Karimu recognizes that poverty can only be defeated by tackling the three biggest challenges facing the poor:
- Poor health and sanitation
- Meager income
- Lack of access to financial services
Karimu’s Mission is to fight poverty in order to enhance the well-being of rural villages in the developing world. We are committed to keeping an open mind to suggestions for the precise projects that will enhance well-being.
Lack of clean water and inadequate sanitation affect the health of a community while generating other serious problems. Time spent fetching water from muddy rivers—work performed largely by children—is time lost for education. Poor education means fewer opportunities later to earn a decent income. Meager income forces a family into painful choices regarding which child’s basic school costs—say, for uniforms—shall be paid. No access to financial services leaves the family without a safety net when an emergency strikes. If a family member gets sick or drought reduces its crop yield, the family may need to sell a portion of its meager assets, sinking them even deeper into poverty.
Thus, the problems of the poor are interconnected. This is why Karimu works closely with the local communities to help them combat these three daunting challenges effectively and sustainably.
Income challenges can be overcome by
- Providing better infrastructure, including bridges to enable the flow of products from producers to markets, or irrigation to increase productivity
- Supporting entrepreneurship with seed money for community enterprises
- Investing in education
- Providing training in and access to technology
Health and sanitation issues can be addressed by
- Increasing access to clean water
- Providing clean toilets and water faucets
- Educating around health and hygiene practices
- Building and supporting accessible and affordable modern clinics
- Implementing programs to encourage pregnant women to seek medical assistance during pregnancy and birth
- Improving the overall level of education
The most effective way to provide access to financial services is to help maintain savings groups, which can offer microloans, store funds for emergencies, and encourage savings.
Karimu currently works within a relatively small area, but has made a huge impact there.
- Average income tripled
Within five years, average income has tripled for those families belonging to the microlending group established with seed money from Karimu.
- Student performance improved dramatically
Ufani’s pass rate on the national exam to qualify for secondary school has consistently been far higher since the school’s rebuilding: up to 100 percent one year, and only 30 percent before.
- School enrollment grew 250 percent
Enrollment at Ufani Primary School has grown by 250 percent thanks to new school facilities, a bridge across the local river to facilitate access, better sanitation, and provision of school lunches to the poorest children.
- Health improved
By constructing a health clinic that serves the broader area, educating the midwives, and bringing clean water to the community, health improved drastically. To give one striking example, absences at Bacho Primary School have fallen to 31 percent of their previous level since Karimu funded the provision of clean water to the school, thereby reducing dramatically the instances of waterborne illness.
Karimu believes the villagers they work with understand their problems—and can recognize effective solutions—more accurately than any outsiders can.
The villagers engage fully in projects that Karimu helps fund as enthusiastic collaborators because they believe in these projects. Ideas for new projects come from the villagers themselves and are selected and prioritized jointly with the village councils and other local leaders. The villagers pay up to 10 percent of project costs, or provide labor. For a construction project, the villagers supply bricks, clear the land, and dig the foundation. Every adult in the village does his/her part in the construction project, regardless of position or status: the mayor, officials, teachers, farmers, etc. Everyone is involved as equals.
Karimu volunteers work side by side with the villagers: getting their hands dirty, building friendships, showing solidarity with the community. But the villagers assume responsibility for maintaining completed projects. By creating a self-sustaining community, Karimu avoids long-term reliance on its presence and help.
Through its commitment to partnership, Karimu has shown that sustainable solutions to the problems associated with poverty can be achieved by engaging with and empowering these subsistence-farming communities. Karimu has shown that the best results are achieved by listening to the poor, rather than by instructing them.
The talk “Towards Effective Development Work” by Marianne Kent-Stoll and Nelson Mattos given in Zurich on July 6th, 2017 as part of the Google Tech Talks series details Karimu’s Approach