Turkey’s state-run aid agency has been on the front lines in distributing aid to the millions who need it on the African continent.
Kenya has benefitted from numerous Turkish aid programs since the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) started its operations in the East African country in 2012.
The aid has helped boost Kenya’s security sector, with Kenyan authorities getting training in both Turkey and Kenya. Activities also involved poverty alleviation programs, social development and economic programs that have in turn led to stability and peace, as well as many other forms of aid.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Eyup Yavuz Umutlu, TIKA’s coordinator in the capital Nairobi, discussed TIKA’s long-term vision in Kenya.
The agency’s “vision about Kenya,” he said, starts with TIKA being “a government organization. We are implementing projects in many sectors. Our priorities change according to region and country.”
“Here in Kenya, we especially try to focus on livelihood projects, some income-generating projects. Of course, we’re also dealing with other sectors – for example, health, education … But especially, livelihood and income-generating projects are our priorities.
“This is our difference by the way in the region. We’re not just focusing on one sector, because we have the capacity to do this. We’re using other Turkish organizations’ capacity, for example, in police projects. Of course, we’re working with the police. In the Interior Ministry, we’re using the ministry’s capacity. In some other projects, we are sometimes using the Ministry of Health and [Ministry of] Agriculture’s capacity,” he added.
TIKA last year donated equipment to the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) to boost food security in western Kenya.
The donations are part of TIKA’s Sustainable Organic Livelihoods Enhancement Program (SOLEP), which aims to end hunger by achieving food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable goals in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on agriculture and zero hunger.
Yavuz said the second phase of the project this year has seen KALRO distribute 15,000 newborn chicks to over 300 women in western Kenya free of charge to boost poultry farming.
“This really helps these families in generating income because especially in that region, chicks mean money. If they need money, they can easily sell their chicks or eggs. We know that poultry farming is a very important income-generating area for that region.”
TIKA also helped the Lessos Farmers’ Cooperative Society in Nandi County by providing modern, critical Turkish machinery for improved silage production to provide quality feed for livestock, in turn establishing a more sustainable feeding cycle.
The farm equipment, which is now aiding the community, is worth $86,000.
TIKA is currently supporting numerous women-based projects in Kenya. Currently, in northern Kenya’s Marsabit County, women are benefitting from four Turkish-funded manufacturing production units developed by TIKA.
“We’re supporting women’s groups, and in August, we plan to complete these projects. In these four production units, women’s groups, in some groups, will produce some beading items. In some, they will produce leather items,” he said.
“We’re also establishing a tailoring production center, and in this sector, the women will produce sanitary pads and face masks. All these projects are arranged according to the needs of the region and the needs of the people and will help them to get income.”
TIKA is also planning to start income-generating projects for other women’s groups along the Kenyan coast in Mombasa and Lamu.
“In Kenya, women are really talented, and they want to produce something ... If you can support them, they can do so much. We know this and we saw this and because of that, we try to focus on women’s groups.”
On June 5, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the agricultural 4K Club program in schools across the country to bring up young farmers ready to use modern farming techniques and technologies.
Turkey is among the first countries that moved to support Kenya to achieve this new goal by providing some Kenyan schools with greenhouses that will be perfect for farming in the city.
“We will support schools which have 4K clubs … farming clubs for students. We’re working on a greenhouse project for schools, boarding schools. With the help of this greenhouse project, we hope the schools can provide vegetables for their consumption and also they can produce more than they need and they can sell their vegetables and get income,” Yavuz said.
Turkey is also planning to establish a library in Nairobi. This came just after TIKA renovated Dagoretti High School’s library on June 14 in honor of Murat Ellik who was a special operations police officer martyred in the July 15, 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.
Turkey has also renovated numerous schools across Kenya to support education. In western Kenya, TIKA distributed bicycles to 200 girls who had been walking kilometers to get to school, with the aim of facilitating their education.
Beekeeping and healthcare aid
TIKA is currently supporting the National Beekeeping Institute of Kenya’s headquarters in Nairobi with equipment to measure the quality of honey to meet the quality levels of international markets.
Turkey has also been on the front lines to set Kenyan farmers on the path to beekeeping profits with donations of beehives to farmers across the country.
The beehives can produce up to 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of honey per harvest, which can be sold for around 800 Kenyan shillings (around $8) a kg. Most farmers harvest the hives four times a year, providing up to 64,000 shillings ($592) per hive annually.
Turkey has a rich history of bee cultivation and it is one of the biggest honey and beeswax producers in the world. Beekeeping is carried out in almost every region of the country, and in 2014, there were 57,000 registered beekeepers and 6.6 million registered hives, according to the Beekeepers’ Association of Turkey.
Turkey has had health camps in Kenya in various regions working with Kenyan and Turkish organizations for complex operations where thousands of Kenyans have benefitted from free medical care.
“In the near future, we are planning to establish orthopedics camps,” said Yavuz.
“This area is very different from eye surgery because orthopedic surgery is very expensive and people who are injured do not have that budget and can’t get that operation. Their lives totally change. They can’t earn money. They’re just staying in their homes. We want to make surgeries [available] for hundreds of people to change their lives with critical operations.
“Since we’re a government organization, we’re using Turkish citizens’ money. But we are here to support our Kenyan friends, so our friendship, our relationship is much more valuable than our money.”
TIKA is also focusing on capacity-building projects. For instance, 40 Kenyan police officers August will participate in virtual training for organized crime. TIKA said that in normal circumstances, the officers would be taken to Turkey for training. But due to COVID-19, the training by Turkish experts will be done virtually.
TIKA has also supported Kenyans in water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) projects.
Other East African countries have also been receiving similar aid from Turkey from their local TIKA offices, which has changed the lives of millions of people.