Saturday, 24 January 2009

South Coast Experience-Mombasa

Msambweni town is situated in Msambweni Division, Msambweni Constituency of Kwale District (recently elevated to Msambweni district). Msambweni Division is a semi-rural area approximately 60 kms south of Mombasa town. The area relies on small-scale farming, fishing and small businesses for livelihood. The community is almost 100% Muslim and most are practicing and attend the mosque. The community is mainly composed of the Digo (a sub-tribe of the Mijikenda peoples) and the population is approximately 211,814 people with 92,594 households (Census Report 1999).

The area being in the south coast, is one of Kenya’s main tourist destination locations, hence an intersection of different cultures. Msambweni town lies on the main Mombasa-Lunga Lunga highway, which connects to Tanzania, therefore a destination to many truck drivers. Msambweni Partners NGO which operates and conducts its activities in MaryAnna house in Bomani village-Msambweni (thanks to Anna Witham for her generosity), was faced with the challenge of empowering the community members through testing of new concepts-participatory methodologies and other tested alternatives through promotion of self-help groups in the area. Although the promotion of CBOs as instruments of community empowerment is a relatively new concept. Admittedly, there has always been community development initiatives promoted through self-help community groups such as women and youth groups among others. However, the tradition in the past tended to see these groups as mere conduits for channeling ‘development handouts’. It was believed (and still remains a fact) that distribution of such (otherwise meager) ‘development tokens’ through groups (rather than to individuals) is more cost-effective (Mulwa.F. 2005:137).
According to Obaidullah Khan (1980:75-76), CBOs also have the important task of acting as channels for government and non-governmental attempts at development. It is the CBOs that must link with outside organizations to enable the flow of input and must mobilize the local people, so that they can play their proper role in community development.

CBOs provide a basis for development ‘’in so far as they are building an organization and bringing the community together around mutual concerns and needs’’, if started and supported with the right motive, have the potential to become effective vehicles for community empowerment and people’s participation in decision-making on matters that affect them.
They create an opportunity for the otherwise powerless sections of the community to acquire collective bargain and solidarity necessary for lobbying for change in public policy in their favor.
Among the first to be formed was Msambweni Partners Self-Help group (MPSHG). MPSHG was formed with an initial membership of 60 members in 2000 with aim of providing self-employment to its members through the establishment of IGAs, to acquire skills for its members to initiate small-scale micro enterprises and uplift the general economic welfare of members.
The group took about three years to settle down and reach the performing stage. Many original group members left the group in the various development stages and finally after a big struggle a manageable number of 30 members remained. MPSHG was formally registered with the Ministry of Culture and Social Services in 2003 in Msambweni.
This group has since initiated and established three (3) IGAs namely, Mwarubaini Soap making, Matt weaving and Basket making, and a Tree Nursery from where various seedlings are planted and sold when ready to various individuals and groups within the division. Several capacity building training workshops have been conducted for the group by their established networks.
They have an office, good record keeping and maintain two bank accounts. The group members meet every Wednesday to receive their merry-go round contributions and review the revolving fund activities.
Every Friday afternoon the group meets in the offices, sometimes to prepare the soap but mostly at the seedling farm for watering and to review the activities......more to continue

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