Western Kenya is a densely populated agricultural region anchored by Kakamega Town, where our partner Kenya Rising is based. The area is known for maize and sugarcane farming, and is largely inhabited by people from the Luhya ethnicity. The high population, despite few urban areas, is supported by fertile soil and plentiful rain, as well as an inheritance tradition that divides land among sons and creates neighborhoods composed of extended family members.
We don’t follow political boundaries when choosing who to support, but the students and families we serve generally hail from eastern side of Kakamega and Vihiga Counties, which have a combined population of over 2.5 million people.
The economy of western Kenya is largely agriculture, although Kakamega Town and other growing settlements have diversified service economies. Wealth distribution is highly unequal, with a small middle class composed of civil servants and white collar corporate employees earning hundreds of dollars a month and living in rental houses, and then a large population of people who live just above or below the $2/day poverty line. A large majority of people in western kenya are subsistence farmers, self-employed through micro-enterprises, or both. Apart from farming their own food to eat, it is common for people in villages to eke out a living through businesses. Examples of these ventures include selling farm produce grown in other communities, frying and selling samosas and doughnuts on the roadside, or repackaging wholesale goods such as cooking oil or soap for resale in small quantities.
Our partner Kenya Rising, formerly known as the Care Centre, is headquartered in Kakamega Town with a satellite office in Hamisi. Regional towns including Kakamega are rapidly growing, but the communities and people we serve are mostly from the economically struggling, outlying rural villages. Kenya Rising is managed by a board of representatives who live in the communities we serve, rural regions including Hamisi, Musingu, Navakholo, Chebuyusi, and Shanderema. Rates of poverty are highest in these outlying areas, and the women and men who oversee Kenya Rising, because they have lived most of their lives in these villages, are able to identify which families are in greatest need and where the support we offer will have the biggest impact.