Sponsored: Building greater resilience through social innovation


Sponsored: Building greater resilience through social innovation

Ten community innovation groups from Garissa and Marsabit counties are no longer the same. June 2018 marked the start of their journey into the unknown and unfamiliar world of social innovation.

They were hopeful that they would find and develop viable and sustainable local solutions to the devastating and recurrent impact of drought, across the vast northern frontier. One year later, they are beaming with excitement.

A rigorous social innovation process has supported them in coming up with scalable social-enterprises, which will deliver unique products and services to disaster-affected communities within their respective counties, and beyond.

Their innovations include:

Marsabit County

Mt. Marsabit Dairy – a micro-milk collection system that empowers vulnerable pastoralist women through value chain addition (milk pasteurization, production of ghee and natural yoghurt).

Drought Cure – production of an alternative fortified animal feed (in powder form and briquettes) to curb livestock death during prolonged drought spells.

Wezesha Initiative – an initiative that works with organized women groups to provide an equitable financial model, where groups members leverage peer support to purchase high capacity water tanks, and improve access to water.

Climate Information Pastoralists Unit (CIPU) – this solution seeks to bridge the information gap between the climate change informants and the end users (pastoralist and agro-pastoral communities) by sharing harmonized and verified climate information as well as early warning advisory notes, on a mobile phone platform.

When the Sun Shines – this innovation seeks to construct a spacious, well-ventilated and sustainable fodder warehouse with a capacity of holding 10,000 bales of hay, to enhance livestock sustainability and reduce livestock death during drought spells.

Garissa County

Maisha Dada Women Empowerment Centre – this solution seeks to train and equip pastoralist women with different income generating skills in order to offer alternative livelihoods, and sustain households.

Mathenge Maisha – this innovation focuses on production of a highly nutritious (gluten free) flour from the infamous Mathenge tree, for human and livestock consumption.

Smart Water Kiosk – this water kiosk has incorporated technology (water ATM) to supply and manage water collection/distribution, with minimal wastage.

Smart Green House – this innovation involves modifying greenhouses using smart technology (mobile phone activated) to help in the monitoring and control of various crop production processes, to bolster food security.

Frontier Camel Milk – this innovation seeks to introduce milk value addition through aggregation, pasteurization, packaging, refrigeration and production of yoghurt, from the drought resistant camel.

Changing the narrative

Maarifa kona is a social innovation lab that was created through a unique multi-sector collaboration to strengthen community resilience. Africa Development Solutions (Adeso), in partnership with iHub and MasterCard (AIM Consortium), have set up two local spaces in the counties of Garissa and Marsabit, where residents assemble to discuss pertinent issues that derail community development and viable local solutions that enhance preparedness.

The labs empower residents to be change agents, tackling local problems through local solutions. We provide them with a critical space at the design table, offering technical support to ensure practical outcomes.

The choice of Marsabit and Garissa counties in Kenya was informed by their vulnerability to cyclic droughts that continue to rupture their resilience elasticity.

Where it all started

The journey started with a call for ideas that were filtered through a community driven process before proceeding to the next level of research and concept refinement, using the labs. The successful ideas received seed funding meant to support the pilot process of their innovations.

Those that met the criteria received more funding that facilitated scalability and participation in the incubation phase that lasted for six months (Jan to June 2019). A total of ten innovations were piloted; each county producing five.

“Our biggest surprise, we must admit, was the overwhelming volume of submissions we received from our initial call for ideas back in March 2018. We attracted 236 community ideas – a high number that confirmed the desire by communities to find lasting solutions to drought”, says Degan Ali, the Executive Director, Adeso.

“Everything about the Maarifa kona process has been a paradigm shift from old ways of providing relief aid to families affected by disasters – it is the nexus that will facilitate greater participation and accountability to disaster-affected communities. Past practice has also seen such initiatives solely target urban centers, leaving out the rural communities that grapple with limited support.

The bottom-up approach has empowered communities to design, learn and build upon local knowledge to address their actual needs, and ensure their full ownership of the process and outcomes,” adds Eng. Eric Mogoi, the Project Director.

The innovations are coined around five themes: Livestock Management, Food Security, Water Management, Information and Awareness, as well as Alternative Livelihoods.

Key ingredients

“Partnership has played a key role in demonstrating the benefits of a ‘unity of purpose’. It has provided valuable opportunities to innovators for additional financial support and market linkage, toward greater sustainability of social enterprises”, says Sheilah Birgen, Progamme Manager, iHub.

The synergies amongst Humanitarian Actors, Tech Companies, Government Agencies and Communities have delivered needs-based programmes ensuring the programme focuses on real issues. The pilot has further revealed key lessons and best practices that should be replicated across the relevant sectors.

These include:

Community involvement and participation as the foundation for a successful social innovation process. One must continuous seek and listen to the community voices.

Financial and non-financial resources (mentorship) are vital in supporting innovation at various stages.

Continuous capacity building is critical, but this must be based on the information needs and desired skills acquisition of the innovators.

Building partnerships guarantees sustainability. Seek to incorporate state and non-state actors to build up and sustain momentum of the innovation process and outcomes.

What next?

DEPP intends to roll out the second phase of the program and make the Maarifa Kona Lab an accelerated innovation hub for the communities.

“We feel proud of the successes of this pilot program. With effective early warning systems in place, which enhance early action, such local strategies will significantly reduce the risk of drought related losses”, remarks Japheth Ondiek, Innovations Lead, Maarifa kona.

Maarifa kona is funded by UKAid and managed collaboratively by the Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities (CDAC) and Start Network, under the Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP). It is part of three other global labs set up in the Philippines, Bangladesh and Jordan. Visit www.maarifakona.com for more information or send an email to maarifakonainnovate@adesoafrica.org

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