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close this bookTraining Human Settlement Workers in Eastern & Southern Africa (AFSC - Mazingira Institute, 1981)
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Leadership training - National Christian Council of Kenya

The Urban Community Improvement Programme of the National Christian Council of Kenya (NCCK) is aimed at the "poorest of the poor", those who have little means of livelihood, (often illegal ones such as brewing or prostitution) and who cannot all qualify for other projects. "Mji wa Huruma" project was started to assist victims of a shantytown fire in 1968, though it took nine years to obtain a site and to service it. Assistance funds were directed towards construction rather than simply providing "welfare". To date 113 houses have been built using a revolving loan fund.

NCCK's programme emphasizes group work and community organization rather than social case work; local people are helped to organize themselves into cohesive groups for specific purposes geared mainly towards social and economic development; this maximises group efforts and promotes leadership. Such leaders are instrumental in stimulating social change; as insiders they can establish effective dialogue with others, they have inside knowledge of traditional ways of dealing with community problems, and can influence or change professional workers' thoughts about them. Also, local leaders can often perceive problems more realistically than the professionals.

The first leaders emerged in the days immediately following the fire. With the help of the NCCK community organizer, they helped the community articulate its needs to the relief organizations. By the end of 1975, key persons had emerged as leaders prepared to take responsibility for initiating change among the people and especially in the planning and implementation of the resettlement scheme. The most needy families had organized themselves into five cooperative groups of 146 people, to whom the loan money was channeled. Leadership in these groups now rotates annually, enhancing mutual trust, sharing of responsibility and acquisition of the skills of secretary, treasurer, etc. Groups decide on the office bearers, who builds first, who collects loan repayments, when and how much, and how conflicts are resolved. Training is through discussions and meetings with the community organizer, since most of the people are illiterate. Problems that emerged were: jealously of leaders who built their houses faster, distrust about handling of funds, repayment strikes and subletting of temporary shacks for profit. Despite its problems this project was a path-breaking one which had impact on the larger World Bank funded site and service projects in Kenya where similar building groups (with similar problems) were formed.

The Workshop participants discussed the implications of this type of training of local residents. Some leaders can become "co-opted" into the bureaucracy or see themselves as an elite, although there are always more potential leaders to replace them. It is also important that field workers who are employed by an organization are given proper organizational trust and support, or they may take out their frustrations on the community.

NCCK's economic development activities also include a toy factory, and workshops for manufacturing clothing, jewellery and leather goods. This provided a useful exchange with the Zambian experience presented in another Case Study. Future, more formal training is also planned through a Small Business Scheme which offers managerial assistance and simple bookkeeping courses.