More than 70% of the population of Turkana District are nomads, and the remainder, who have settled in small rural communities, live in extreme poverty, and suffer from hunger, a lack of clean drinking water and poor medical care. There is a very high rate of illiteracy since there is little access to education. One way of helping these population groups is by establishing small enterprises. The author presents a study on income-generation activities and a credit scheme in the area. This paper is based on her experience as a consultant for the Community-Based Development Network, under the Nutrition Improvement Project in Southern Turkana, Kenya, from May 1999 to August 1999. Mrs. Milcah Mulu-Mutuku is a lecturer in the Department of Agriculture and Human Ecology Extension at Egerton University, Kenya. Her area of specialization is entrepreneurship development.
Pastoral communities in Kenya are found in areas classified as ASAL (Arid and Semi-Arid Lands), regions which make up 80% of Kenya’s total land surface and support over 25% of the human population and over half of the livestock production. These regions are characterised by low rainfall, are unable to support profitable agricultural activities and have a poorly developed infrastructure. The literacy level is quite low, and a large proportion of the people cannot communicate in languages other than their mother tongue.
Up to 70% of the population in these regions are nomads relying on the pastoral production system for their needs. Turkana District is situated in the northwest corner of the Rift Valley Province of Kenya. The altitude varies between 369m and 900m above sea level and rainfall varies with altitude, between 180mm and 400mm per year. About 70% of the population are nomadic pastoralists, the men being in charge of physical security and the supervision of the animal herds. The women are in charge of the animal products (meat, blood, milk und ghee) and feeding the families. The rest of the population has settled around trading centres. Generally, the settled populace, especially the Turkana, are poor, unable to raise enough food for themselves and thus reliant almost entirely on relief supplies for the most part of the year. Poverty in these communities manifests itself in the form of hunger, illiteracy and lack of access to basic education, adequate clean drinking water, minimum medical facilities and shelter. This situation has been caused by lack of resources other than livestock, poor integration with the rest of the economy and drought. The move from a nomadic existence based on a livestock economy to a settled lifestyle, which is dependent on the monetary system, has meant shifting from the lifestyle the people understand best to another new and under-resourced one. It is this section of the pastoral population that needs to be assisted in the alleviation of poverty.
Development of small enterprises has been identified as one way of alleviating poverty in Kenya. However, the business environment in the ASAL regions is extremely harsh, making most of the income-generating activities survival activities, generating income which is barely enough for subsistence. To start with, resources needed for investment in business are scarce in these regions and the infrastructure is not conducive to business development. Frequent droughts have brought about high levels of dependency among the population, which work against any business endeavour. This causes people to lose confidence in their ability to succeed in business. In most cases, business people have been expected to support relatives without prior plans, and this has led to the total disruption of business plans and subsequent performance. Insecurity caused by both external and internal cattle raiders also has serious negative effects on business development as it leads to loss of property, customers and valuable time.
Non-governmental organisations and church-based programmes have played a major role in business development in these communities, assisting mainly women and youth groups to start and manage group businesses. The commonly used mode of assistance is the provision of finance and financial management skills. Another method has been to connect clients with market outlets. Despite all the efforts, not much has been achieved. Businesses have collapsed as soon as the assisting organisation has pulled out of the project, so that sustainability has been a big problem.
Technical, managerial and entrepreneurial skills are the three components essential for successful operation of an enterprise. Technical skills are specific to a particular occupation and include knowledge of the particular business one is planning to establish or be involved in. Possession of technical skills can facilitate entry into self-employment, at least on a very small scale, but as the business develops, these skills may be inadequate. Technical skills can be taught through vocational training courses.
Lack of management competency has been found to be a major contributing factor in small enterprise failure. Managerial skills are needed to keep a business running. These can be taught in the formal education system and include financial management, inventory control, marketing, and personnel management. Good management, especially the basics of bookkeeping, product costing and organisation of work, is essential to a well-functioning enterprise. Beyond the basics, there seems to be little relationship between specific management skills and business success.
Assistance with financial and physical resources, and skills training, though important, are not a sufficient or a necessary condition for successful enterprise. There are many examples of businesses that have been started and are now run by people with no formal education and without any external assistance. On the other hand, there are unsuccessful businesses which were started or are managed by people who had every possible form of assistance as well as management training. This shows that there is some other quite different resource required, which is almost certainly a necessary condition, and may be a sufficient one for business success. This quality is entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship has been defined variously, but for the purpose of this paper it will be taken to mean the ability to combine factors of production in order to initiate an economic change, that is, the creative and innovative response to the environment in order to create wealth. The entrepreneurship of a people largely determines the economic development of their community and is essential to the setting-up and development of business enterprises. Increasing the supply of entrepreneurship among people is therefore of importance to the economic development of a society. The entrepreneurial role seems to be culturally and experientially acquired. This indirectly gives support to the view that it is influenced by education and training.
Entrepreneurial behaviour is identified with such traits as the need for affiliation, the need for power and high internal locus of control (a loose measure of independence). Those possessing it exhibit high degrees of creativity, motivation, negotiation skills, self-confidence, prompt decision-making and problem-solving skills. All these are strongly related to enterprise success in terms of growth. These entrepreneurial qualities are present in varying degrees in most business owners and can be enhanced through training. Training for development of entrepreneurial attributes is different from training for managerial skills, although the two may overlap. The former involves changing the attitudes and perceptions of an individual, while the latter involves imparting a particular skill to that individual.
Any business development endeavour among pastoral communities has to incorporate training in entrepreneurship development. This is the kind of training that causes a change in the attitude of the people and imparts an enterprise culture to them. It makes them realise that hard work will enable them to succeed in business and that they can take control of their own affairs. They also need skills that will enable them to use locally available materials and at the same time to exploit markets that are outside their communities where there is a scarcity of local resources.
Selection of participants in such projects has to be done carefully. Small enterprise assistance programmes, whether aimed at start-ups or existing enterprises, can only reach a very small number of the total population. The demand always exceeds supply, and it is necessary to select carefully those to benefit from them. The selection technique has to be objective, so as to select those who are in need of help and can make use of it effectively.
Entrepreneurship development training requires flexibility, commitment, good local contacts and an important but intangible element of inspiration. As with most other forms of small enterprise assistance, these qualities are more likely to be found in a private or voluntary organisation than in a government department. Many of the most successful programmes are run by voluntary agencies. Thus, anyone proposing to run or fund entrepreneurship development must first select an appropriate institution to carry out the task.
Training which is specifically designed to increase entrepreneurship is best offered as part of an integrated programme which also includes management training, and possibly technical training, as well as an opportunity for trainees to put together proposals for their new businesses or expansion of their existing ones. It has also to build on local knowledge. The learning system must be based on people’s way of life if it is to be adopted. In this regard, some major problems have been identified among educators themselves. Those who are involved in nonformal entrepreneurship education have only limited awareness of the distinct learning needs of adults and how their knowledge can be integrated into the entrepreneurship development. Furthermore, most educators from outside Kenya usually underestimate the cultural context of the people. The main reason for this is that they are not familiar with it, or have not understood it. This works against the success of any entrepreneurship development programme.
Purely cognitive communication of knowledge is very unproductive for many adult learners. They are better off learning through action. The idea of learning by doing means taking the learner out of the artificial learning location of the classroom so that he/she acquires experience in everyday situations. Moreover, the success of business development programmes has been found to depend more on local commitment and enthusiasm than on the use of any particular technique. Educators should investigate locally relevant experiences and experiment with the introduction of appropriate techniques using local expertise.
The Nawoitorong Women’s Group in Lodwar, Turkana, Kenya, has applied the principles outlined above. Four women, with the help of a Swedish lady, started the Nawoitorong Women’s Group in Lodwar in 1984. The broad objective of the group was to improve the welfare of the community. To achieve this, group businesses were started to provide essential commodities to the residents of Lodwar town, especially the Norad expatriates who were implementing projects in the town and its environs. This was done without through training in issues pertaining to business success. As a result, the activities lacked the flexibility to take advantage of prevailing opportunities, and the women lacked the strategic planning skills necessary in business. Many of their group businesses therefore collapsed.
In 1989, training for members in leadership was started, covering both entrepreneurship and managerial skills. This course has since been expanded to include selected technical skills, based on the availability of local expertise and the need for such skills in the community. The group has its own facilitators, trained in psychosocial methods (problems emerging from the people and letting them come up with the solutions). The mode of training is by doing, and by the end of the training session, each trainee must have developed a business plan ready for implementation. This training has been quite successful in changing the attitudes and perceptions of the people and in giving them managerial and technical skills. Most of those who have gone through it are engaged in profitable business activities.
Nawoitorong Women’s Group has achieved a lot to date in comparison with other organisations in this area. In 1993, it became a non-governmental organisation with the mandate of supporting development activities in Turkana District that assist women and children to lead lives of higher quality. It now owns a conference centre, Turkana Women’s Conference Centre (TWCC), which was built by the women with their own hands using local materials, sundried anthill-soil bricks and alternative cement, that is, ash mixed with cow dung, was painted with natural ochre, and is managed entirely by women. All these skills were learnt during the training sessions offered by the women’s group. TWCC provides a comfortable and conducive environment for conferences and workshops. It is a real success story.
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