Farida Hassan conducts field work in Turkana County, Kenya

Clark alum brings passion for sustainable development, community to coastal Kenya

September 2, 2016

After earning a master’s degree in environmental science and policy from Clark University, Farida Hassan, M.S./ES&P ’10, identified a need for environmentally sustainable community development in one of the places that mattered the most to her — Kenya, the country where she was born.

“I wanted to give back to my community, and I targeted jobs that would give me the opportunity to do this,” Hassan says.

She found her opportunity with Hazina Ya Maendeleo Ya Pwani (HMP), a grant program that fosters environmentally sustainable projects in rural southeastern coastal areas of Kenya — the poorest in the country with a 62 percent poverty rate. After volunteering to write the entire project concept in 2012, she became the program’s manager when it was approved for implementation under the auspices of the Kenya Coastal Development Project (KCDP) — a World Bank-financed development project.

Seven Continents, One Summer 2016

This story is part of our 7 Continents, 1 Summer series, which highlights the interesting work that Clark students, faculty, alumni and staff are doing all over the world.

Today, Hassan supports more than 124 community projects, overseeing grants and ensuring that the program’s funds are being used to enhance access to social services, promote conservation of natural resources and build coastal capacity for sustainable development — all KCDP goals. As many as 3.3 million people can potentially be helped through these efforts.

A mother of three, Hassan lives in Mombasa. She’s studying for a doctorate in community development and environment at Pwani University in Kilifi, Kenya. She co-authored a paper with colleagues on public-private partnership concepts for resource sustainability that was published earlier this year in the International Journal of Management and Sustainability.

Her passions are people-focused. In addition to her work and studies, Hassan mentors young girls on the value of education and serves as a role model to female students. She encourages them to network and find platforms and opportunities to build career and professional skills that will allow them to improve their communities.

Below, find out what drives Farida Hassan and how her work could inspire similar sustainable development in rural areas around the world.

Did any experiences draw you to Clark’s program and your current work?

Yes. After working in the field of agricultural and community development within the non-governmental organization sector for 10 years and for the Kenyan government for three, I realized that crop production without management of the environment is an effort in futility. I decided to pursue my course of study to have an overall outlook of how natural resources can sustain socioeconomic activities. I chose Clark because it’s an international school, which provides an opportunity for the exchange of ideas and experiences with other students from all over the world. I chose the program because of its faculty, who are up to date with current global environmental challenges such as climate change and sustainability planning.

How have you used what you learned during your program?

A number of my professors — Timothy Downs, Halina Brown, Jennie Stephens and Samuel Ratick — inspired me while at Clark. Since graduating, I’ve put most of what I learned into practice by first looking at some of the challenges affecting my community, like environmental degradation and sustainable livelihoods. With this understanding, I try to look for opportunities and platforms that would allow me to engage my community in addressing some of these challenges. This is how I came to know about the Kenya Coastal Development Project, and I realized that in it, there is a great opportunity to work with CBOs [community-based organizations] to address challenges of conservation of natural resources while enhancing community livelihood.

Can you describe what Hazina Ya Maendeleo Ya Pwani does specifically?

It’s a fund for addressing the development needs of Kenya’s coastal communities. HMP provides small grants to CBOs for implementation of priority community projects that provide better access to essential social services and promote the conservation of natural resources while creating livelihood opportunities. HMP adopts a community-driven development approach, which hands the planning decisions, investment resources and leadership in project implementations to the community while experts take on a facilitative role.

What’s the World Bank’s involvement with Kenya Coastal Development Project and HMP?

The World Bank is an investor in KCDP. It provides financial resources — a loan to the Kenyan government — as well as oversight and advising, which includes bringing in technical expertise to complement what the staff is doing on the ground.

How many groups are funded by HMP and KCDP?

HMP has financed 124 community projects. Through these projects, we are working with more than 6,000 community members organized within CBOs registered by the government. The CBOs are implementing these projects for the benefit of community members within their area. More than 80 projects are now complete and are delivering various services, like water, education and conservation initiatives, to their communities.

Is some of the group’s work in response to climate change?

Yes, one of our community projects is currently benefitting from a climate change mitigation fund. The project protects mangroves, which are critical in sequestering carbon. For the group to continue to receive funding, it’s required to demonstrate a continued effort in protection of mangroves. Their HMP-financed project addresses this need, and they’ve used their funding to build a watchtower to protect more than 100 hectares of mangrove forest and buy necessary tools and equipment, such as boats and binoculars, to guard the forest against poachers.

What economic, environmental, developmental and social benefits will these communities see as a direct result of your work and the groups working within KCDP?

Economic benefits come from the revenue communities get in implementing projects that have the potential to generate income, such as community solid waste management, ecotourism projects, water projects and tree seedling production. The communities will see environmental benefits from projects that promote conservation of natural resources; for example, the mangrove planting project, among others. All projects have development and social benefits as they enhance access to social services such as schools, water projects and waste collection. The projects that enhance environmental conservation have great potential to sustain the livelihoods of coastal communities that depend on natural resources for their daily needs.

In a video about KCDP produced by the World Bank, there are a few groups — the seaweed farm and the fishery, in particular — that are run by women. Are women working in these communities considered pioneers, or is this the norm?

This isn’t the norm. Many women in the region didn’t go to school so they didn’t have jobs or a way to earn income. They married and depended on their husbands, who were often poor themselves, so it was a challenge to provide for a family’s basic needs. Our project works with such women by encouraging them to use their social capital and work in a community project with potential to improve their socioeconomic status.

Is there one HMP-funded group or business you’ve worked with that has overcome challenges to achieve success?

There are a number of successful businesses, but one of the most successful CBOs is Where Talent Lives, which collects solid waste from homes and brings it to municipal receptacles. They charge a small fee for this service, and, out of the proceeds, they create employment opportunities for other community members. Also, they’ve saved over $5,000, which they distribute as small loans to women served by the waste collection project so they can start small businesses.

What kind of impact does your work have in the communities served by KCDP?

The impact of my work is first and foremost to build capacity in management of community initiatives and natural resources, as well as to uplift the socioeconomic status of the rural communities.

Photo: Farida Hassan, front row third from left, sits with women in Turkana County, Kenya, while conducting field work.