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Hope for Rural Communities in Sub-Sahara

My name is Stella Nyambura Mbau (Ph.D.) from Nairobi, Kenya, and I work with the Abundant Earth Foundation as a project coordinator. After school (in 2019), I knew I wanted to work with an organization aligned with my passion for solving real-life pain points for the vulnerable communities in my neck of the woods. This felt more like a wish than a practical course of action for a long time because none of my efforts seeking out the organizations working in this space panned out. So, I decided to do it myself. So, in early 2020, I started my own company (LOABOWA) and started networking with people with the same passion and skillsets.

Soon after, covid-times busted in. Virtual spaces not recognizing borders made meeting new people from all over the world a walk in the park (which literally would have been nice at the time). During a chance meeting with Anna Campbell at the time, where we both shared about things we were passionate about, my ideas and the path I’d chosen to take were reaffirmed. She took well to the millions of ideas I had at the time; internally, I understood I needed to consolidate these, and as I did, I felt safe enough to keep her acquainted.

Slowly but surely, I was doing what I wanted to do from the beginning. Partly advocacy for climate-vulnerable communities and filling a gap I felt was not being addressed, that of climate change awareness. But, very soon after, I realized that my tools (social media and virtual platforms) that were most accessible to me were not going to fill the gap. As research puts it, the information and communication gaps that exist in rural sub-Sahara, make outreach into these areas a difficult task. In many ways, I feel that I understand the urban-rural divide; I visit family in rural Kenya, and they visit us. But there’s still a great sense of separation, and I believe it’s to do with the gaps aforementioned.

It requires that one venture out of the virtual spaces because they don’t serve this group of people. This was a realization I was already privy to, but experiencing it brought it all the way home. I’m currently consciously working on filling this gap. It is reported that the mode of communication said to reach these communities best is radio, and in Kenya, we are lucky to have vernacular radio stations. It means that the information we’d like to pass on to these vulnerable communities, majorly native speakers, would have to be translated. Not an easy feat, but possible and needs to be done.

Earlier this year, when Anna reached out with the opportunity for me to work with the Abundant Earth Foundation (AEF), I couldn’t resist. I’d get to work with other people, their mission was aligned to mine in many ways, and their target was the communities that had become LOABOWA’s central focus. Since I started this new role, I’ve met other beautifully driven people, which makes working with them a pleasure. I’ve confirmed the challenges that most rural communities in sub-Sahara suffer from. Still, through the support AEF offers these communities (based on community and regenerative agriculture), I have also gained insights and a sense of hope that these challenges can be addressed.

Stella Nyambura Mbau and her role in designing a flash flood early warning system for rural Kenya are featured in the Sky News podcast, “Women and the climate: Is there a gender imbalance?

Article graphic created by Cevahir Ozruh

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