By Rida Ahmed
Founded in 2006 by Matthieu Chemin, an Associate Professor of Economics at McGill University, Elimu Impact Evaluation Centre is an NGO located in Kianyaga, Central Province, Kenya. The organization’s aim is to identify the most efficient and successful methods to alleviate poverty through evaluating and measuring the impact of various development projects. According to Elimu, “this initiative stems from the realization that without a proper counterfactual, it is impossible to ascertain the effect of development aid. By randomly assigning the treatment to a treatment group and comparing it to a control group much like in a randomized drug trial, the problem of the counterfactual is solved and Elimu can discern which development projects are successful and which initiatives are the most cost effective methods to improve living standards.”
In collaboration with local communities, NGO’s and organizations, Elimu is testing the impact legal aid, micro-health insurance and micro-hydro electricity have on development and reducing poverty.
Elimu state on their website that “it has been recently argued by economists that the quality of institutions, rather than geography or culture, explains why some countries are rich and some others poor.” The organization is testing this theory by calculating the effect of access to judiciary on economic growth. Partnering with Kituo Cha Sheria, a Kenyan legal aid NGO, Elimu offers legal aid to poor small-scale farmers in the community. They provide mediation to settle land conflict, instructions about buying and selling land as well as how to write a will.
Micro Health Insurance
Despite the availability of affordable health care packages, many small-scale farmers in the Kianyaga community do not have health insurance. The National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) provides insurance for all hospitalization costs for a small amount which could save these farmers paying obscene sums in cases of injury or serious illness. In cooperation with the local community and the NHIF, Elimu attempted to uncover the reasons why many don’t have health care as well as the best way for NHIF to reach the poor. This was done by distributing information about insurance, offering support to register, providing monetary or in-kind subsidies, sensitizing about insurance and arranging information meetings for informal insurance groups. Elimu wrote on their website that “in the conclusion of this project, Elimu is now collecting an endline survey on 2,300 households to evaluate the impact of health insurance on those who decided to take-up.”
Green Power (GP) launches micro hydro mini-grid systems that are created, financially supported and owned by farmer cooperatives that do not have access to electricity. Elimu maintains “with affordable electricity, farmers may use water pumps for irrigating high value crops, microentrepreneurs may create businesses that require light or powered machines, children may spend less time collecting firewood and more studying at night under proper lighting, women may devote less time to household chores and more to other valuable things such as education.” The two organizations hope to evaluate the benefits of access to electricity against the costs of operating such an endeavour.
In 2012 Elimu opened a community library at Mucharaga Primary School to thank the participants of their research projects. The library is stacked with shelves and books and a librarian arranges activities for students and teaches them basic computer skills. Now, Elimu and McGill students hope to create an online tutoring program for high school students in the Kirinyaga area. According to the organization “the rural youth in Kirinyaga have no computers and no adequate after-school support system. This exemplifies the widening digital divide between poor and rich countries, and rural and urban areas. The tutoring program would allow McGill student volunteers to help support education initiatives, and thus contribute to social development in Kirinyaga. Moreover, this project could have a significant impact on the Kirinyaga students, as McGill volunteers will help tutor them in English and provide support in various subjects, such as math.” A crowd funding initiative to raise $4000 for the community library was successful as the organization raised well over their desired goal. A McGill intern will travel to Kenya this month to set up five desktop computers at the Elimu library with an internet connection. The intern will then teach students how to use the computers and Skype, which will be used to tutor the students.
PWB currently has a photographer, Art Zaratsyan, at Elimu. To donate to this project, click here
To learn more about Elimu, visit their website.