Tag Archives: development

One college fights South Sudan’s civil war in the classroom

At the chiming of small hand bells, 100 teachers-in-training at the Yei Teacher Training College (YTTC) shuttle between lectures on education philosophy, mathematics, and English. There are no holidays here – seats are filled year round – and classes run from 9 am to 5 pm.

“Not even a second lost,” read signs posted in the classrooms and along shady walkways. Read more…


In Kenya, islanders on heritage site count cost of $25 billion mega-project

Lamu Island on Kenya’s northeast coast was established some 700 years ago as part of a thriving Indian Ocean trade network that eventually stretched to Oman, India, Portugal, and China.

The mixing of those cultures produced the Swahili people and language, as well as an Islamic renaissance of architecture, poetry, and cuisine.

Lamu is regarded as the best preserved Swahili settlement in existence. The history, the remote white beaches, the carved wooden doorways, and the winding alleys, all make it a top Kenya tourist destination.

But change is coming – more drastic than any in Lamu’s history – that could irreversibly transform this ancient place. Read more…

Photo: Ben Curtis/AP

The World’s Only Game Reserve Within a Major City is Threatened With Extinction

Nairobi National Park is threatened by development. Photo credit: Wikipedia

From a grassy hilltop near the southern end of Nairobi National Park, tourists can look south over the Athi River Plain, a vast swath of savannah that once stretched uninhibited from Nairobi to the border with Tanzania. But today, their view is blocked by a row of cement factories and urban sprawl.

“That’s Kitengela,” says ranger Ernest Achieng (who asks that his real name not be used, per Kenya Wildlife Service policy), pointing to what was once a small truck stop but is now a bustling blue-collar town. “Five years ago, there were no buildings there. But people are buying the land and developing and erecting fences.”

Such development now threatens Nairobi National Park, the world’s only game reserve found within a major city. Home to lions, leopards and endangered black rhinos, NNP offers tourists the opportunity to observe wildlife with the skyscrapers of Nairobi’s skyline rising in the background. But the park is slowly being chipped away by encroaching highways, housing and industry.  Read more…

Green, Lush and Carefully Tended, Nairobi’s Famous Nurseries are Losing Ground

As Nairobi widens roads and erects new apartment buildings, its famous nurseries, which operate on public land, are threatened. Photo by Jason Patinkin

“If I may ask,” the flower vender interrupts, “when did you last see a frog in Nairobi?”

I pause. This is a question I have never been asked before.

“You’ve never seen one,” he answers for me, then points to a row of concrete houses built over what was once a free-flowing river. “Because what they are doing is draining their sewage into a wetland. That’s why there’s no life in Nairobi.”  Read more…

An Informal Currency for Slum-Dwellers, or a Nefarious Separatist Plot?

Bangla-Pesa notes, an alternate currency that helps stabilize slum-dwellers’ finances. Photo by Jason Patinkin

Emma Onyango is a 40-year-old widow who supports eight children in a slum called Bangladesh near the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa. Only one child, a 14-year-old daughter, is hers. The rest are orphans. Onyango has lived there since she moved from her family’s inland village years ago in hopes of finding better work. But like many rural-urban migrants, she barely scrapes by, selling tomatoes and drinking water to earn around 500 shillings ($5.88) a day. It’s not enough to feed everyone, so she relies on donations to keep bellies full. Still, there are nights when there simply isn’t enough to eat.

With so much to worry about and her ancestral home far away, Emma isn’t the type of person one expects to be involved in a plot to secede the coast from the rest of Kenya. But that’s what she was accused of last month after she started trading some colorful pieces of paper in exchange for sugar, flour and potatoes.  Read more…