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April, 2018


Ten years after Cyclone Nargis, region deals with new shocks


On May 2, 2008, Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady Delta and swept across the region toward Yangon. By the time the storm had passed, it had killed over 140,000 people, tearing apart families, destroying homes, and shattering livelihoods. In the months and years following Nargis, communities, supported by the national and international aid community, worked to rebuild their lives and repair the devastation that the cyclone had caused. Homes were rebuilt, paddy field walls repaired, and new fishing boats purchased.

However, even as the process of recovery inched forward, villagers have had to contend with new and diverse shocks and changes that have both enabled and slowed their efforts to rebuild. Among others, climate change has led to unpredictable weather, hampering livelihoods, while the migration boom to Yangon and elsewhere has provided economic opportunity even as it has altered the local social fabric.

These more recent issues have had a complex inter-relationship with changes wrought by Nargis. As time has passed, they have become the primary concern of most villages studied by the social impacts monitoring (SIM) research. But the long-term effects of Nargis remain visible, combining with newer issues to create new challenges, exacerbate old problems, and, in some cases, even hasten the recovery process.

By focusing on a panel of 40 Nargis-affected villages across time, five rounds of SIM have been able to track how village life has changed both post-Nargis and, in more recent years, as villagers faced both new challenges and continued recovery from Nargis. This fifth round of SIM (SIM 5) provides a snapshot of village economic and social life in 2017 and analyzes change over more than nine years since Nargis. It assesses three main areas:

  1. Socioeconomic conditions: This focus area examines the conditions of livelihoods and the local socioeconomy in the context of Nargis’ destruction and the evolving context of the rural economy across Myanmar over the past five years. It looks at the three main livelihood groups (farmers, fishers, and landless laborers) and at key issues such as debt, land, and housing and local infrastructure.

  2. Social relations and leadership: This area assesses how communities have dealt with both the long-term social upheaval caused by Nargis and the more recent (but no less dramatic) changes that have accompanied Myanmar’s political and economic transition. It reviews local relations within and between different social and identity groups and examines village leadership and institutions.

  3. Recovery and resilience: New to this round of SIM, the final analytical focus area identifies what recovery and resilience mean for households and communities in the Ayeyarwady Delta, what factors are most important in the recovery process and in building resilience, and to what extent villagers have had and have the capacity to develop both.

SIM 5 placed particular emphasis on understanding change over time, both since 2013 (when the SIM 4 research was conducted) and prior to Cyclone Nargis. As much as possible, SIM 5 draws causal links between exogenous events (such as cyclones, other natural disasters, political change, and national economic development) and household and community actions.

Suman 900 los evacuados en 6 distritos tras temporal en Argentina

Este lunes la gobernadora de la provincia visitó en Morón la Escuela 5 Teniente Benjamín Matienzo, afectada por el temporal, y supervisó las tareas de asistencia a los damnificados.

Más de 900 personas continuaban evacuadas este lunes por la mañana en seis distritos de la provincia de Buenos Aires tras el temporal de lluvia y viento del fin de semana, mientras más de 1.000 agentes continúan trabajando en los operativos de asistencia en las localidades afectadas, informó hoy la gobernación.

En total son 15 los distritos afectados, pero los 973 evacuados se concentran en seis partidos: Luján (72), Pilar (112), Merlo (290), La Matanza (396), Quilmes (85) y Mercedes (18), precisaron fuentes de la Provincia.

En tanto, se informó que el Ministerio de Seguridad de la provincia de Buenos Aires mantiene tareas de asistencia en las localidades más afectadas y se realizan monitoreos permanentes y trabajo coordinado con los municipios para contener la situación y ayudar a los más necesitados.

Visit Athi River for cheaper land as CBD, Upper Hill remain costly

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Athi River has the cheapest land in Nairobi area while the Central Business District (CBD) and Upper Hill remain the priciest, according to the latest report by an investment company.

Last year’s combination of low lending as banks reduced the rate at which they were giving loans and the bad environment created by political uncertainty however resulted in reduced demand for land.

As a result, Cytonn said in their report, land in the Nairobi Metropolitan area appreciated at an average rate of 3.7 per cent, down from a six-year average of 17 per cent.

Still, land does not come cheap in Nairobi and the areas around it that serve as residentials for the millions who troop into the city every day to earn a living. For an acre of land in the CBD, you will have to part with Sh634 million and for Upper Hill, Sh510 million.


These two areas are the commercial zones of the capital and there is apparently an oversupply of office space, which has affected the rate at which the value in these areas has grown. 

Land in the commercial zones appreciated slowly, at 3.4 per cent, compared to the previous six years, when it appreciated at 20.4 per cent.

“The slow growth is attributed to the increase in supply of commercial developments with offices having an oversupply of 4.7 million square feet and therefore a decline in demand for land for commercial developments,” the report said. 

At Sh4.1 million an acre, Athi River has the cheapest land in the metropolitan area, with an acre of land in Thika, Juja and Ongata Rongai at Sh9.2 million, Sh9.6 million and Sh9.9 million respectively.


In the category of satellite towns outside the boundaries of the capital, land in Ruaka, Limuru Road, is the most expensive at Sh77 million per acre.  Ruaka is in Kiambu County. Its growth was boosted by the construction of the Northern Bypass and its proximity to the city has also played a part in making it a popular residential area.

Ruiru in Kiambu County is also high in the list of satellite towns, with land going for Sh19.7 million an acre. Limuru (Sh16.7 million), Ngong (Sh14.4 million), Ruai (Sh13.1 million) and Syokimau and Mlolongo (Sh12.1 million).  Majority of this land is unserviced – not connected to the sewerage or water distribution systems as well as electricity.

Land in these areas appreciated at the lowest rate, 2.7 per cent against the market average of 3.7 per cent.

“This implies that buyers are not willing to pay a premium for the services provided, rather opting for unserviced land, which is 36 per cent cheaper, and provide the services for themselves,” said the report released Monday.

In high rise residential areas, where zoning laws allow the construction of apartment blocks, land appreciated at 4.8 per cent over the past year. Kileleshwa is the highest rated in this category, with an acre  going for an average of Sh306 million.

The cheapest area in this category is Githurai, where the land goes for Sh46 million acre. Others are Dagoretti (Sh99 million), Kasarani (Sh64 million) and Embakasi (Sh70 million).

Ugali, chapati to taste and feel odd soon

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Your plate of ugali and rolls of chapati will change their colour and nutrition if the Agriculture ministry pushes a proposal that compels millers to blend flour with other nutritious crops.

Millers will be required to blend maize flour with millet, sorghum and cassava. Wheat  flour will also be blended with cassava.

Agriculture Principal Secretary (PS) for Crops and Policy Intervention Richard Lesiyampe said the ministry will push the draft policy to stop over-reliance on maize. 

Kenya produces an estimated  40 million 90kg bags of maize annually and consumes roughly 30 million bags for the same period. The policy aims at reducing the consumption of maize grains in the country by more than 20 million bags annually.

“If we cut the number of bags consumed, we will have enough even for export,” said Dr Lesiyampe.


In an interview with the Nation, the PS said the policy will benefit the country in four ways; reduce overdependence on maize, open up economies of other parts of the country that grow other cereals, create new jobs and provide food security and nutrition.

Data from the Kenya Agricultural Value Chain Enterprises puts the annual consumption of maize at about 3.1 million bags monthly.

Dr Lesiyampe gave the example of Nigeria,  which used to import 97 per cent of its wheat but after they started blending, they now import 50 per cent.

“ A growing population and change in climate has necessitated the change in strategy,” he said.

“As soon as we finalise the policy, we will ensure it is followed to the letter. No maize grains will be milled alone. This will greatly reduce maize consumption in our country,” said Dr Lesiyampe.


He said regions within the country that grow these alternative crops will be boosted economically and thus improve lifestyle.

Already according to the PS, they have held a meeting with the millers and are currently deliberating on setting the standards and requirements of blending.

He confirmed that the ministry and other relevant authorities have to set standards and quality that will meet international requirements.

Among the regions that will benefit under this policy are lower eastern that produces millet and cassava, Nyanza –sorghum and western Kenya that is known for cassava farming.

However, he said millers want to be assured of availability of these other crops throughout the year.

“We are encouraging millers to sub-contact some of the farmers to grow alternative crops. This will ensure that millers have supply throughout the year.”

Dr Lesiyampe said 26 per cent of the Kenyan population face malnutrition and starvation.

“Stunted growth and malnutrition have great consequences on children and the generation to come. We need to act fast,” he added.

The government’s decision is also informed by rise in lifestyle diseases, which have motivated Kenyans to start taking traditional food and balanced diet.

Use Labour Day fete to end workers’ woes

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Kenyans mark Labour Day on Tuesday against a background of worrying trends in the job market attributed to economic stagnation, political turbulence and restrictive legislation.

For most of last year, the country went through a tumultuous political environment that badly affected business and occasioned job cuts, wiping out economic gains. Economic performance declined with the growth rate slowing to 4.9 per cent, the lowest in several years.

All these have come to bear on wealth creation and job opportunities. Many organisations, among them banks and insurance companies, laid off workers to contain surging wage bills and there are no indications that things are likely to improve any time soon.


Quite troubling are the widespread cases of industrial unrest that have shaken the labour market in recent times. Last year, doctors and teachers went on strike for several months to press for improved pay. Lecturers of public universities are on strike, which has gone on for about two months and, with the look of things, is likely to last for far too long.

Persistent workers’ strikes are not good for the economy; neither are they for industrial relations.

At this point in time, there is an active debate about proposals to change the Labour Relations Act with some provisions seeking to take away workers’ right to go on strike — itself a violation of the Constitution, which protects the right to withdraw labour.


Already, this has put the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) and the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) on the warpath with Parliament and portends to poison the relations between workers and the government.

The celebrations should move beyond the routine shows and parades to provide a platform for reflections on labour issues with a view to resolving the endemic challenges. Focus should shift from the minimum wage, which has to be addressed anyway, to tackling socio-economic, legal and political issues in labour relations.

For a start, the government has to drop the proposed changes to the labour law and allow for consultation instead of opening a new front for aggression.

Consult widely for peace

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Political tension has dramatically eased since President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga shook hands recently.

The duo appears to be forging ahead with clear signs that something big could be in the offing. But there is also suspicion in some quarters. Part of the answer has come out with the unveiling of 14 prominent Kenyans to work out a concrete path to national healing and unity.


This is a solid team comprising respected elders and professionals who would be motivated by nothing but the pursuit of the best for the country. However, it does not explain how this group was arrived at.

Indeed, the acrimonious elections of last year left the country sharply divided. However, the push for national dialogue calls for more inclusive consultations.

Because of the apparent secrecy around the deal, there has been some grumbling in the two leaders’ camps. President Kenyatta has conceded that some people in his own corner are uneasy about the step he has taken, which has been linked to the 2022 succession politics.

Mr Odinga has had to contend with the imminent collapse of Nasa, the coalition that backed his presidential bid in the last elections, while Deputy President William Ruto’s lieutenants allege a plot against him.

The success of this initiative will depend on openness and wider consultations to ensure inclusiveness.

Take a skills inventory in 2019 census

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The next census is scheduled for August 2019. Censuses traditionally focus on population and housing, which helps in planning for a nation’s needs. However, it is prudent that we introduce some add-ons to help in collecting data that will not only lay the foundation for the country’s labour polices but also foster economic growth.

Labour is a key factor for economic growth and the contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP).

Post-Independence Kenya has been a headless chicken on matters labour. A country that boasts of being the regional powerhouse must take stock and plan appropriately for its labour by developing a skills inventory, whose benefits would be three-fold.

First, Kenya’s unemployment problem is mainly caused by a mismatch of what is being churned out by institutions of higher learning and market needs. A survey by jobs website Brighter Monday revealed that 53 per cent of the respondents were unemployed with 84 per cent (some employed) looking for work.

My interpretation of this is, due to the mismatch of labour availability and the labour need, an individual will hold a job that they don’t necessarily possess the skills to execute or even enjoy to just to earn a living. This has caused the biggest retention headache for businesses.

A United Nations development index report rated Kenya’s unemployment at a staggering 39.1 per cent, citing skills deficits in the market viz-a-viz the demand as the biggest contributor. The market being flooded by skills that are not needed is what has led to thousands of jobseekers applying for two-candidate slot positions.

A skills inventory would help to show the excesses and shortages for appropriate planning from the economic, political, social, technological and legal aspects of Kenya’s growth.

So aloof is our labour data that the minimum wage guidelines are very limited with 90 per cent of the positions listed being obsolete as manufacturing and agricultural trends have changed since the rules were designed. This has left gray areas with employers often miscategorising staff, hence leading to under-payment.

Secondly, pertinent to having the right skills in the market is ensuring that educational institutions equip students with the right skills for the right market. Given that Kenya has been walking blindly since Independence, it is no wonder that educational institutions designed courses that made business sense to them and not necessarily to fill labour gaps.

The ‘Universities, Employability and Inclusive Development Project (2013-2016)’, a study commissioned by the British Council, found that around 49 per cent of new graduates are not adequately prepared for the labour market. This is quite alarming as Kenya heavily relies on universities to feed the labour market.

Conversion of technical, vocational education and training (TVETs) institutions to universities was a grave mistake, which I’m glad has been realised and the education policy makers are working hard to salvage the situation.

TVETs are critical in the labour eco-system. We need the certificate and diploma technicians as much as the degree holder — just so that we don’t have to import riveters from China to work on the standard gauge railway.

Taking an inventory on the skills — those in excess or scarce and matching them with national growth and economic agendas — will inform educational institutions on what training they can offer to contribute to national growth.

For instance, all this hullabaloo about Kenya positioning itself as an oil and gas magnet in the region is a mirage. The NYS school of oil and gas is still in the proposal stage.

Thirdly, Kenyans are losing jobs to foreigners. History has proven that doubling the work permit fees alone won’t cut it.

On Friday, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i declared war on illegal foreign workers, giving them 60 days to register or be deported. Dr Matiang’i admitted that only 34,000 foreigners are on official records but the ministry suspects that the number could be more than 100,000.


This blind walk can be solved by an inventory of skills to determine whether we require expatriates or not and encourage the scarce skills to come to Kenya and transfer them to locals with oversight from the Ministry of Labour and Social Services (an area in which they have failed miserably).

Developed nations have a point factor rating system to analyse incoming labourers. Skills which are scarce rank highly with such a visa applicant more likely to get a work permit.

May the 2019 census help Kenya’s economic growth and not just inform the politicians where to go on vote-hunting forays.

Kenya should ratify Convention 189 and protect domestic workers

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Kenya voted for the Decent Work for Domestic Workers Convention No. 189 at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conference in Geneva in 2011.

However, a critical step towards guaranteeing decent work for its domestic workers remains unfulfilled: Ratification and domestication of the convention by the government.

Convention 189, as it is more widely known, aspires to guarantee decent work for domestic workers. It seeks to establish a comprehensive legal framework which acknowledges the right of domestic workers to decent living and working conditions. It is aimed at securing minimum protection of such workers’ rights — including information on terms and conditions of employment, hours of work, remuneration and occupational safety and health.

Convention 189 has been ratified by 25 countries with 30 more having adopted reforms to extend protection to the workers and several others concluding collective bargaining agreements covering them.

A likely question may be, why focus on domestic workers?


It is simple. A worker is a worker. Domestic workers are workers just like any other in formal and informal sectors of the economy and, as such, require protection. The domestic work sector makes considerable contribution to the economy and should not be ignored.

The dearth of data on domestic work notwithstanding, it is estimated that there are more than two million such workers in Kenya. In 2017, domestic workers in private sector wage employment were in excess of 120,000 — about 6 per cent of total private sector wage employment and 5 per cent of total wage employees in Kenya.

The sector’s wage employment last year was, therefore, higher than that of mining and quarrying; transport and storage; accommodation and food services; information and communication; and finance and insurance. It contributed more to the gross domestic product (GDP) than air transport.


Notably, more than half of domestic workers are women, signifying its potential in bridging the gender gap in employment.

Despite their significance, however, domestic workers are positioned in a sector with low implementation capacity, lack of interest in long-term sustainability of programmes and little coordination across government agencies and partners.

The work is also highly precarious. This is manifested in low and irregular pay, frequent in-kind payment, long working hours, casual employment and labour relations that are not established through formal work contracts.

Besides not being legally recognised as an occupation, it suffers discriminatory social and legal practices as well as other socio-cultural elements, which engender a low social value for it.

The benefits of ratifying Convention 189 include enhanced protection for Kenyan domestic workers globally.

Ratification, domestication and enforcement of the convention represent the first steps in a long path to redressing a history of exclusion of domestic workers from labour and social protection. Besides minimising desertions of workplaces and risks to employers by domestic workers, improved working conditions would enhance the morale and commitment of the workers and guarantee safe and stable employment relations.

Besides demonstrating Kenya’s recognition of the economic and social value of domestic work, it would accord Kenya a strong basis for negotiating favourable bilateral labour agreements with countries that source domestic workers from our country.

More importantly, it would help Kenya to achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs) on poverty, gender equality, decent work and inequality.

 Dr Omolo is a senior lecturer in the Department of Applied Economics at Kenyatta University. [email protected]

How top violinist nurtured, perfected high school talent

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For Kabugi Mwangi better known as Scott the violinist; playing the violin is what makes him lit.

He has nurtured this talent since his days in high school and has perfected it with time.  He is now one of the violin players in great demand in the country.

What started as a whim has seen him establish himself musically. The artiste commands attention when he holds the violin. Being one of the few proficient violinists in the country sometimes means more work than he can handle. 

“I get overwhelmed by the demand for my music,” he admits.

His road to success was not easy. Having lost his mother at a tender age, Scott and his elder brother DJ Protégé were raised by their father.

“The hardship of life was so real, but I appreciate that I went through this phase because it taught me that I don’t need to wait until I graduate to start making money. It was a matter of survival so I had to come up with a creative plan every day, eventually leading to the violin,” he said.

It was while at Upper Hill School that he learned how to play the instrument since the other students shunned it and he instantly became a master.

After high school, he continued to practice on his own but later got help from Pentamony band. With the help of DJ Protégé, he made his first public appearance at Tribe Hotel where he entertained guests on Valentine’s Day. He wowed the guests and his star has been rising since then. He has performed at big events like  — the Tusker All-Stars competition.


People are now turning to this style of music which he seems to have popularised: “I thank God for the good reception,” he says.

He attributes his talent to his family which he says has been a fortress in his career. His father was a DJ  and his brother, DJ Protégé encouraged him to join in the family’s heritage of music.

“My dad liked the idea and even bought me my first violin which is the one that I use to date. My family supports me and it is through them that I am able to do what I do,” he adds.

His style of music is mostly jazz and has done two songs of the late Michael Jackson — Billie Jean and Human Nature.

Scott said he will never give up the violin for as long as he lives.  “Passion never dies, so I shall be playing my violin for as long as I live.”

He has great future plans and also hopes that his work will win a Grammy award one day.

Row deepens over Wilson Sossion’s ‘ouster’

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Leadership wrangles within the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) intensified on Monday after the National Executive Council (NEC) said it voted to oust secretary-general Wilson Sossion who immediately dismissed the decision.

NEC declared deputy secretary-general Hesborne Otieno Mr Sossion’s replacement during a meeting held at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development. Mr Sossion insisted he was still the boss as “no vote has taken place after the meeting aborted”.

“We had a successful NEC meeting that was attended by 33 out of 41 members. Twenty-six members voted for the removal of Mr Sossion while two supported him and the rest abstained,” said Mr Otieno when reached for comment.


However, Mr Sossion said the meeting had aborted after the issue of his removal was introduced. “The meeting aborted since a new issue was being introduced and it had not been sanctioned by my office as required by the law,” he said.

After the NEC meeting, Mr Sossion went on to preside over another Knut meeting of the National Advisory Council (NAC), which approved his stay. “NEC has no power over NAC, which has 440 members, with four members drawn from each of the 110 branches,” he said.

He insisted that the 60th annual delegates conference (ADC), which was attended by 2,000 delegates in Mombasa, allowed him to continue serving as secretary-general and ODM nominated MP.

“The work of NEC is to implement the resolutions of ADC and ADC was very clear that I hold the two positions since I represent workers in Parliament,” said Mr Sossion.


Members of NEC and ADC who attended the meeting shared similar sentiments, but depending on which camp they are allied to.

The development sets stage for another confrontation at the Teachers Service Commission on Wednesday, where Mr Sossion has insisted he will lead the delegation to talk about teachers who have acquired higher academic qualifications.

Knut has close to 200,000 members and collects Sh1.6billion annually from the teachers as union dues.

Monday’s meeting was called by Mr Sossion in order to address the issue of delocalisation which he said had affected 82 Knut branch officials.

It was also to agree on what the union was to discuss with TSC among others performance appraisal and teacher professional development programme.

Mr Sossion was deregistered by TSC in January after he was nominated to Parliament.