Youth in arid areas acquire skills in fight against cattle rustling

Some of the 1, 102 youths who benefited from the Ujuzi Manyattani, a program by Northern Rangelands Trust Trading (NRTT). [Phares Mutembei, Standard]

Simon Leteipa did not find anything wrong with cattle rustling, which seemed an easy way of making ends meet.

After all, the majority of his peers were hooked to the practice which they considered an income-generating activity.

But at one point, Leteipa, who escaped death by a whisker when he accompanied his peers on a cattle-rustling mission, thought it wise to quit the vice.

The 24-year-old mechanic based at Ngaremara near Isiolo town opted to look for something that would guarantee him economic gain.

He enrolled in some technical skills training programme and established a motorcycle repair business which has become a reliable source of income.

“I was involved in cattle rustling and other illegal activities because it is the only work we knew. But I am happy I am out of it now,” said Leteipa.

He was speaking during a graduation ceremony for 140 youth who underwent training in various technical courses under ‘Ujuzi Manyattani’, an initiative that uses a vocational training delivery model in which polytechnics place trainers in remote areas to work with the youth.

Letepipa says that on a good day, he can repair four motorcycles and earn enough to support himself and his family.

“Now the people call me ‘engineer’ Simon because I do the repairs with the precision of a qualified engineer,” he said.

Ali Mohamed from a village neighbouring Leparua Conservancy said that previously he spent time blogging for local politicians and relied on handouts from them.

Together with his peers, they spent time hurling insults on social media in favour of their preferred politicians and sometimes engaged in staging demonstrations.

In October last year, he got an opportunity to be trained in repairing mobile phones and he grabbed the opportunity. Now he runs a busy mobile repair and retail shop in Isiolo town.

“This is quick, clean income. By December, I had already started my business and I have employed two youth. Right now I have a repair machine and some critical mobile phone parts that are rarely found in Isiolo. Previously, we traveled to Meru or Nairobi to buy the spare parts but I have them stocked in my shop today,” Mohamed said.

Amina Kassim, another beneficiary, was trained in catering and now can cook various food items for sale.

“I am very happy because previously I was just staying at home and taking care of my baby. Now I can do that and earn something out of it,” Ms Kassim said.

The initiative by Northern Rangelands Trust Trading (NRTT) was implemented in partnership with local polytechnics who formed mobile units to take the skills training to manyattas around various conservancies in the region.

Vishal Shah, the CEO at Mashinani Works, said at least 1,102 young people gained various vocational skills and received entrepreneurship training.

“There was a 99 per cent completion rate. In our assessment, the youths can earn an average of Sh8,840 in monthly income, generating over Sh97 million in potential cash flow into the local economy annually,” Mr Shah said.

State Department for TVET Principal Secretary Esther Muoria said the programme has economically empowered those in arid and semi-arid areas and has the added advantage of promoting security.

Dr Muoria noted that with the Interior ministry now fighting bandits and cattle rustling, the youth had to take advantage of the training opportunities to improve their lives.

She said the beneficiaries had received certificates from the National Industrial Authority.

“Beyond just acquiring technical skills, this programme is about fostering creativity, critical thinking and resilience,” she said.

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