My photojournalism assignments for United Nations agencies and development and environmental organisations have focused on sustainable development issues around the world. This page contains a selection of recent written work focusing on East Africa that I am proud to have been a part of.
At 5 p.m. on a Tuesday, lights flicker on at a small hairdressing salon which lies at the center of a bustling little trade market in Ruhiira Millennium Village, Uganda. The proprietor, Mr. Asimwe Enock, patiently trims a group of fidgety school children in assorted uniforms. Outside, a crowd of onlookers cheers on a snooker contest, whilst the surrounding tailors, vegetable sellers and drink vendors compete for customers’ attention. Yet it was only four weeks earlier when all this activity was cut short each afternoon due to a lack of access to electricity. One-hundred twenty light bulbs were switched on in Ruhiira for the first time last year, using the innovative SharedSolar system installed by the Millennium Villages Project (MVP). The impact on villagers’ lives has already been tremendous.
Millennium Villages develop unique solutions to prevent the spread of HIV in partnership with UNAIDS /
Last year, 103 HIV positive women gathered together in Sauri Millennium Village in Western Kenya to celebrate an extraordinary event – at 18 months, all but three of their children tested negative for the disease, thanks in a large part to a monitoring and retention scheme developed by the Sauri Millennium Villages Project health team. Sauri’s HIV Exposed Infant (HEI) Follow Up Program, as the scheme is called, was implemented thanks to an ongoing partnership between the Millennium Villages Project (MVP), UNAIDS, the Government of Kenya and other partners, focused on eliminating the transmission of HIV from mother to child. The graduation ceremony is one of several innovative grass-roots solutions developed by MVP health teams in ten African countries – Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda, Nigeria, Mali, Senegal and Ghana – to now show encouraging results, with instances of HIV infected infants now standing at less than 5%.
As part of the Global Handwashing Day celebrated across the world last week, Mwandama’s schools joined together to sing, dance and have fun in the name of better health. During the event, more than 600 children pledged to wash their hands with soap and water – the simplest and most inexpensive way to prevent diarrheal diseases which, sadly, causes the death of almost two million of children every year, the disproportionate percent in rural Africa. When asked, children as young as six were able to tell me the five key moments when washing hands is crucial, and jostled each other to demonstrate the proper technique for using soap and clean water to get rid of life-threatening bacteria. The Millennium Villages Project (MVP) has been working to improve sanitation in schools across Africa since 2005. This effort was given a boost last year thanks to a partnership with Unilever, which will see the implementation of Unilever’s proven hand washing program in ten countries.
Columbia University’s Nairobi-based Global Center for Africa has begun implementing the next phase of the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) Project, with $4.902 million in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. AfSIS is an African-led initiative which represents a historic first for the continent - it aims to develop the most comprehensive, high-resolution and real-time map of the continent’s soils and landscapes to date, and, if successful, is expected to serve as a model for the rest of the world.
One day in July, 2011, Mzee Rwebituzi Stephen, an 82 year old farmer from Ruhiira Millennium Village in Uganda, opened his eyes and was surprised to be able to see. He had been completely blind for four years. “I could not move [more than] a few steps by myself,” remembers Mzee Rwebituzi. “My grandson would drag me, holding onto a stick. I would recognize people including my family members by voice.”. Thanks to an annual eye care initiative launched in 2011 in Ruhiira by the Millennium Villages Project in partnership with the Tommy Hilfiger Foundation, villagers like Mzee Rwebituzi are able to regain their sight and their lives.
In 2011, the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) began to accelerate its business development activities as part of a project-wide push to enable communities to become self-sufficient by 2015. The establishment of rural cooperatives is the driver behind this strategy, facilitating agricultural production, sales and increased incomes. The community can then reinvest the increased agricultural income to maintain progress in other areas, such as education and health. The cooperatives are designed to help member farmers transition from subsistence to commercialised agriculture.
A doctor, a journalist and a banker are some of the diverse careers being pursued by ten talented girls in Mwandama Millennium Village in rural Malawi. For this group of students, the opportunity to continue their education beyond primary school has been a dream come true. Most of the girls are orphans and come from Mwandama’s poorest families, living in an environment where higher education is a luxury unaffordable to most.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) say that by 2015, every child should have the opportunity to complete primary school. The Goals also call for gender parity in all levels of education. Recently, 50 girls from Sauri Millennium Village in Kenya were given the opportunity of a lifetime — the chance to attend secondary school, granted through the Connect to Learn scholarship program, in partnership with Ericsson and the MVP.
Water is essential to human well-being and economic development. Today, however, water stress caused by inadequate farming practices, demographic pressure and pollution is creating unprecedented problems. Nowhere is this more visible than in the rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa. As the world celebrates World Water Day on the 22nd of March to draw attention to these issues, lessons learned from the Millennium Villages Project can provide a way forward.
Fourteen year old Eugene Obare and his friends from Nyamuninia Primary School in Sauri, Kenya were invited to address a packed amphitheatre of delegates at the International Food Fair on October 7th. They are a new breed of happy, confident kids in rural Kenya who love going to school, where they are achieving good grades and dream of becoming engineers and pilots like others their age. What makes these students particularly special, as the delegates discovered, is that they run one of the country’s most successful school feeding program in an area traditionally steeped in poverty.