Rural Development in Kenya - Aga Khan Development Network
Aga Khan Development Network

Rural Development in Kenya

The Coastal Rural Support Programme (CRSP) in Kenya has been working in semi-arid, marginalised rural areas of Coast Province since 1997. Over the last decade, the programme has grown from working with four village organisations comprising less than 300 community members to working with 195 village organisations comprising more than 30,000 members. The introduction of small farm reservoirs, which has provided the target population of 130,000 with critical access to water for both domestic and productive uses, has helped the majority of households to increase agricultural production and income, in spite of the increasing poverty in Coast province.

Rural development in KenyaTree planting-Maji ya Jumvi VillageMany districts in Coast Province, Kenya are amongst the poorest in the country, where up to 70-80 percent of residents live below the poverty line. Often living beyond the reach of government services, rural families are left without clean drinking water, weak village infrastructure and limited access to basic education and healthcare. In addition, geographical and climatic characteristics leave them to cope with drought, dependant on degraded natural resources for survival. This has created living conditions that are particularly detrimental as the majority of residents are small scale farmers who depend on agriculture as their sole source of food and income.

When it was established, the Coastal Rural Support Programme (CRSP) was meant to complement an already existing project of the Aga Khan Development Network, the Mombasa Primary Health Care Programme (MPHC). To support MPHC, CRSPCRSP implemented interventions that, by stimulating economic and social development, contributed to sustainable and equitable improvements in the livelihoods of poor households in Coast Province. As a result of the support that CRSP  offers, it is referred to by its beneficiaries as sombeza (Mijikenda for “to push up or give a helping hand to those who are already doing something to improve their situation”). This is because communities see CRSP  as providing a hand up, not a hand out, in the process of improving their livelihoods.

The programme’s overall aim is to improve the livelihoods of poor households in Kinango, Kilifi, and Kaloleni districts of Coast Province. Its objectives are:

  • to strengthen community level organisations/institutions to be effectively involved in and engaged in local/central government and non-public organisations in service delivery, democratisation and governance;
  • to improve livelihoods through diversification of income sources and promotion of appropriate agricultural and natural resource management practices;
  • to increase water availability and reliability for productive use, improved health status and livelihoods;
  • to increase access to quality basic education for marginalised children;
  • to enhance knowledge generation, management and dissemination resulting in wide adoption/replication of CRSP poverty alleviation approaches by other organisations.

Coastal Rural Support Programme, Kenya BriefClick on the image to download briefStrategies
Social Organising
CRSP’s programming is deeply rooted in the idea that the community is the central unit from which equitable and sustainable development takes place. As a result, all of its work in each of its four sectors begins with the establishment of relationships and partnerships at the community level, with community based organisations called Village Development Organisations (VDOs). VDOs provide community members with a forum and tools to discuss, chart and implement a plan for the future of their village. Although most villages have existing structures for making decisions, they are often not recognised by outsiders as formal organisations with the ability to interact with government. This lack of voice, coupled with the structure of government decision making, which gives priority to interests at the divisional rather than community level, means that individual villages are often unable to voice concerns about their development.

CRSP provides VDOs with training on governance, organisational development, participatory monitoring and evaluation, and record keeping. Prepared with these skills, VDOs are then assisted to register as formal organisations with the government. Since 1997, CRSP has facilitated the establishment of 192 VDOs. CRSP also links together VDOs from the same districts, to form Supra Organisations, which collaborate and interact with government officials beyond the divisional level. These Supra Organisations are able to demonstrate competency in management, group leadership and project organisation. A key result of the Social Organising process is the institutionalisation of a community based planning process in which villages prepare community development plans which they are then able to forward to government departments or other organisations for planning and funding support.

The programme’s enterprise activities include four main components: bee-keeping; poultry production; goat rearing; and vocational training. Each component engages poor households in small-scale enterprises intended to generate income and improve livelihoods. The process begins when communities identify what resources they feel they possess, the start-up investment that would be required for a small enterprise and the hours of labour that would be required to run the enterprise. They then determine which, if any, enterprise they would want to engage in.

In some of the villages in CRSP’s programme area, there is good potential for bee-keeping. CRSP supports these
enterprises by training para-professionals who train community members on bee-keeping and honey production, and assist
with the management and harvesting of hives. CRSP also carries out market assessments and has brokered contracts
that have guaranteed villages a competitive market for their honey for a number of years.

Poultry and Goat Meat
CRSP promotes the rearing of indigenous free-range poultry as an income generating activity. As a result, 60 VDOs have
identified their communities as good candidates for poultry enterprises. To ensure the success of these enterprises, CRSP trains Community Animal First Aiders (CAFAs) to support communities in the care of their poultry. CAFAs teach community members how to control diseases common to poultry, how to build pens and how to create an environment that promotes reproduction. CAFAs also work with communities that have identified goat rearing as a profitable enterprise. They encourage the use of Galla goats, a breed that is bigger and survives better in the area’s arid climate.

Vocational Training
To diversify enterprise activities and increase employment opportunities, CRSP supports vocational training for youth. Youth have been trained in areas such as shoe making, automobile mechanics, barber, carpentry, dress making, electronics, food production, hair dressing, mobile phone repair, patient care and first aid, screen printing and tailoring. CRSP encourages youth who have received training to start up their own enterprises and links them with microfinance institutions and mentors for support.

Sanitation Improvement ProjectDevelopment of water structures - Livestock drinking water from trough - Mbujani dam 2009Sombeza Water and Sanitation Improvement Project (SWASIP)
The goal of the Sombeza Water and Sanitation Improvement Project is to improve the health status and living conditions of rural populations, especially women, children and the poor in the arid and semi-arid areas of Kinango, Kaloleni and Kilifi districts in Coast Province.

SWASIP expands upon CRSP’sinterventions in the water sector by focusing on water for domestic and productive use as well as the introduction of a sanitation component, both in terms of infrastructure for improved sanitation and health and hygiene promotion. The environmental health component of SWASIP was introduced in collaboration with the Community Health Department (CHD), a project of the Aga Khan Health Services which builds the capacity of health systems in Kenya.

SWASIP’s goals include designing, installing and ensuring appropriate use of sustainable infrastructure for domestic water use and sanitation, including small farm reservoirs, rock catchment, roof water harvesting tanks and ventilated improved pit "V.I.P" latrines. SWASIP also enhances community capacity to manage and utilise water resources and assists with the mobilisation, training and enabling of local organisations in 83 villages to administer, operate and maintain water supply and sanitation infrastructure.

Through the Community Led Total Sanitation initiative, SWASIP is encouraging positive changes in hygiene behaviour in communities and schools. This initiative helps communities to identify and change unhealthy sanitation behaviours, specifically open defecation, and leads them to construct and use latrines from locally available materials.

Early Childhood Development
In 2007, CRSP realised that in order to improve peoples’ overall livelihoods, in a sustainable and continuous manner, early childhood education and development could not be left out of its programming. As a result, it has partnered with another Aga
Khan Foundation project, Educational for Marginalised Children in Kenya (EMACK), which was already working in the same

Together with EMACK, CRSP supports early childhood development projects which focus on improving the infrastructure, quality of curriculum, teaching methodologies, learning environments, access to nutrition and basic healthcare, as well as community’s management of pre-primary schools.

The support and guidance that CRSP and EMACK offer local pre-schools to accomplish these improvements is centred upon the Whole School Approach, a development model which believes that quality education depends upon community engagement and ownership.

Developing Energy Enterprises Project (DEEP)
DEEP is an emerging CRSP sector targeting individuals and groups who have the potential to start up an energy project
or improve an existing one. To support individuals and business groups, CRSP provides training on record keeping,
financial management, creating business plans, and fosters forward and backward linkages with service providers.

Community Knowledge and Resource Centres
CRSP has set up four notice boards or Community Resource Centres to disseminate information among the community. To further aggregate this information, CRSP is currently implementing a Community Knowledge Centre in Mariakani. The centre will have 15 computers to be used by farmers to access market prices and devolved funding, by youth for computer skills training and by community members to access CRSP documentation.

Crop Production
CRSP encourages the diversification of drought tolerant crops. These are promoted at the household and group level. Through field farm schools, farmers are trained on how to prepare the land, plant the crops, carry out weeding, pest and diseases control and harvesting and storage. CRSP also assists in vegetable production through kitchen gardens located at the household level and at small farm reservoir water sites. The main aim is to produce food for household consumption with surplus vegetables sold in markets.

Outcomes and Achievements

  • Village organisation and influence: One-third of households in 192 villages belong to Village Development Organisations and are employing interventions introduced by CRSP.
  • Soil and water conservation: Three-quarters of households are now using soil and water conservation methods.
  • Livestock production: Goat improvement has been successfully adopted by more than 40 percent of respondents, raising the income for two-thirds of them.
  • Water and sanitation: Increased access to safe water during the dry season through pipeline extension.
  • Living standards: More than half of the respondent households say that their overall living standard has improved.