Aga Khan Foundation, USAID partner to uplift CSOs


[From Left] - Riaz Nathu, Regional CEO Aga Khan Foundation, Kimberly Ludwig-Director ODGPS (USAID), Irene Gathinji- Project Director Yetu Initiative (AKF), and Matt Reeves, Global Lead Civil Society, AKF, at the conclusion of the Yetu Initiative capstone workshop. PHOTO | POOL

The Aga Khan Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), have partnered to enable civil society organizations (CSOs) mobilize resources needed for them to effectively perform their advocacy roles at the county level.

The collaboration will see the two organisations work together to strengthen the Yetu Initiative, a program founded in 2014 that focuses on strengthening the capacity of CSOs to fund raise and mobilize resources, to advance the principles of self-reliance and locally sustained development.

“It is twice as hard to achieve sustainability if there is no development led from the grassroots. We must discard this notion that it is only the government that can come up with solutions to local problems.

“We know and have seen through Yetu Initiative and the CSO community that the people themselves know and understand the problems plaguing them and can prescribe solutions that can transform our local communities, where they are,” noted former Makueni Governor Prof Kivutha Kibwana.

Prof Kibwana, who was speaking during the '2023 Yetu Initiative lessons learned and capstone Festival' in Nairobi, also added that community philanthropy was one of the most important socio-economic models in the country giving opportunities for correcting histories of inequity.

His words were echoed by Irene Gathinji, the project director of Yetu Initiative, who emphasized that a multi-stakeholder approach involving citizens, government, and private sector participation is crucial in building sustainable locally led development models.

“In fostering trust as a crucial component of partnership between CSOs and communities, Yetu Initiative has enabled civil society to sit at the same table as communities and discuss challenges and concerns with tangible solutions,” she noted.

Since inception, the Yetu Initiative has supported 323 CSOs to raise over Sh270 million, for locally led development projects across 29 counties in Kenya.

The initiative has steered transformative changes in the communities through projects such as the Isiolo Community Development Trust (ICDT), the Makueni Development Trust (MADET), among others.

The projects touch on various sectors including women and youth empowerment, education, food security, climate resilience, energy, water, health, child protection and disability.

“We have observed that local communities can be self-reliant in driving and achieving locally led development. Accountability is therefore important for community philanthropy to succeed.

“Yetu Initiative's success lies in its ability to put communities at the centre of development by bringing in their contribution, both in cash and in-kind and getting them constantly involved, through civil society engagements,” noted Cynthia Odhiambo, Regional Technical Advisor, Civil Society Program at the Aga Khan Foundation.