Controversial Railway Splits Kenya’s Parks, Threatens Wildlife

National Geographic

Andrew Renneisen

As dawn breaks, nine Kenya Wildlife Service rangers dressed in camouflage and brandishing rifles assemble at an airstrip. They are equipped with a Cessna, a helicopter, and a caravan of Toyota Land Cruisers and other SUVs. Their mission: find, tranquilize, and collar Tsavo’s savanna elephants to see how well they traverse a new rail line that has recently split their habitat in two. It is the first time in history that elephants are being collared specifically to study how they interact with human infrastructure.

Read: National Geographic

Resurrection Science

WIRED

George Steinmetz/Corbis

Biologists Could Soon Resurrect Extinct Species. But Should They?

“Until we make space for other species on Earth, it won’t matter how many animals we resurrect,” writes M.R. O’Connor in her book Resurrection Science. “There won’t be many places left for them to exist.”

“Paradoxically, the more we intervene to save species, the less wild they often become.”

Read: WIRED

The Chinese Company Eradicating Malaria in Africa

The Atlantic

Han Haidan

In 2007, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said it was committed to eradicating malaria across the globe.

It was late to the game. That year, Chinese scientists working with a Chinese philanthropist had already begun eradicating malaria from the small African nation of Comoros. Now they’re setting their sights on a more ambitious location: Kenya, the East African nation of nearly 50 million people.

Read: The Atlantic

Listen: The China Africa Podcast

On the run from the armed cattle rustlers of rural Kenya

The Guardian

Photograph: Will Swanson

In Kenya’s Baringo County, police reservists are tasked with carrying out the work that Kenya’s real police and armed forces have been unable or unwilling to do: fighting off armed bandits who are terrorizing parts of central Kenya as they steal livestock and shoot anyone who gets in their way.

Read: The Guardian

Haiti farmers eager to receive compensation after ‘groundbreaking’ land deal

Reuters PLACE

Allison Shelley

A decade after an earthquake killed more than 200,000 people, farmers in Haiti are waiting to receive compensation for their land used to build an industrial park. Located in Haiti’s northern region, the $300 million Caracol Industrial Park opened in 2012 and now employs approximately 15,000 people, most of whom work in clothing factories there.

In 2018, farmers who had been evicted from their land in 2011 struck a rare deal with the IDB to provide Caracol’s 100 most vulnerable families with new, titled land.

Read the full story at the Thompson Reuters Foundation (PLACE). Reporting supported by The Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.

When Traditional Reporting Isn’t Enough (argument)

Overseas Press Club of America

“Solutions journalism” is built around understanding not just what’s failing, but also what is working–and why. Too often we report singularly on problems without taking the time to explain when viable solutions to them exist. Solutions journalism doesn’t argue against covering abuses of power, conflict or corruption. It merely asserts that unless we also shed light on potential solutions to those problems, we haven’t quite finished the job.

Read my piece on the importance of Solutions Journalism in international reporting in Dateline, the magazine of the Overseas Press Club of America. Learn more at SolutionsJournalism.org

Gay-Rights Activists Hoping for a Legal Victory in Kenya

The New Yorker

Simon Maina

Kenya’s penal code punishes acts “against the order of nature”—usually interpreted as sex between men—with up to fourteen years in prison. It also prescribes up to five years in prison for “gross indecency with another male person,” which is often interpreted as other, undefined sexual acts between men. Worldwide, at least seventy nations—more than a third of all countries—still outlaw homosexuality, and it remains illegal in more than thirty of the fifty-four African countries.

L.G.B.T. activists in Kenya are taking on these laws. Changing a society’s values would take generations, they reasoned, but striking down an unjust law could be accomplished in just a few years. Read: The New Yorker

An Ungoverned City

U.S. News & World Report

Allison Shelley

Can cities function without a government? In Canaan, Haiti, residents give it a try.

Nine years ago, Canaan 1 was little more than a nameless, hilly swath of land patchworked by boulders and cinder blocks marking where people hoped to one day see proper houses, a hospital, a school, a police station and a basketball court.

Today, the neighborhood is one of many rapidly expanding areas of Canaan, Haiti’s newest city – named for the biblical promised land – home to between 280,000 and 320,000 people.

“We wanted to show the state who we are – that we can put down more than just one or two dollars here,” says Evenson Louis.

Read: U.S. News & World Report

Reporting for this story was supported by the Pulitzer Center.

Uganda Attempts to Shut Down Controversial Silicon Valley-Funded Schools

Columbia Global Reports

School children in Malindi, Kenya, February 2018. Photo by Ian Ingalula, Creative Commons.

Bridge International Academies was conceived in 2007 to be the McDonald’s of global education, promising to better educate poor students using Nooks and standardized curriculums for as little as $6 to $7 a month. Using tablets and standardized curriculums in each country, Bridge operates more than 520 schools, teaching some 100,000 students in Uganda, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and India. It’s currently expanding in Asia with dreams of reaching an ambitious 10 million students across the world by 2025.

But Some African parents may be uneasy about the idea of a western-conceived company disrupting something they hold so dear: control over their children’s education. Bridge threatens to globalize—or perhaps, to westernize—the sector on which many Africans bank their families’ futures.

Read the full story at Columbia Global Reports.

Nudging in Nairobi

U.S. News & World Report

An emerging science is helping Kenyans make smarter decisions about bargaining, sanitation and more.

Last year at primary schools in western Kenya, social scientists were busy performing dirty skits in front of hundreds of children. The script went like this:

The facilitator pretends to go to the bathroom behind a tree, then wipes using a thin leaf or piece of paper. But the leaf or paper rips, and she reacts with surprise upon getting (imaginary) feces on her hand. But she doesn’t wash her hands. Instead she wipes them on her clothes, then goes to shake the hand of one of the students, or picks up a mandazi – a doughnut – and offers it to a student to eat.

The students recoil in disgust, and the facilitator’s work is done: She has just implanted a “disgust trigger” into the kids’ brains – a simple, but powerful psychological reminder that forgetting to wash your hands is gross. And it works.

Welcome to behavioral psychology, the emerging science that seeks to nudge people to make smarter decisions.

Read the full story at U.S. News & World Report.

In East Africa, empowering passengers to demand a safe ride

U.S. News & World Report

/JACOB KUSHNER

/JACOB KUSHNER

NAIROBI, Kenya — On a sunny afternoon in Nairobi, 37-year-old Francis Raymond Adika climbs into the front seat of a matatu, or public transit van, and slides next to the driver.

“I lost my brother in an accident,” says Adika. On August 15, 2001, a matatu was speeding down the wrong side of a two-lane road in Nairobi trying to pass traffic. When it swerved back into the correct lane it slammed headfirst into a truck. Adika discovered his brother’s body in the Nairobi morgue. He was 19, just days away from his high school graduation.

A Jesuit missionary who travels extensively across Africa, Adika says it isn’t just in Kenya where people lose their lives to reckless driving. “I lived in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia – the carnage was just the same.”

Each year, 1.24 million people die in road accidents worldwide. By 2030 that number is expected to triple to 3.6 million, making road deaths the fifth-largest cause of death in the developing world – worse than AIDS or even malaria, according to the World Health Organization. Africa is the hardest hit, with 26 road deaths for every 100,000 people – nearly 50 percent above the global average.

But a series of scientifically rigorous, randomized control studies by Georgetown University may have found a simple way to dramatically reduce deaths on East African roads. By placing stickers inside buses and matatus that encouraged passengers to tell their driver to slow down, researchers discovered that the number of insurance claims fell by half for long-distance vehicles and by one-third overall.

Read the full article at U.S. News & World Report.

Can Science Save Development Aid?

Pacific Standard

(Illustration: Chad Hagen)

Randomized controlled trials are the popular centerpiece of an emerging data-driven approach to figuring out precisely the best way to end poverty. Can a return to the scientific method fix the global aid industry?

For too long, “accountability” in the aid industry has meant nothing more than ensuring that a donor’s money was spent the way an agency said it would be. Rarely did organizations examine whether their spending achieved a positive impact (improved access to water, for example), much less one that stood the test of time (meaning the well didn’t dry up).

But recently, many aid organizations, including theInternational Rescue Committee, a New York humanitarian aid group specializing in refugee assistance, have used RCTs to, among other things, evaluate methods for nudging parents in Liberia toward more effective parenting techniques and tocreate highly effective community savings-and-loan programs to combat poverty in Burundi. It’s easy to see why charities are attracted to RCTs: They can make an aid agency’s work more efficient and generate solid evidence of progress to show funders.

As organizations continue to conduct more of them, RCTs are disproving many myths upon which we’ve designed development aid for years, not least of which is our longtime preference for projects over cash. If the data shows, as the RCT of GiveDirectly’s Kenya program did, that it’s most effective to hand a family $1,000 with no strings attached, then that’s precisely what we should do.

Read: July/August print edition of Pacific Standard Magazine 

From human waste to community space

Solutions&Co

Photo / JACOB KUSHNER

On an overcast morning in Nairobi, commuter buses drive down a crumbling road into Kibera, a densely packed slum. A sign at the bus station reads “public toilets,” but the doors are locked.

It’s estimated that Kibera has just one toilet for every 2,500 of its approximately 250,000 residents. Without toilets to relieve themselves, people “use any means, whether it’s a [plastic] bag or a can,” explained Fred Amuok, Community Liaison for a Kenyan rights-based organization called Umande Trust.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.5 million people die every year from diarrhea, often the result of poor sanitation. There’s also a financial cost: studies show that Kenya loses US$324 million each year in missed work hours due to sickness brought on by poor sanitation. According to the sanitation company Sanergy, four million tonnes of fecal sludge escape into Kenya’s waterways and fields every year.

But Umande Trust has come up with an innovative approach to providing affordable toilets for Kibera’s residents and turning human waste into cooking fuel–one that’s already been working for more than a decade.

Read the full story as it appeared on Impact Journalism Day 2016 at Solutions&Co by SparkNews.

The Relentless Rise of Two Caribbean Lakes Baffles Scientists

National Geographic

Jacob Kushner

In Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the lakes are flooding farmland, swallowing communities and leading to deforestation, baffling climate scientists.  

Story and photos by Jacob Kushner for National Geographic

Jacob Kushner