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History

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USAID has been working in Kenya – for Kenyans – for over 50 years. Friends and 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’ve accomplished together:

EDUCATION AND YOUTH
The United States Government supported the training of Kenya’s first generation of leaders. In the 1960’s and 70’s, we provided scholarships to hundreds of Kenyans in what became known as educational “airlifts.”  The late environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Wangari Maathai was one of these scholars. 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 (link is external) through the Wings to Fly and Global Give Back Circle programs. The investment enabled scholars to receive training that helps them drive Kenya's development agenda, and work towards building a nation with educated, self-reliant, and productive citizens.

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, USAID’s Teacher Education and Professional Development program supported strengthening the knowledge and skills of teachers to deliver quality education. In addition, USAID in partnership with private sector companies, built the capacity of Kenyan educators to integrate ICT into pedagogical processes.

This foundation informed Kenya’s current Digital Literacy Program. In subsequent years, USAID’s Primary Math and Reading (PRIMR) initiative supported the Ministry of Education to utilize evidence-based instructional improvement methods to increase the fundamental literacy and numeracy skills of students in grades 1 and 2. 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 (APBET) institutions (low-cost private schools) across Kenya, reaching over 6.2 million students annually. 

USAID’ support for youth dates to the 1960's with support to the Kenya National Youth Service, bringing young Kenyans together – to live, work and learn side-by-side.  In 2011, USAID supported Yes Youth Can, a dynamic youth movement (link is external) that has given a voice to over a million youth through youth- led bunges (“parliaments” in Kiswahili).

AGRICULTURE AND ENVIRONMENT
USAID worked with Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture early-on to establish national policies that maximize the country’s rich agricultural and environmental resources. We 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 build and establish Egerton University as Kenya’s largest agricultural school.

In 2010, Kenya became a focus country for the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative. Since then, we have worked with 800,000 smallholder farmers to increase their yields, make more money and provide better nutrition for their families and the entire country. In the early 1980’s, through USAID support, innovative Kenyans developed one of the world’s first and most efficient clean cook stoves. The jiko, a small ceramic stove, is a clean and healthy local cooking solution that saves fuel and reduces indoor air pollution.

In 2004, USAID teamed up with Lewa Conservancy, building a community conservation model that protects animals 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 women’s butterfly farming and craft exports. 

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. Through our support, families were better able to space and plan the birth of their children. Even today, USAID remains a lead donor in family planning, supporting programs in government-run and private  clinics across the country.

USAID began working with the Government of Kenya to tackle the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the 1990’s.  In 1992, we contributed one-fourth of the country’s HIV prevention expenditures. 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 our reach.

Created in 1995, the AIDS, Population and Health Integrated Assistance project, known as APHIA, 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, APHIA has also enhanced accountability in public health and increased financial resources for health services.

DEMOCRACY, RIGHTS AND GOVERNANCE

Shortly after independence, USAID supported the establishment of the Kenya Institute of Administration, now known as the Kenya School of Government, to build the skills of central and local government officials.  Today, our partnership with the school continues to cultivate capable and responsive leadership in public service. USAID’s long-standing support of Kenya’s Parliament has been integral to the restructuring of the institution. Since 2000, we have 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 (link is external). Through our support, Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission introduced international best practices, including the use of technology, into the electoral process. Judged by both local and international observers to have been free, fair and for the most part peaceful, the elections were a testament to the resolve of Kenyan citizens who desire a more accountable and inclusive government. 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. 

Last updated: September 16, 2020

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