which are used to overpay leaders who are totally drunk with power  that their level of greed and corruption exceeds the level of a human being. 

We are witnessing a leadership that is irresponsible to the extreme and which boldly ignores and or seriously under estimates the intelligence of Kenyans. To paraphrase Barrack Muluka, “the writing is on the wall. We may have been foolish in the past but not anymore! 2012 appears too far away for them not us because they are drank.

By Muriithi Kagai

Development Finance, Pristina, Kosovo.

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