The US Government plans to pump over Sh750 million into Kenya’s tourism recovery efforts.
The money coming through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will be spent on a new, three-year Local Works program which will provide up to USD7 million (Sh759.4 million) to support local communities in the Mara landscape and Northern and Coastal Kenya as they recover from the loss of tourism and livelihoods because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
USAID Acting Administrator John Barsa and US Ambassador Kyle McCarter announced the program during their recent visit to the Mara Naboisho Conservancy.
The two leaders revealed that Local Works is expected to engage local Kenyan leaders and community members to design solutions that will attract and increase private-sector investment, support the economic empowerment of local communities, especially for women and youth, as well as enhance the capacity of community conservancies to gain access to funding necessary for them to thrive and establish stable livelihoods.
“The program highlights the US Government's priority to support partnerships that are Kenyan-owned, Kenyan-led, and Kenyan-managed at the local level,” said the Agency in a statement.
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According to USAID, working with locally led conservancies will provide a pathway to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable communities in Kenya.
“The leadership and members of the conservancies will drive the program, which will pursue what they identify as their highest priorities,” it said.
As a result, USAID noted that the Local Works program targets vast geographic areas that are home to some of the most vulnerable communities in Kenya.
“The target areas have a history of the highest levels of economic insecurity and conflict, poverty rates over and above the national average, chronic food-insecurity, and inadequate access to quality health care. These areas have disproportionately high unemployed youth populations and significant gender disparities,” it added.
The target beneficiaries are also noted to be grappling with various environmental threats, including high levels of wildlife poaching, invasions of desert locusts, and landscapes exposed to severe degradation because of unplanned grazing.
“Communities and landowners in these landscapes depend heavily on nature-based tourism, conservation and other conservation-compatible uses of land for their livelihoods and socio-economic well-being,” said USAID.
The new investment comes as the US Government has already provided some USD50 million (Sh5.4 billion) in COVID-19 related assistance to Kenya.
“To conclude the trip, Acting Administrator Barsa and Ambassador McCarter announced the donation of 200 U.S.-manufactured ventilators for use in Kenyan health facilities that are treating patients with COVID-19,” said the US agency.