How bottom-up model can uplift needy Kenyans

Santiago Wesonga sells traditional herbal medicine drink to the Boda boda riders of Kakamega town on July 25, 2023. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

The most powerful element of the bottom-up development model is in the distributive economics. Put simply, you can give Sh500 million to one businessman to expand his business.

You can also identify 500 smart, hungry entrepreneurs and give them Sh1 million each. Working well, these entrepreneurs can quickly multiply the Sh500 million to Sh1 billion, and applying the power of compounding, you can transform an entire economy.

This is how it works; focus on the small scale Jua Kali people, empower them with knowledge and market. Look for a market for the furniture and ironware they produce. Who wouldn't want to have unique furniture somewhere in Washington, London produced in Africa?

It would break the monotony of what is produced there carrying the tag "imported". Empower Jua Kali people this way.

Get a market for their products. Revive village polytechnics and train more plumbers, upholsterers, painters, masons and electricians. Make sure every Kenyan have a craft. Make every Kenyan hungry for work, something to do because they have a skill.

Then provide patient centred medical care. This care focuses on preventive as opposed to curative care. Make every village a frontier for preventive care. Make clinicians leave hospital and go to people's homes, administer advisory on nutrition (good nutrition solves many problems).

Do vaccinations, listen to people share their health issues, advise those on chronic diseases like diabetes, supply them with medication, advise the population through barazas on how to remain healthy, exercise, avoid excesses etc.

The war on health is fought offensively, not defensively. When we wait for the sick to bring themselves to the hospital this is defensive. A bottom-up care would bring the hospital to the people.

The other powerful tool is agriculture. We would provide agricultural extension officers in every village or sub-location. They would advise citizens on best agricultural practices. Farming would become scientific. We make sure every household can sustain itself through food production.

We would ensure farmers are busy all year round by providing water pans. We then facilitate trade between counties. Kenya is a country of big contrasts.

One farmer in Kericho is throwing away cabbage because he can't find the market for them while another citizen in Wajir is dying of hunger because they have no food.

Why not connect the two? The producer and the consumer. That is trade. When you cure people's hunger you free them to look for other things, not food.

When you solve people's food problem, occupation problem, health problem, you have unleashed a healthy population to focus more on education, self-advancement and a pursuit of all creativity.

This is the true power of bottom up. We focus on the small scale, we unleash the power of an individual freed from lack of food, no occupation and bogged down by poor health. This unleashes creativity.

The writer is a civil structural engineer in Nairobi. [email protected]