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A Taste of Life and Development in Kenya on the National Mall

Kenya folklife cropped

Learn how flip flops washed up on Kenya’s beaches are creating jobs and a better environment.

Where in the United States can you sample traditional Swahili dishes, learn about living and working with African wildlife, view art converted from waste materials and get your groove on watching some of Africa’s hottest dance troupes? The Smithsonian Folk Life Festival on the National Mall in Washington, of course.

If you are planning to be in Washington between now and July 6, you can get a taste of Kenya’s rich culture and traditions as well as meet artists, wildlife experts, and others who are building Kenya’s future. We are excited because many of the exhibits reflect the work of Aid for Africa’s member organizations.

On the Mall, Ocean Sole demonstrates how recycling in Kenya provides jobs and art by converting the flip flops that wash ashore along Kenya’s beaches into giraffes, elephants and other animal figurines. Similarly, Carolina for Kibera, an Aid for Africa member organization, runs a program in the Kibera slum of Nairobi in which local women’s groups recycle plastic bags into purses and wallets, and artists use discarded food bones into jewelry for sale.

On the Mall, wildlife experts from Kenya discuss ongoing community-based anti-poaching programs that are saving elephants and other endangered species found in Africa. Aid for Africa members Lewa Wildlife Conservation and Wildlife Conservation Network, both Aid for Africa member organizations, use these community-based approaches to wildlife preservation on the ground in Kenya.

Wildlife Conservation Network Grevy Zebra Trust work with Communities

Communities in Kenya are learning the benefits of preserving wildlife. (c) Grevy Zebra Trust

These techniques include providing loans for small businesses that can lift families out of poverty and reduce the need for poaching. Aid for Africa members also work within communities to change attitudes about wildlife preservation. They teach the benefits of wildlife conservation for tourism and how to protect livestock without killing the endangered animals that threaten them.

On the Mall, many of the artisans are pastoralists whose livelihoods are tied closely to the land, local environment, and their livestock. Aid for Africa members provide critical support to such nomadic groups. The BOMA Project, for example, provides start-up grants of $150 to small business groups of three women each in drought-prone Northern Kenya. They typically create kiosks to sell basic household supplies.

If a trip to Kenya is not on your list this summer, you can experience the next best thing with a trip to the National Mall. Then, when you arrive home, learn more about what Aid for Africa member organizations are doing in Kenya.