From: Tiwi, Kwale County
Interview date & place: 1 April 2016, Mombasa
Interviewed by: Joseph Kimani
Original language: Swahili
My name is Omari Rashid, from the Coast region. I live in Kwale County. I am a member of Tiwi network, savings scheme Wangaza Chai.
What have been Muungano’s biggest achievements over the years (coast region)?
We have learned a lot through Muungano: we have gained knowledge about starting and managing various projects – groups and networks within the movement have started rearing chickens, and others have a fishing project where they purchase nets to help them fish. Speaking for the men, we have learned much that has helped us earn a living.
Muungano has taught us how to mobilize people and organize them into groups. We were able to organize our youths into groups where they could pursue different projects that earned them some income. And we have reached out to some youths who were members of criminal gangs: they were able to transform, and join the existing groups, where they are now engaged in constructive activities. We also reached out to those who had got into drug and substance abuse: we took them to a health facility for rehabilitation and now they have transformed their lives completely.
Personally, Muungano has taught me a lot. At first, I didn’t have the courage to speak in gatherings, but now I can address groups of people, and encourage them to start projects which will benefit them. Muungano has equipped me with business skills that helped me to start a clothing business, where I sell deras, lesos, and shoes. Through this, I have earned money which I have used to educate my children. I am really grateful that I have managed to educate my children. Before, I never thought this would be possible. I am happy that Muungano has made this possible for me.
In 2012, when the government was devolved to the county level, we decided to form two Muungano county networks: Muungano Kilifi County, and Muungano Mombasa County. Through this, Muungano has been able to grow enormously. Muungano Kilifi County has made strides through forming two [sub]networks: Kilifi North, which incorporates Malindi, and Kilifi Central. Kwale County has also joined Mombasa County, to form four networks: Ndiani, Msambueni, Kinondo, and Lunga lunga. I think all these are major achievements.
The activities of Muungano communities in the Coast region
We can begin with ongoing activities started by the various projects we have had. We have learned about these projects through Muungano:
Currently, we are setting up a Tourism Board project with dhows. When it begins, we will be taking tourists along the seashore to see the beautiful scenes and sea creatures, such as the ‘starfish village’, where there are lots of starfish.
We have a cashew nuts project, where we roast cashew nuts for sale.
Another project we are undertaking involves weaving mats and baskets. This is mainly done by women and it has helped many as a source of income.
We are involved in organizing events: we have facilities that we hire out for events like weddings, and this has been a source of income for us.
We have a project making liquid soap, and the response from our customers has been quite positive, especially the herbal soap made from neem tree. This project has also given us a source of income.
Another project is tree planting: we have prepared nursery beds, where we plant various species of trees and sell them at a profit, leaving some to grow for domestic purposes, or to sell when they mature.
The turtle nesting project is another project: we domesticate turtles in small ponds, and we gain some income when tourists tour the ponds to see the turtles and their eggs.
We also keep domestic animals – cows, goats, and sheep. When we sell them, we can earn a few coins for ourselves.
We have run day care centres, where working mothers who don’t have house helps can bring their children. Some members of Muungano have taken up this noble task of caring for babies as a source of income.
We have taken part in constructing community schools within the area, which has also enabled us to acquire some money.
We have some future plans for reviving dormant [savings] groups that have faded out. We are hoping to revive them so that they can be peers with the other groups in Muungano. This is an ongoing process. We have already mobilized some groups in Kinangop, Lungalunga, and Tunza to form networks with people living in these areas.
There is also a plan underway for improving housing standards. Currently, we are planning to build better houses, with the help of Muungano. Once this is done, we will have achieved success in terms of making our lives better.
We also have plans for purchasing some land, because we are currently living as squatters. We will have a collective initiative with Muungano to help us raise enough money to pay the remaining loan and get the land.
What have been Muungano’s biggest challenges over the years (coast region)?
We have faced various challenges while we have been in Muungano. For example, once we stop visiting the other groups, they become dormant. Financial constraints are another issue we have had to deal with. And our region has dealt with many evictions: families are forced out of their settlements and their homes demolished, after they have been living there for years; others have lost their land to the rich, who have grabbed their lands, forcing them out.
Recently, we have been facing challenges in holding forums: we have not held national meetings or exchange visits with Muungano – only local visits to places like Kilifi. We lack the funds to facilitate our transport and this posed major challenges to us.
What are your hopes for Muungano’s next 20 years?
In the next twenty years, we want to see our movement having progressed. Right now, Muungano hasn’t reached all areas: in the next twenty years we hope to see Muungano reach all the coastal areas.
We would also like to have our own buses in the future, to facilitate our movement, and especially exchange visits.