5 Questions for Charles Lwanga-Ntale,
Kenya Academy Centre
What are the humanitarian needs of the East Africa region and why is it important to have an Academy centre in this particular location?
East Africa is a very diverse region, home to over 170 million people, out of which at least twenty million live in extreme and chronic poverty. When a crisis happens, these are the people who are most affected. By having an Academy Centre which focuses on skills for effective and efficient humanitarian response, we aim to enable people to be better prepared when disasters strike.
In order to understand what needs to be done, the first thing we did was to undertake a needs assessment in Kenya to identify gaps in provision, the magnitude of demand, and the key stakeholders in the sector. This has since been followed by needs assessments in Tanzania (completed) and Uganda (underway).
The power of collaboration is something that the Humanitarian Leadership Academy strongly believes in. Could you tell us why it is particularly relevant to the East Africa region?
The solutions to most of the issues that need to be dealt with in the humanitarian sector are not ‘rocket science’. However, collaboration is central to any efforts that we make as the Academy. For a start, it is vital that people from different institutions or stakeholder groups are brought together so that they can have mutually beneficial conversations. It’s all about galvanizing the process and making partnerships happen naturally and with a clear sense of purpose.
A good example of this is the partnerships which we have recently been developing with Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Kakamega County Administration, the Kenya Red Cross, Kenya Institute of Management, and a number of other local actors. In this we are developing an internship programme which will simultaneously equip learners with practical skills in Disaster Risk Reduction and Management while at the same time developing a cadre of people who are able to offer skills at lower local council levels. This is the kind of partnerships we want to help create. We want to demonstrate that a collaborative approach works.
I see the Kenya Academy Centre as a facilitator, responsible for two major tasks:
- Poking the fire (thinking about innovative, creative ways of working and learning)
- Creating opportunities for sparks to happen (more of a convening role)
In the next 5 years, I think we need to focus on changing the way the humanitarian sector and the development sector see and work with each other. We should always be working via a unique approach, that includes both humanitarian and development needs. In Uganda for example an innovative approach is being piloted that enables the integration of hazard and risk issues into standard district-level development plans.
What kind of learning products and services are currently being developed for the region?
Learning and knowledge sharing ought to happen at different levels. We are currently working on developing adapted learning products and services, as well as organising trainings and skills building workshops with learners that range from people in leadership responsibilities to those in operational roles. The idea is to reach a large number of people with the right learning products at the different levels.
To put this differently we have a duty to make available a variety of learning products to a wide array of stakeholders. For example, some of the people we are targeting and encouraging to sign up to our online platform Kaya are Members of Counties Assemblies (MCAs) and need the courses translating from English to Swahili, which is the most common language in the region. It’s also important to find ways to reach out to people, by being creative and using simpler ways of communications, such as animations. And of course, we also need to think about the challenges that are posed by limited access to computers and electricity cuts, and to make sure that those who can only access learning using the traditional “paper mode” are also reached.
Could you tell us a bit more about one of your current projects?
One of the projects we are working on at the moment is the Kakamega partnership in Kakamega County, Western Kenya. This is a unique type of partnership which brings together stakeholders from the County Administration, the University, the Kenya Red Cross, Kenya Institute of Management, and other players. Initially the Academy had been advised to consider working in an area where most of the other organisations were already implementing humanitarian response programmes. However, we found it hard to see what specific value the Academy would be adding. That is why we decided to go elsewhere: Kakamega sounded like an interesting opportunity.
Kakamega is the poorest county in Kenya and has a unique set of humanitarian challenges. For example, this is an area where lighting strikes the most, which causes a huge problem for children (they hide under trees, etc…). It’s also one of the very first Counties in Kenya to pass an Act on Disaster Risk Reduction & Management (DRR&M), specifically focusing on preventing, mitigating, or responding to disasters in the County.
When we started meeting with people, we could feel there was a strong wish to make things happen, but there was also a lack of coordination and information sharing. For example, we learnt that the University was offering a degree in Disaster Risk Reduction and that lots of research and publications had been done on the subject. The only issue was that all this knowledge was not being shared with those who needed it for decision-making. We can only imagine how valuable this kind of knowledge is to the Kakamega County, to be able to organise a better response to disasters and therefore save more lives.
What would you like to say to people who’d like to get involved with the Kenya Academy Centre?
The first thing to do is get to know us. We will be publishing our strategic plan very shortly and it is a great entry point to understanding the Kenya Academy Centre. It is not just the Academy but all of us. We must recognise the importance of all stakeholders and sharing learning, knowledge, skills or experiences is exactly what we are encouraging – from all sectors. We will have regular updates so look out for our newsletter and social media accounts and stay in touch. And finally, no matter our experience we should all be constantly learning so sign up to our digital learning platform – Kaya – and get learning today.