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History

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USAID has been working in Kenya for nearly 60 years. As friends and strategic partners, we are strengthening institutions, preserving natural resources, and improving the lives of Kenyans through better healthcare, education, and economic opportunities. Here are some highlights of what we have accomplished together.

EDUCATION AND YOUTH

In the 1960’s and 70’s, the U.S. Government provided scholarships to hundreds of Kenyans, including  the late environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Wangari Maathai.  In succeeding years, thousands of Kenyans received scholarships and fellowships to study in Kenya and the United States.

USAID continued this legacy of education through public-private partnerships to issue secondary and tertiary education scholarships for top-performing students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The investment enabled scholars to receive training that helps them drive Kenya's progress and development. USAID also supported Yes Youth Can, a dynamic youth movement that gave a voice to over a million youth through youth-led bunges (“parliaments” in Kiswahili).

In 2003, Kenya introduced free primary education to reduce access barriers and increase  enrollment. USAID has continuously worked with the Government of Kenya to improve the quality of education.  In 2007, USAIDstrengthened the knowledge and skills of teachers to improve the quality of education. In addition, USAID in partnership with private sector companies, built the capacity of Kenyan educators to integrate new technologies into their teaching practice. This foundation informed Kenya’s current Digital Literacy Program. 

In subsequent years, USAID’s Primary Math and Reading initiative supported the Ministry of Education to utilize evidence-based instructional improvement methods to increase the fundamental literacy and numeracy skills. This led to the design of Tusome (“Let’s Read” in Kiswahili) Early Grade Reading activity. In partnership with the Ministry of Education, Tusome operates in all public primary schools and 1,500 Alternative Provision of Basic Education and Training institutions (low-cost private schools) across Kenya, reaching over 6.2 million students annually. 

AGRICULTURE AND ENVIRONMENT

USAID worked with Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture to establish national policies that maximize the country’s rich agricultural and environmental resources. USAID also worked with Kenyan farmers to improve productivity and move from subsistence into the cash crop economy.  Farmers increased the growth of high-value crops like tea, which remains one of the country’s top exports to date. We also helped establish Egerton University as Kenya’s largest agricultural school.

In the early 1980’s, through USAID support, innovative Kenyans developed one of the world’s first and most efficient clean cook stoves, which are a healthy cooking solution that saves fuel and reduces indoor air pollution.
In 2010, Kenya became a focus country for the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative. Since then, we have worked with over 1 million smallholder farmers to increase their yields, make more money, and provide better nutrition for their families and communities.

In 2004, USAID partnered with the Government of Kenya and Lewa Conservancy to form Northern Rangelands Trust, building a community conservation model that promotes the long-term conservation of wildlife in Kenya’s northern rangelands and coastal regions and improves the lives of local communities. Owned and managed by the community, these local conservancies are also running eco-based enterprises including wildlife tourism, livestock businesses, and nature-based enterprises.

HEALTH

Kenya was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to establish a national family planning policy. In 1972, USAID began supporting Kenya to help build this pioneering program. USAID began working with the Government of Kenya to tackle the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the 1990’s. Today, with support from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the U.S. Government is one of the major providers of antiretroviral medication in Kenya. Kenyans living with HIV/AIDS are now leading healthier, more productive lives, and the prospect of an AIDS-free generation is within reach.

Created in 1995, the AIDS, Population and Health Integrated Assistance project continues to improve the lives of millions of Kenyan families. The project supports the integrated delivery of health services, including: HIV/AIDS; maternal, child and neonatal health;  reproductive health; family planning; malaria and tuberculosis.  A cornerstone of national health reform in Kenya, this work has also enhanced accountability in public health and increased financial resources for health services.

USAID also supports Kenya in preventing and treating malaria. The U.S. President's Malaria Initiative was launched in Kenya in 2007. Today, it helps cover more than half of Kenya's need for malaria commodities, protect more than 1 million people from malaria through indoor residual spraying, and protect up to 2 million pregnant women and children under one with insecticide-treated nets annually.

DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE, PEACE AND AND SECURITY

Shortly after independence, USAID supported the establishment of the Kenya School of Government  Today, our partnership with the school continues to cultivate capable and responsive leadership in public service. Since 2000, USAID has worked with staff and Members of Parliament to build an effective and independent legislature, capable of carrying out duties in a democratic, effective, and transparent manner. Kenyans mobilized for change after the ethnic and political violence that followed the 2007 elections. Many reforms were initiated to improve the management of elections and heal deep divisions within Kenyan society.

In 2009, USAID supported live broadcasts of Parliament debates on public television, promoting a more transparent and accountable democratic culture. Our efforts also contributed to a peaceful referendum in 2010, in which Kenyans came out to cast their votes for a new, progressive Constitution. 

In the run-up to the 2013 general elections, our work with civil society organizations also brought Kenyans, particularly youth, together to heal the deep divisions within Kenyan society left by the 2007 elections.  These groups brought almost a million Kenyans together to talk through past injustices and build peace between communities. Through our support, Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission introduced international best practices, including the use of technology, into the electoral process. In 2013, USAID also launched a series of small grants to support newly formed county governments throughout the country.  The creation of these local governments marked the beginning of Kenya’s devolution process, a framework that brings representation and decision-making closer to the people. 

HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE

In partnership with the UN and local partners, including national and county government authorities, USAID responds to humanitarian assistance needs in Kenya. We provide emergency food assistance and therapeutic foods to refugee populations and host communities in Kenya. When natural or man-made disasters strike, we provide humanitarian assistance in the form of emergency health and nutrition services, safe drinking water, hygiene kits, and other relief items.  Working in a facilitative role, USAID provides assistance to strengthen systems and build capacity for effective disaster preparedness, and response and risk management. This lays the foundation for effective transition and eventual handover of direct service delivery to local government. 

Last updated: April 26, 2022

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