Bear hunters meet lions, ICT innovations and local farmers in Kenya
What do bear hunters and their fellow colleagues, the lion stalkers, have in common? The answer is clear: it is Finland that combines the two. The first time a dozen of African, US and British journalists – the bear hunters – met in Finland in 2011, and now the Unit for Development Communications at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland invited the journalists to an African setting. Both workshops were funded by the Ministry, and the second round of the workshop was organised by the embassy of Finland in Nairobi. The aim of the workshop was to discuss Finland’s strengths as a global actor and to advance sustainable development. Further, the purpose was to strengthen the capacity of African and Finnish media on global development issues and Finland, and enhance networking in Africa and between Finnish and African media. The six-day long visit also introduced journalists to development cooperation projects funded by the Finnish government in Kenya.
The workshop - entitled Deepening know-how for a sustainable future - offered a vital channel for professional dialogue and learning among journalists from two continents. During the visit to Kenya, from 9-14 September 2012, the journalists were taken, joined by two lion stalking Finnish colleagues, to an ICT seminar at the iHub in Nairobi, on a field trip to Kisumu and Eldoret, to consider gender equality in the Kenyan context and to develop future forms of collaboration. The 11 journalists were accompanied by two ladies from the Unit for Development Communications.
From the National Park to ICT innovations
The workshop began with an easy start by a visit to the Nairobi National Park – a national park that is unique due to its location within the city borders. The park was established in 1946 which makes it the oldest national park in Kenya. The journalists were lucky to spot a lion hunting an ostrich, heartebeests, a rhino and giraffes.
The workshop began efficiently at the ICT seminar facilitated and hosted by the iHub and mLab in Nairobi. In a panel discussion entitled Raising Awareness of Innovative ICT Innovations in Kenya, the participants heard presentations from iHub, mLab, the Global e-School and Communities Initiative (GeSCI) and the Business Daily representatives. The iHub works with mobile communications and technology, supports start-ups and software programming in Kenya. It also monitors inflammatory speech and elections monitoring; eg systems developed by iHub were used to track down cases of Ebola in Uganda. The iHub is funded under the program Sustainable Businesses in the Knowledge Economy by the government of Finland, the World Bank’s infoDev and Nokia. The aim is to make the ICT sector of developing countries more effective and to use ICT to improve the competitiveness of small-scale agricultural enterprises. The Program’s central and most innovative component is the mobile applications laboratory mLab, which was created to make use of Finland’s know-how and expertise.
Hope, boat rides and water hyacinths in Kisumu
After gathering new information on the innovation sector in Kenya, the journalists set off for a two-day field trip. The first destination was the city of Kisumu in the Nyanza Province, the third largest city in Kenya located at the shores of Lake Victoria. Not getting further than the Kisumu airport, the whole group paid a visit to the Hope Disabled Women – Ladies with Disabilities Project. The project is part of an education and development program for ladies with disabilities, with the aim of contributing to their capacity, enhancement and participation in the sustainable and environmentally friendly development in the Lake Victoria region. Hope Disabled Women, supported by the embassy of Finland in Nairobi through UN Women and the United Disabled Persons of Kenya (UDPK), won a UN award for innovation in 2000.
As the Hope ladies work on products manufactured from recycled materials, the water hyacinths were the connecting factors for the first field visit as well. The journalists met with the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) staff to discuss the challenges experienced in the wider Lake Victoria Basin. The lake is a source of water for domestic, industrial, irrigation use, and it is a major water transport linkage for the landlocked countries in the region. The lake has an extensive source of fisheries. However, at the same time many stress factors affect the lake making it vulnerable. The challenges include over-fishing, decline of water level, deforestation, and pollution from agro-chemicals to name a few examples.
Later, the whole group was fitted in the 25-seater bus and driven to Dunga Beach where LVBC’s implementing partner, OSIENALA – Friends of Lake Victoria, presented their work on fighting environmental problems at the lake. Osienala is an NGO working on sustaining equitable livelihoods of communities deriving resources of the lake. At the time of the visit, the water hyacinths had drifted off the shoreline, so the group had a chance to view the hyacinths on the lake during a boat ride. Since the hyacinths move with the wind currents, the livelihood of local fishermen is occasionally disrupted when they get stuck on the lake in the middle of hyacinths.
Seminar on rural development, human rights and elections
The strategic aim of Finland in Kenya is to engage and strengthen state oversight agencies, civil society and private sector organisations, as well as communities, for better accountability. Partnerships are also sought with Finnish NGOs and research institutions in the sector where Finland is active. Rural development, natural resources and good governance are the sectors where the Embassy works on in the region. On the rural development, Finland is funding a large scale project called PALWECO, a Programme for Agriculture and Livelihoods in Western Communities, in Busia with Finland’s investment of 27 million euros and Kenya’s donation being three million euros. The aim is to develop agricultural development together with Kenyan authorities and local communities. Western Kenya was chosen for the project due to its marginalised position.
Also, representatives from Shield of Justice and Institute for Education in Democracy discussed the topic of human rights and elections observation. The incidents and large scale violence during the post-election violence in 2007-2008 are to be avoided in the coming general elections. The topic of devolution and county level structures were discussed during the seminar.
On the road to Eldoret
Eventually, all roads lead to Eldoret, or do they? To explore the country further, the journalists were once again fitted into the bus at 6.30 am, and off the entourage sailed towards the town of Eldoret, about three hours from Kisumu. The party arrived at the World Food Programme quarters slightly later than anticipated. WFP together with the partnering organisation Academic Model Providing Access to Health Care (AMPATH) briefed the group on food distribution to HIV/AIDS infected and other patients groups. Around 20 per cent of the distributed food is bought locally from big traders. Through the project Purchase for Progress small scale farmers are linked with the markets.
One of the most memorable happenings of the entire week was the interaction with a farmers’ group of 79 persons that sell their maize to WFP in Kaptebee, in the outskirts of Eldoret. The journalists posed the farmers questions but the farmers were equally interested in learning about the size of families, role of education and food production in Finland. Later, back in town, the entourage toured the AMPATH clinic where health services are provided for patients.
Gender equality, conflicts and peacebuilding
Back in Nairobi, the 13th September was devoted to women, conflicts and peacekeeping, the usual package. The UN Women High Level Panel on Women, Peace and Security gave the journalists a good chance to see a bit of Nairobi’s Central Business District. The Panel was held at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, and hosted many prominent figures in the gender sector. In her speech, H E Ambassador of Finland to Kenya, Mrs Sofie From-Emmesberger, highlighted the issue of involving women in crisis situations. In worst case scenarios, women have to fight for their rights with their lives. Women’s participation should be seen as a precondition for sustainable peace, so one has to move from words to deeds in Kenya. Ambassador Sofie concluded by stating that Kenya can count on Finland’s support for the implementation of the National Action Plan and the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 process.
The keynote address was given by Mrs. Elisabeth Rehn, Independent Expert on Peace-Building and Crisis Management and former Minister of Defense. She emphasised that women’s empowerment and active role in peace-building are crucial. The inclusion of women is part of the twinning process. She referred to best practices that Kenya could adopt from the Finnish context where social security and the subjective right to daycare are part of the everyday lives of families. Instead of speaking of women’s quotas, Mrs. Rehn emphasised the adoption of the term “gender quotas”, because equality concerns both men and women. The 1325 process is invaluable for Kenya and it should not be destroyed by party politics.
The next stop was at the UN complex in Gigiri where a seminar on Natural resources, conflict and peacebuilding: Lessons leaned on extractive industries, renewable resources and land was tailored by the embassy of Finland for the visiting journalists. The management of land and natural resources is one of the most critical challenges facing developing countries today. Natural resources have a double-faced role: they are both a blessing and a curse. In a panel discussion, the topic was approached by presentations from UNEP, the World Bank, and Mr Pekka Haavisto, current MP and former Minister of the Environment. The panelists pondered upon how fights over natural resources can cause conflicts, how profits from natural resources can help to sustain conflicts and what kind of environmental impact the conflicts bear with. At the same time, the consideration of natural resources and their environmental impact can be used to peace-building the conflict prevention tools.
The highlight of the evening was the opening of the exhibition Peacekeeping Finland at the National Museum. The exhibition was officially opened by Elisabeth Rehn together with Pekka Haavisto, and Ambassador Sofie From-Emmesberger made welcoming remarks.
Good governance and investigative journalism
All good things come to an end, and eventually the workshop reached its last day. The last session was devoted to a two-part media seminar. The first part was facilitated by the Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG), an NGO supported by the embassy of Finland. The topic centered on investigative journalism in Kenya. In the second part, the journalists gave brief overviews of the media environments in African countries and Finland. According to Petri Burtsov, Finnish foreign correspondent based in Uganda, very few Finnish journalists work in the Sub-Saharan Africa. Often stereotypical narratives on Africa are carried on in the Western media, including the main themes such as conflicts, misery, helplessness and victims. The task of the journalists in Africa should be to provide a balanced picture of development cooperation, and also capture positive images of Africa.
After the media seminar, the entourage was taken to the very last place to visit, the Safaricom headquarters in Nairobi. The innovation called M-PESA by Safaricom is a groundbreaking tool to make transactions and payments. M-PESA has been in operation since 2000 and the service is available in 65 countries with the current rate of 15 million subscribers.
With the workshop coming to its closure, it was time to mirror the events of the week. What did the journalists themselves think of the workshop? Some of them considered the field trip and the UNEP seminar the best part of the week, whereas others emphasised the exchange of ideas among the group as the main highlight. The common understanding was that a shared platform for publications would be established. According to the embassy of Finland in Nairobi, the week was a success and as such served as an invaluable mechanism to connect Finland with Africa in a mutual learning environment.
Emma Andersson, Embassy of Finland, Nairobi
More information on the media workshop and other events during the week at
1) Elisabeth Rehn antoi tukensa Kenian naisten rauhanpyrkimyksille (article in Finnish on the UN Women High Level Panel on Women, Peace and Security)
2) Suomalainen kriisinhallintaosaaminen ja rauhanrakennustaito esillä Nairobissa (article in Finnish on the seminar Natural resources, conflict and peacebuilding)