David Wambua is committed to his local organization in the village Eyani, a few hours north of Nairobi. With increased knowledge, the villagers can give advice to the leaders about budgets and investments, and they can also hold them accountable when things are not working.
– This is my ATM, David Wambua says as a joke, pointing at his three goats resting in the shade under a tree.
During hard times he can sell a goat, but when times are good, the goats provide milk and baby goats. The goats are one example of how the organization Poverty Eradication Network works to improve the living conditions in the Kenyan countryside, but there is another part of the organization's work that David is even more enthusiastic about. That is the possibility for the villagers to get organized, to increase their knowledge and thus to be able to influence their own local development.
David lives with his wife and two children, his sister and her family and parents at the small farm. They live of the farm´s produce - corn, milk, beans and eggs. David was offered a job as a driver, but declined. He feels that he can be of better use for the village. David calls himself a "civic educator" or "community paralegal" and he is one of the dedicated members of the grassroots organization Chevaluki Social Development Forum. Their simple premises are located across the street from his farm in Eyani village, a couple of hours north of the capital Nairobi. Today, they have just received an audit report on the county´s work which the group discusses under David's lead. A dozen villagers have gathered on the little porch. David reads and explains. Participants nod and discuss.
– We read the reports and provide advice to the local government. We encourage people to get involved and participate. We can for example look at the budget and make suggestions on how to prioritize, he says.
The Poverty Eradication Network is part of the Sida-supported program Amkeni Wakenya, which covers over 200 civil society organizations working to promote democratic governance in Kenya. Before the election in 2013, over 360 000 people received information on the election through the program.
– Amkeni is a Kiswahili word – a wakeup call. Every morning, when I wake up, I wake my children up to go to school. I tell them amkeni! When the amkeni program came, the first people to wake up were the local leaders. When they woke up, the citizens of this country were asking - what next? So people are awake and are anticipating for more and more information, he says.
David thinks that the new decentralization policy in the country, called "devolution”, provides increased opportunities to influence and to hold politicians and leaders to account. It is easier to stay in touch with local representatives and officials than to try to reach someone in Nairobi.
– We can see that people who are working in the county are from this area. That minimizes the risks of corruption. When you know that you are misusing funds that should be helping your mother, your father, your sister, you will be very careful. Because you will be responsible to your own people. I think that devolution has taken us to another level of development, says David.
Livelihoods in the village have been improved thanks to the organization, according to David. By mobilizing the villagers they have raised more resources for the local primary school as well as doctors and medicines to the local clinic.
David has a bright vision for the future.
– I have a lot of hope for my kids. I went to school, but there were no jobs when we completed school. We did not have the choices. But now the children can choose careers; they can choose to be a farmer, to be a doctor, to be an engineer, to be an accountant. Now they can pursue their goals. There is no real reason why a Kenyan, any Kenyan, cannot get what he wants. Wherever you are, all your dreams are now valid. Because you can chase them and get them, he says.