Award-winning freelance journalist Jacob Kushner talks about his work in Caribbean, East and Central Africa

Kushner said he turns away from the idea of the ‘courageous’ journalist who flocks to the scene of the danger or major breaking news.

“When you’re one of 50 journalists standing outside a mall in Nairobi and you’re all sitting there not knowing what’s going on, pretending to be authoritative, I think the courageous thing is to get out of there, go home to your computer and research Al-Shabaab,” Kushner said. “Find a less sexy but honestly more important way to report the story.”

Read the full Badger Herald article.

The World Bank’s broken promise to ‘do no harm’

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Seven years ago, the World Bank set out to help preserve Kenya’s Embobut Forest for future generations. As part of the Natural Resource Management Project, it spent millions to mitigate erosion, prevent landslides and improve the administration of water resources.

The bank acknowledged that some of the area’s residents would have to be relocated, only to declare a few years later that relocation would be too complicated and unnecessary. By then, Kenya’s government was already using the project as a justification to rid the forest of its indigenous population, the Sengwer. Thousands have found themselves dispossessed, their houses set ablaze by Kenyan forest officers. The bank’s intentions may have been noble, but as a result of the project, the Sengwer have been forced out of their ancestral lands.

Read the full piece at the L.A. Times. 

BURNED OUT: World Bank Projects Leave Trail Of Misery Around The Globe

Selly Rotich stands in what used to be her kitchen. Hours earlier KFS officers destroyed the mud and thatch dwelling, Rotich said. Tony Karumba/GroundTruth

By Jacob Kushner, Anthony Langat, Sasha Chavkin and Michael Hudson

Gladys Chepkemoi was weeding potatoes in her garden the day the men came to burn down her house.

After her mother-in-law told her that rangers from the Kenya Forest Service were on their way, Chepkemoi strapped her 1-year-old son on her back and hurried to her thatched-roofed home. She grabbed two tins of corn, blankets, plates and cooking pans, and hid in a thicket.

She watched, she said, as the green-uniformed rangers set her house ablaze.

After they were gone, she came out of the thicket to see what was left.

“What used to be my home was now ashes,” she said.

The young mother is one of thousands of Kenyans who have been forced out of their homes since the launch of a World Bank-financed forest conservation program in western Kenya’s Cherangani Hills. Human rights advocates claim government authorities have used the project as a vehicle for pushing indigenous peoples out of their ancestral forests.

They are not alone.

In developing countries around the globe, forest dwellers, poor villagers and other vulnerable populations claim the World Bank — the planet’s oldest and most powerful development lender — has left a trail of misery.

Read the full story of the World Bank’s role in the displacement of the Sengwer at the Huffington Post or at GroundTruth. Jacob Kushner and Anthony Langat reported this story for GroundTruth. It is part of a larger project by the ICIJ that found the World Bank has displaced an estimated 3.5 million people across the globe in the name of “development.” 

Paradise Is Overbooked

Clement Sabourin/AFP/Getty Images

In 2013, the Haitian government began seizing land on a picturesque island to construct a $260 million tourism hot spot. Two years later, the country’s opaque land laws have all but sunk the project.

ILE-À-VACHE, Haiti — Last October, an elderly couple watched a tractor plow over a grove of fruit trees and vegetables on the small Haitian island of Île-à-Vache. For decades, Mescary Mesura, 81, and his wife, Fanfan Clery Romany, 80, had harvested the grove, a 10-minute walk from their home, and sold the produce as their primary source of income. But that day, the island’s mayor, local police, and the tractor operator approached the octogenarians, informing them that the state required the land. “The police told us to stand there with our hands up,” Mesura said. “We … watched them finish off our garden.”

The grove is among the casualties of a $260 million development project planned by Haiti’s central government. It is designed to turn Île-à-Vache into the Caribbean’s next tourism hot spot. With an annual per capita GDP of less than $900, Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world. Five years after a devastating earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and caused some $8 billion in damage, Haiti’s leaders are banking on tourism to help buoy recovery and drag the nation out of poverty. The Île-à-Vache project is ground zero for these hopes. Wooing investors with tax breaks and the promise of internationally funded infrastructure upgrades, the government has developed a plan that includes a new airport, a series of hotels, and an 18-hole golf course.

But just two years after it began, the project has stalled. As of March, not one of the 2,500 hotel rooms anticipated by Haiti’s government has appeared. The stoppage is not for lack of commitment from Port-au-Prince: Haiti’s annual investment in travel and tourism is estimated to have jumped from 4.3 percent of the national budget in 2013 to 6 percent last year, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. Rather, the Île-à-Vache project has been stymied by conflict between the government and local residents over ownership of the island’s land.

Read the full story at Foreign Policy. Reporting for this piece was made possible by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Investigative Technique: Engaging Your Target

Often, journalists conducting long-term investigative projects don’t contact the entity they’re investigating until the very end, when there’s less time for the subject to interfere with the reporting process. But a recent experience in which I did just the opposite showed me the enormous benefits that can come with engaging the target of your investigation and being transparent about the story you intend to write from the very start.

Read my article for the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism Covering Business blog.

Apps, Laptops and Cupcakes in the Developing World

Nairobi, aerial view. ©DEMOSH

Social entrepreneurship—the creation of for-profit businesses that aim to improve social conditions in the places where they operate—is big in Africa, and in the developing world at large. But not every entrepreneur who arrives on the scene from Silicon Valley to take advantage of a shortage of business knowledge and high-tech know-how deserves a hero’s welcome. The following are some strategies I’ve developed while covering Nairobi’s social enterprise, tech and overall start-up scene during the past year for the forward-looking, Silicon Valley based news site, OZY.

Read the article at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism Covering Business blog. 

Here and There’s David Marash interviews Jacob Kushner on Haiti

Today on Here and There we talk with reporter Jacob Kushner, who has spent recent months and years in Haiti, where the President now rules by decree…the Parliament has passed its re-elect-by date and gone home, where hundreds of thousands are still homeless, and disputes over who owns land threaten to paralyze economic development.

Listen to the full interview. 

Reporting was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center.