Part of our Summer Travel Blog series!

“We often struggle to explain international development to different audiences thinking it is overly complex but the reality is that seemingly simple interventions make the biggest difference in people’s lives. We see everywhere that  access to education, training and new opportunities creates the most broad and lasting change.”

Charles Sheerin, the Director of Communications and Resource Development at the Aga Khan Foundation USA (AKF USA), recently returned from a trip to southern Kenya where he visited several programs supported by the Foundation in the coastal regions of the country.

On his trip, Charlie observed education programs, such as the Madrasa Pre-School Programme and the East Africa Quality in Early Learning (EAQEL) project, along with community health projects and environment projects. In particular, he saw first-hand rural development projects in Kwale that impact people’s lives with simple interventions.

Charlie noted that years of engagement and training by AKF has led to a changed role for women in their communities. “Over the last ten years, the engagement of AKF and other groups has created a new dynamic for women. Their confidence has grown and their exposure to new opportunities has subsequently increased.”

For example, training a group of women from one village enabled them to raise more chickens to sell at a nearby market. Working together, they are learning how a market works, its expectations and prices; using mobile phones for banking services and checking the latest prices; and earning much needed income for themselves and their families.

A similar approach is taking place in Mtaa where another group of village women are learning how to grow healthier vegetables in larger abundance for the market. Each member of the group plays a particular role

in the community garden, but together they share the profits, which is a great  example of microfinance at work. They also use their new skills to improve production out of their own kitchen gardens which has positive benefits for family nutrition.

“Their deep knowledge of local conditions combined with their acquired skills provides newfound confidence. The women now ask for specific support from AKF as well as their local elected officials. Their own expectations on what they can do as a group and individually has grown considerably.”