A Discussion with Bwibo Adieri and Peter Nyorsok, Anglican Development Services
November 11, 2014
Background: The Anglican Church has a long and rich history in Kenya with nearly two million members and extensive systems of health, water conservation, food security, economic empowerment, and education services. A rebranded development wing of the church, Anglican Development Services (ADS), implements programming through nine regional offices in a wide variety of sectors: advocacy, climate change, peacebuilding, health, education, and governance strengthening. ADS Kenya director Bwibo Adieri and program coordinator Peter Nyorsok spoke with Elisabeth Stoddard in Nairobi on November 11, 2014 on how the Anglican Church views and implements development programs in Kenya. They highlight the benefits of collaborating with churches on development projects and elaborate on how the ADS national office is deeply involved in national advocacy on the issues of corruption, peaceful elections, and constitutional reform. They touch on the often untapped potential that faith-inspired development organizations offer to sustainable development in Kenya.
How did the Anglican Church come to be involved in development in Kenya?
Bwibo: The Anglican Church is one of the oldest churches in this country. Since even before independence, we have been involved in a variety of issues in Kenya. The health and education sectors are heavily tied to the church because before independence the church was the main provider of these services. Over the years, it became quite clear that the church needed an official development wing that could coordinate and initiate development programs. That evolved to be what we called the department of development in the Anglican Church. Later on, it transitioned to be the department of social services. Now, in the last year, we rebranded to call ourselves Anglican Development Services. Our mandate is centered on doing development through social transformation. We believe in addition to providing services that fulfill the basic physical needs of a population that you need to be aware of their spiritual needs. It is important to have a holistic approach to development. By providing meals, you are giving their bodies sustenance, but, by supporting their physical needs, you are also able to help empower them to determine their own destiny. As a church, we strive to provide the services that can enable people to take control of their own lives. Peter can describe the history of our church in relation to development programming.
Peter: When missionaries came in the nineteenth century, they came to evangelize. However, in the process of trying to spread Christianity, they could not avoid addressing the physical needs of the people. The greatest needs at that time were access to health and education services. The Anglican Church is one of the pioneer churches that started engaging in education right from the beginning. As the Kenyan government came into place, they did not have the resources or personnel to reach the most remote areas of the country. The church, however, had been working in these areas for many years and had established strong networks through which they could deliver basic services. Because of this, the church took on the role of supplementing the lack of government by setting up schools, doing construction on roads, and hospitals. The church has continued these services until now.
Even today, there are areas of Kenya that the government has not effectively reached with basic services. Consequently, the church, whether it’s Anglican or Catholic, works to address the social needs of the people in the most difficult areas. The Anglican and Catholic churches have the largest member populations of all the Christian denominations. They also have the longest history and largest structural footprint in Kenya.
During the beginning stages of our development work, the missionaries bore the brunt of the service delivery. In addition to their training as clergy, they sought out training in medical practice, agriculture, and education. This model was maintained for many years. However, by 1984 the church realized that the physical and spiritual needs were so great in Kenya that they needed to found a separate and independent development institution. It would have connections to the church, particularly in the local implementation of projects, but would employ professionals rather than clergy to run the development services. If it’s a school, the church would employ teachers. If it’s health institutions, employ doctors and clinical officers. To make the development wing more effective the Anglican Church registered with the government separate non-governmental organizations called Christian Community Services, which in 2013 rebranded to Anglican Development Services. As Bwibo said, there are nine regional offices of Anglican Development Services in Kenya today.
The regional offices are grassroots NGOs that are registered and recognized by the government. They receive funds from many partners: faith-based, congregants, and secular development organizations. As they engage the community and implement their projects, they are semi-autonomous. They source funding independently and, therefore, have different area foci in each region depending on the interests of their partners. Some of them are running hospitals. Some of them are engaging in environmental conservation. Some are engaging in water and sanitation, food security, economic empowerment, or HIV/AIDS. Others are engaging in lobbying and advocacy at those levels.
We work here at the national office which is called ADS Kenya. Our role is to give assistance to national and international level organizations who want to begin partnerships with the specific regional offices. We facilitate this interaction to ensure that there is proper coordination and sharing of information between all the regional and national actors. We try to help them learn from one another and improve on their systems and structures.
In addition, this office plays a very key role on policy matters. We are the technical research and policy arm which supports Archbishop The Most Rev. Dr. Wabukala in his role as the primate of the Anglican Church of Kenya and the appointed chair of the government’s National Anti-Corruption Campaign Steering Committee. Because the Anglican Church is the second largest in Kenya with over 10 percent of the population, we feel it is necessary to have a vehicle by which the views of our congregants can be represented to the government. Archbishop Wabukala plays this role and, therefore, engages on several policy and governance issues on behalf of the Anglican population. He is particularly engaged in combating corruption at the national level by demanding proper accountability by the executive and legislature.
We support him in his advocacy role by providing him with in-depth research on salient national issues as well as advising him on potential policy recommendations. Periodically we convene the 34 bishops from all our dioceses in order to discuss particular national issues of the time. They then issue a press statement which announces the consensus that they reached in their discussions. We also convene policy reference groups made up of experts working in specific areas to meet with the Archbishop and discuss national issues. Our most recent group meeting discussed the issues of security, both on the coast, and throughout the country. These are topics that require extensive research so that we can put forward evidenced-based advocacy.
As a church, we strive to be non-partisan in a country that is heavily divided. In Kenya, we have two very strong factions: the ruling coalition, JUBILEE, and the opposition, Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD). They often have differing opinions which can escalate to become larger disputes. The church is attempting to bring together Kenyans from across the political divide to show how to coexist and live together.
In Kenya, the church is synonymous with advocacy. For any changes that have taken place since independence, the churches have spearheaded the issues. It was the churches that promoted the drafting of a new constitution. As the Anglican Church, we wish to continue this tradition in order to give balance to our divided country.
What kind of advocacy issues does the Anglican Church focus on?
B: One advocacy area where we are actively engaged is natural resource rights and local population protection. Kenya has a wealth of natural resources such as limestone, gemstones, fluorspar, zinc, soapstone, diatomite, and gypsum. Recently, high quality oil was also discovered in Kenya. We can see from looking at the rest of Africa that where there are minerals, conflicts arise. We see extraction as a great potential for Kenya’s economy, but also recognize that this can exacerbate the existing tribal and land disputes. For instance, oil was discovered in the very arid and poor region of Turkana. There is already a conflict between the oil company and local communities. These people have been living there for generations and want opportunities to benefit from the oil production process. However, there is no legislation that provides for the rights of local populations. Another example is the coal found in eastern Kenya. The communities are supposed to relocate so the mining can begin, but there is no structured process for compensating these people. Their lives are being disrupted. They deserve proper compensation.
The Anglican Church believes that it is important to help protect the rights of our community and Kenyans in general. At the national level, we want to make sure that we are engaged in the creation, implementation, and monitoring of sound mining policy frameworks. At the local level, we also want to train advocates in the communities where the minerals have been discovered so that they can help facilitate the sharing of profits and benefits. We also want to prevent conflict before it happens by mapping where minerals have been discovered in Kenya. Normally, when a mapping is done, only a few people in the government circles are privy to the results. They quickly move to snatch up all the land without the knowledge of the people. If the church is able to identify where new resources are found, it is very easy for the church to begin a public dialogue. We can also train the community so they can effectively protect their rights and benefit from the discovery. Then they have the time to be educated on the issues and prepare. These measures prevent powerful actors from grabbing the land from the population through suspicious contracts. Natural resource management and mining are crucial to Kenya’s future as an emerging economy. We need to help make sure the local Kenyans do not get cut out of the process.
Was the Anglican Church involved in the 2010 constitutional reform process?
B: We were very involved in the process and the church did oppose certain pieces of the constitution. Because Kenya had been drafting the new constitution for almost 20 years, the people were already fatigued and wanted to push the process to conclusion. Everyone had put so much money and time that people just wanted it passed as is without more changes. But, the clergy came out firmly to oppose its passing without considering the issues of right to life, qadis courts, and fair and equal treatment of all religions in Kenya. If these issues were not addressed, they would come to harm the country. The Anglican Church joined with nine other major Christian churches in Kenya to draft and present several memorandums to the government that proposed changes to the constitution in these key areas. Since many of them were passed, it is important that we watch over their implementation. If the new legislation is not honored on the correct timelines, we will have to continue to hold the government accountable. We are also continuing to advocate for the memorandums that were not accepted.
In your experience, what are the challenges that the new policy of devolution has posed for local communities?
B: The most sweeping change in governance that came out of the new constitution was the policy of devolution. Unfortunately, the government had not prepared the local structures and systems to take on the responsibilities that a devolved government mandates. The counties demanded that some of the functions should be gradually transferred. But, what happened? Some parties pushed for the full responsibilities immediately and everything was given to the county levels without a proper local system in place. To better inform the implementation, the government should have brought in people from countries where devolution has worked to help us transition. Experts from devolved countries such as Australia, America, Germany, Britain, or even South Africa, could have been invited to come and prepare us for the change. But what is happening in Kenya is that everyone is too eager to take advantage of the devolved system to acquire power. We ended up seeing county assembly members taking over the transition process even though they had no expertise in governance systems. They should have hired professionals to come and organize a workshop to teach the community how to run an effective county government.
Because of these dynamics, Anglican Development Services has begun focusing on capacity building on governance issues for local communities in Kenya. We are training local representatives in the budgeting process so that they can hold the county governments accountable by monitoring their finances. Right now, the constitution requires that there must be public participation in everything at the county government level, more specifically, in the budget preparation and audit. One method we are trying is training the clergy in these auditing techniques. We hope to empower them to be more active in governance discussions and processes. The clergy have great potential to help quell corruption because of their authority on moral values, but often they are not incorporated into governance systems. Communities frequently organize meetings with a collection of experts to discuss local issues but the clergy are only invited to do opening and closing prayers. They are not invited to actively participate.
These are skills that we need to empower the clergy so that when we go there they are not just told, can you pray for us? Instead of simply playing a religious role, they can engage by using their social auditing skills. We teach them to utilize a checklist which lists how much money is going to education, health, or water. If the clergy are trained with this checklist, they can start helping the community to scrutinize the budgets and empower the community themselves to monitor the county financials.
The other role that we are encouraging clergy to take is at the national level. The constitution outlines an elaborate process of public participation that is supposed to lead into the next year’s final budget. Starting from a very local level, local government officials are supposed to collect ideas from their communities and hold a county assembly to hear what programs and sectors the public would like to be included in the national budget. Because of lack of awareness, sometimes these local processes are bypassed in many regions. If we can empower the clergy at the grassroots level to organize the people and ensure that these local forums take place, the public can actually contribute to legislation at the national level. These are some of the big plans we have to strengthen local governance.
How does ADS help combat corruption at the local and national levels?
B: Firstly, the ACK Archbishop was recently appointed to head the national anti-corruption committee so he holds quite a bit of weight in the national advocacy circles. At the local level, we are continuing to empower and train clergy and community members in auditing practices. For example, if the government wants to build a school. There has been corruption where contractors are hired, and they do substandard work with flimsy materials and building short-cuts. We empower communities to monitor the construction and demand accountability. They have to know the budget, know the standards, and demand transparency in all stages of the process.
We also are being proactive in teaching communities on how to vet local and national election candidates. We have created a vetting scorecard that equips the citizens to demand transparency and integrity from the political aspirants. It puts up thresholds to being a qualified candidate like no past or present involvement in corruption, never declared bankruptcy, demonstrated leadership abilities, and related work experience. Forums and meetings are held where community members are encouraged to rate the candidates based on the scorecard. This gives greater transparency to elections processes and encourages community involvement in ensuring their leaders are people with integrity.
What development areas are ADS focusing on in Kenya?
P: For us, we know that the Millennium Development Goals are coming to an end and most of them will not be achieved. But the struggle continues, the journey needs to continue towards 2030. In light of this, we want to focus on several specific areas: within health we are focusing on maternal and child health, infant mortality, and HIV with specific focus on prevention. We want to focus on areas of peace and justice, food security, climate change, emergency and humanitarian response, and microfinance. And when we talk of microfinance, we’re simply trying to empower the people. Microfinance, we want to stress, is not the formal way people go to the bank and borrow. There are models that people have already developed in which they can actually start generating their own resources and out of those resources, they’ll be able to build sufficient capital to circulate among themselves.
What types of projects are ADS doing around the issue of climate change?
P: We are encouraging Farming God’s Way in the arid regions which are most affected by climate change. It is a way of farming that tries to avoid using technologies such as chemicals and machines. The purpose is to be as natural as possible. Also, instead of tilling the land, you just plant. Farmers also make sure that the land has sufficient cover so that there is limited evaporation. The goal is to disrupt the soil as little as possible. This helps preserve the moisture in the soil. It is working very well for small holder farmers! They invest less time, get higher yields, and conserve the most water possible.
How does ADS use the structure of the church to help implement development programming?
B: The Anglican Church alone has 33 dioceses which form a very strong nationwide network. We want to capitalize on the structure of the church to help reach a wider constituency. For instance, in the Anglican Church the most local level is the parish. The first contact person within every community can be found through the parish. Most villages have several parishes that are in some kind of communication or partnership. Larger than that, there are Archdeaconries that oversee around 10 parishes. Within each of the 33 dioceses, there are usually at least three archdeaconries. And then, all the dioceses are coordinated through the provincial office. This structure is invaluable for service delivery and implementing development programming. You’ll find that most of the churches are already very involved in development. They have a nursery school, a health facility, subcommittees on a variety of community issues, and they often sponsor a primary and secondary school. By utilizing the structures and networks already in place through the church, advocacy, project implementation, and mobilization of the community becomes very easy.
The church structure is also instrumental to us in the national office. In the event of an emergency or a crisis, community members can go to their local clergy member to ask for assistance. That message then gets quickly carried up through the church structure and we hear about it here at the national office. This system of communication allows us to respond quickly and efficiently to the needs of the population. As a church, it is our responsibility; whenever there are emergencies in this country, be it as flood, drought, man-made disasters, we must respond.
A challenge comes from big development actors like the World Bank, which have a very clear strategy which imposes a plan on the church. Yet, the church already has extensive structures and networks. The outside actor should engage more fully with churches during the planning phases. We may have some weaknesses, but with capacity building we can overcome many development issues ourselves. One fear that many secular development actors have is that churches will only cater to their own congregations. However, our approach is community driven; we are engaging government on accountability and public service delivery. We are also targeting the community as a whole for inclusivity not just Christians.
Development actors could benefit greatly from the church structures. In terms of delivery costs for programs, the church already has networks in place that would minimize delivery expenses. Also, if you want development to be embedded in the community, you are better off using the church. The clergy are community leaders who, as a part of their pastoral work, try to help their communities with any problem that arises. He does not do this for money. The clergy are pivotal actors in many Kenyan communities. Development programming can be more sustainable and embedded with their assistance. This is not just true for the Anglicans. Any mainstream church in Kenya has extensive structures and expansive networks of members which can help implement programs.
Does ADS also work with churches that are not Anglican?
B: Yes, that is important. As a church we believe in ecumenical movements and partnerships because we believe that when it comes to advocacy, you are strong when you are many. In all of our programs, we engage all denominations of clergy. Often we approach the Anglican community first because it is our entry point, but they are able to help connect us to the other church communities in their areas. Yes, we go beyond just our denomination.
Does ADS ever partner with Muslim actors?
B: Yes, because one of our principles is to not disrupt the structures that are already in place. You only complement the work you find in the community. That is very key. We do a lot of emergency response in Muslim communities in Northern Kenya because they are often affected by droughts, floods, displacement, and sometimes violence. We are also a strong member of the Kenya ACT Alliance.
P: The Anglican Church of Kenya is a member of ACT alliance through this office. We are also a strong member of a Kenyan Forum of the ACT Alliance. The ACT Alliance Forum comes together mainly when there’s an emergency in the country and puts together a concept to support. So this office through that is able to reach the respective region. If there’s famine in the north, we’re able to use our structure to do a baseline, know the extent of the disaster. Then we engage with the other stakeholders. And that way, we participate actively in the response.
What kinds of peacebuilding programs does ADS engage in?
P: After the 2008 general elections, there was an outbreak of ethnic conflict and war. The church came out very strongly in the events that followed. They engaged a lot in preaching for coexistence and living in harmony. Church leaders started doing TV programs, billboards, and public messages that preached peace. This continued till the 2013 elections. In preparation, we had elaborate peacebuilding programming around the hot spot areas that are always very sensitive around election times. We start by engaging the stakeholders in those areas to encourage cooperation and dialogue. Our efforts were focused on the elders and the youth because they are usually the main players in conflict. The youth instigate the violence, but the elders create the hostile environment through rumors and inflammatory messages.
We wanted to focus on empowering the local clergy so that they could consider giving sermons that are sensitive to the realities of their congregation. The clergy often know of all the tensions and disputes within their community. If they use their position to preach about peace and coexistence, conflict can be avoided. Some of the ones we trained were so passionate about this work that they would organize weekly forums where they invited people to come, dialogue with one another, and hear about biblical messages of peace.
What do you believe is the main challenge of doing faith-based development in Kenya?
P: Working in this office, I think it becomes clear for us that there is a very strong connection between religion, the church, and development. It has existed for over a century and has performed a crucial role in addressing the needs of the people. Development basically is just that, addressing the needs of the people. The challenge we face now is better coordinating our efforts. Sometimes a collection of things are done in a very disjointed way: bits and pieces here at this office and sometimes many funding partners want to work directly at the regional level. It becomes a bit of a challenge to effectively support and coordinate all these pieces so that we have visibility at the broader level. Faith-based development actors have a large potential to affect sustainable change in Kenya. International actors need to work with us to utilize and strengthen our structures and systems. If this is done, a lot will be achieved.