By Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean (CORDIO)
The project team had the initial activity of trying to identify the potential groups for consideration for the project work. We had no advance information about the groups, their identity, locality and other details. Therefore a visit to the relevant government offices was a priority to obtain vital information about them. This took the team to the two areas of the Kwale and Msambweni Districts. Although the offices had records of the groups, getting the information from the files in the drawers was an uphill task, a clear sign that making government operations IT compliant is a key requirement for enhancing service delivery to the people in developing countries such as Kenya. The next step for the team was to run an assessment of the groups to determine which of the groups could be involved in the project. This was done through a questionnaire developed to capture project objectives.
One of the groups that met the assessment requirement had a suspect name tag: “Tiwi Massive.” The name looked synonymous with a group involved with drug abuse, and the group also included some Rastafarians who we thought could be difficult to work with to achieve project objectives. To our a amazement the youth turned out to be cooperative and had amazing projects, including a fish farming pond, a horticultural produce farm and water project which generates income by selling water to the community. We were told the group is also composed of female members who were, however, not present during the two meetings we have had so far.
After the assessment we expressed our earlier reservations about them and why we first thought they would not be a suitable group for the project. Some of the members did confirm that they had been involved in drug abuse and other forms of crime, but decided to transform themselves into a group and return to normal life after rehabilitation. They indicated that they have faced some challenges with some members relapsing into drug use, but on the whole their activities made them busier and discouraged them from returning to drugs and crime.
The team also undertook household surveys, to understand the community issues in detail, specifically in the areas of literacy levels, ICT use and access, as well as livelihood options. Walking through the village we observed a high proportion of women and wondered where the men were. Inquiring into that, we were informed that “men fend for their families in that community- the Digo.” As that raised more questions than answers in our minds, we opted not to pursue that discussion.
Later, we came across a woman who claimed to be 100 years old. She indicated that she had no interest in the study circles as she was “tired and has seen much in life.” She had been married to a man from the central part of the country and traveled in most of the country while younger. She narrated how one time, her husband lied that he was from the coastal region in order to avoid being taken to the detention camps during the colonial era. After narrating many stories about the process of Kenya becoming a nation, she informed us that her young daughter - 50 years of age! - was a member of the study circle in the village.
After visiting other groups we formed a completely different impression of the “Tiwi massive” group. It turned out to be one of those with the highest ranking, proving right the old saying: Do not judge a book by its cover.
Learn more about CORDIO, visit: www.cordioea.org