Alexander Kiptanui, Project Manager

"I have always had a passion for working with marginalised communities; offering them a chance to view life differently and create a better future for themselves. My role as the Project Manager for the Skills for Life project was timely and came two years after working in Dadaab Refugee Camp, Garissa County."

"My role is dynamic as I am responsible for the overall implementation of the project; ensuring proper coordination of planned activities by staff and with partner agencies while fulfilling the project's objective of target beneficiaries accessing quality training sessions. Working in a fragile environment is an exciting challenge and when I step back and observe the impact the project is making, I feel fulfilled. A typical day begins with catching up with the project team and discussing emerging issues which if not addressed, could affect the project. We brainstorm on workable solutions to challenges we face while in the field and discuss the next steps in detail."

The project approach is all-inclusive, non-formal, unique, very practical and designed to respond to the needs of both the refugee and the host communities.

Unlike many of the other development agencies which focus on the refugee community with no or few interventions designed to cater to the needs of the host community, we target both groups and genders in a 50:50 ratio. Our outreach strategy and team enthusiasm to create opportunities have seen us implement the project in 7 wards in Turkana West Sub-County. Since community ownership is key, we work closely with local Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) who then implement the project within their areas of coverage. This arrangement ensures that local CBOs are capacitated and strengthened to absorb the activities once the project exists. Furthermore, our close collaboration with other development agencies has seen us improve our resource management as we have been able to drastically reduce beneficiary double targeting.

Navigating the relationship between the project, refugee and host communities whose needs continuously grow has been gratifying. I have seen several lives transform after gaining the relevant technical and social skills needed to engage in economic activities and earn an income through either their association with a business group or at an individual business level. In 2018, we were honoured to host the Swiss president, Mr. Alain Berset who visited the project and was pleased with the efforts made so far.

It would be fallacious to say that all our efforts have run smoothly as we have faced several challenges that have slowed down our activities. One of this is the political interference from the local community who occasionally come up with demands for the project to adhere to. Through regular consultations and transparency, they have gradually begun to build trust and confidence in the work we are doing. Another challenge we faced was addressing the findings of an external evaluation carried out for the second implementation phase that assessed how the project collected and reported data. We engaged the expertise of an external Monitoring and Results Measurement (MRM) consultant who made several recommendations like effecting a tracer study to ensure data of individual businesses was captured. The project is currently collecting data using KoBo; an application that can be easily installed on a smartphone and accessed both online and offline. The data collected is saved on a cloud system which makes it easily accessible and environmentally friendly as compared to traditional methods.   

We are thankful to our donor, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) for believing in Swisscontact and the work we are doing on the ground to tap into the economic potential of the inhabitants of Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyei integrated settlement. With the launch of phase 3 in September 2019, we intend to continue promoting the socio-economic integration of refugees and their host communities through enhanced self-employment, job creation and income generation. Before the end of our contract in August 2022, we aspire to refine our project model and seal all loopholes, sharing lessons learnt and recording best practices along the way so that we can support other development organisations implementing similar projects in fragile contexts.